Sadao Araki

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Sadao Araki (1877-1967) was an Imperial Japanese Army officer dedicated to the philosophy of kokutai and was central to the kodoha, or Imperial Way faction.[1] He was a key figure in the right-wing politicization of Japanese politics in the 1930s. Devotion to kokutai meant emphasizing the spiritual unity of the Japanese people as its central theme, conflicting with the toseiha (Control faction), which considered modernization and economic expansion to be more important.

Having been an observer of the Bolshevik Revolution, he was deeply afraid of the fatal attraction of communism for the poor. He saw the Imperial Way as a bulwark against communism. [2] Araki was among the founders of Kokuhonsha.


While at the Army War College, he fought in the Russo-Japanese War, and then moved to the general staff. In 1929, after the killing of Chang Tso-Lin, he supported a direct takeover of Manchuria. Subsquent posts included Provost Marshal, Principal of the Army War College, and Inspector General of Military Education. The latter was one of the three most important in the Army.

Cabinet and Council

In 1931, he became the War Minister of the Inukai cabinet, and remained in the post in the Saito government. In 1933, he was promoted to Army General.

Inspired by Prince Higashikuni, the Prayer Meeting Plot of 11 July 1933 saw the arrest of a small group of plotters about to attack Araki's home with their swords. In its aftermath, Araki agreed to restore some Strike-North Faction members to their posts, purge all Marxists from the palace and some academic posts. Two of the Three Crows, Nagata and Obata, were moved from the Army staff to field commands. Hideki Tojo formed a Committee for Investigations to monitor Army discipline and morale. [3]

Araki moved to a less operational role on the Supreme War Council in January 1934, complaining of ill health and too many demands from the Young Officers. His replacement, General Senjuro Hayashi, purged many of Araki's supporters and restored the influence of Tetsuzan Nagata. One of Araki's close associates, Jinzaburo Mazaki, who had been a popular Inspector General of Military Education, also was relieved of his post and named to the Supreme War Council, which had no line authority.

Some of the Young Officers blamed Nagata as being responsible for Mazaki losing his position, and one of them, Lieutenant Colonel Saburo Aizawa, killed Nagata, using a sword, in his office, in August 1935. Araki and Mazaki, even though no longer in their command roles, were able to insist on a public trial for Aizawa, where he could state the reasons for his anger. The trial of Aizawa contributed to the Young Officers' desire for action, culminating in the February 26, 1936 Incident.[4]

After the February 26 Incident, he was placed in the reserves. He served as Education Minister in the first Konoe and the Hiranuma cabinets.

War crimes

The International Military Tribunal (Tokyo) sentenced him to life imprisonment as a class-A war criminal after the war, but was paroled in 1954.


  1. Portraits of modern Japanese leaders: Sadao Araki, National Diet Library, 2004
  2. Merion and Susie Harris (1991), Soldiers of the Sun: the Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, Random House, p. 179
  3. David Bergamini (1971), Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, Morrow, pp. 556-561
  4. Harris & Harris, pp. 181-182