Fumimaro Konoe

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Fumimaro Konoe, also Prince Konoye, (1891 - 1945) was a member of the Japanese nobility and three-time Prime Minister of Japan. When he replaced Hideki Tojo after the fall of Saipan, he has been associated with a desire to end the Second World War, but also was a major contributor to developing the Axis and was a central figure of the shintaisei movement (to establish a new political system modeled on the German Nazis).[1]

He was a member of the first transitional postwar cabinet, and met with Douglas MacArthur on 13 September 1945, being asked to help MacArthur root out militarism. [2] Before he could be arrested as a Class A war criminal to be brought before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, he committed suicide, a copy of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis open at his side. He had translated Wilde as a student, and had marked, in red, the passage, : "I must say that I ruined myself...." [3]

Early life

He became the last head of the Fujiwara clan, ranked as koshaku (prince), in 1916. He had attended the Versailles Peace Conference, which led him both to believe in the League of Nations and Japan's major-country within it, but also rejecting what he called the "Anglo-American standard of pacifism." His ideal of the world order included nationalism and racism, and that Japan had every right to Chinese territory for its population. On this point, he disagreed with Emperor Hirohito, but was otherwise considered a moderate among the palace elite.[4]

In 1931 he became vice president of the House of Peers and in 1933 he became its president.


In 1932, he said, in a court discussion, "Even if the Manchurian Incident had not taken place, sooner or later an attempt would necessarily have to be made to dispel the cloud and open a path for the destiny of Japan." A year later, he obsered, in an essay, "unequal distribution of land and natural resources cause war...we have chosen to advance into Manchuria and Mongolia as our only means of survival."[5]

1940 cabinet

Yoshimichi Hara, then President of the Privy Council recommended himas Prime Minister on 11 July 1940, to succeed Mitsumasu Yonai. [6]

During his 1940 cabinet, the Taisei Yokusankai (Imperial Rule Assistance Association) was established, the Tripartite Pact signed, and the term "Greater East Asian Coprosperity Sphere" put into use.

Second World War

Fall of Saipan

Early peace discussions

Meeting with the Emperor, along with six other senior statesmen, on 15 February 1945, he different with Hirohito, who wanted to have "one more military gain" before suing for peace. Konoe was concerned that without quick action, there could be a Communist revolution.[7]


  1. Portraits of modern Japanese leaders: Fumimaro Konoe, National Diet Library, 2004
  2. Kazuo Yagami, Konoe Fumimaro and the Failure of Peace in Japan, 1937-1941: A Critical Appraisal of the Three-Time Prime Minister, p. 154
  3. Donald L. Robinson (August, 2002), (Book Review) We the Japanese People: World War II and the Origins of the Japanese Constitution, H-Law
  4. Herbert P. Bix (2001), Hirohito and the making of modern Japan, Harper Perennial, ISBN 978-0060931308, pp. 176-177
  5. Bix, pp. 266-267
  6. Bix, pp. 373-374
  7. Edward R. Beauchamp (1998), History of contemporary Japan, 1945-1998, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-8153-2728-8, p. 202