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Prewar 10-sen Japanese banknote, illustrating the Hakkō ichiu monument in Miyazaki

Hakkō ichiu (八紘一宇?, literally "eight crown cords, one roof" i.e. "all the world under one roof") was a Japanese political slogan that became popular from the Second Sino-Japanese War to World War II, and was popularized in a speech by Prime Minister of Japan Fumimaro Konoe on January 8, 1940.[1]

Concept[edit | edit source]

The term was coined early in the twentieth century by Nichiren sect Buddhist activist and nationalist Tanaka Chigaku, who cobbled it from parts of a statement attributed in the chronicle Nihon Shoki to legendary first emperor Jimmu at the time of his ascension.[2] The full statement by the Emperor Jimmu reads: "Hakkō wo ooute ie to nasan" (八紘を掩うて宇と為さん, or in the original kanbun Japanese: 掩八紘而爲宇), and means: "I shall cover the eight directions and make them my abode". The term "hakkō" (八紘), meaning "eight crown cords", was a metaphor for "happō" (八方) or "eight directions".[3]

Ambiguous in its original context, Tanaka interpreted the statement attributed to Jimmu, as meaning that imperial rule had been divinely ordained to expand until it united the entire world. While Tanaka saw this outcome as resulting from the emperor's moral leadership, many of his followers were less pacifist in their outlook, despite some intellectuals, aware of the inherent nationalist movements reacted to this term. Koyama Iwao (1905-1993), disciple of Nishida, and drawing of Adornment Sutra Flower, proposed the term " to be included or to find a place ". This understanding was rejected by the military circles of the nationalist Right.[4]

Growing expansionism[edit | edit source]

Founding Ceremony of the Hakko-Ichiu Monument on April 3, 1940. It had Prince Chichibu's calligraphy of Hakkō ichiu, carved on its front side.[5]

Prewar 10-sen Japanese stamp, illustrating the Hakkō ichiu and the 2600th anniversary of the Empire.

Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun presiding the celebration of the 2600th anniversary of mythical foundation of the Empire in November 1940.

Japanese pilots who gathered under the flag of Hakkō ichiu during the Pacific War.

With the economic impact of the Shōwa financial crisis and the Great Depression, this led in the 1930s to a resurgence of nationalist, militarist and expansionist movements. Emperor Shōwa and his reign became associated with the rediscovery of Hakkō ichiu as an expansionist element of Japanese nationalistic beliefs.[6] The naval limitations treaties of 1921, and especially 1930, were seen as a mistake[Clarification needed] in their unanticipated effect on internal political struggles in Japan; and the treaties provided an external motivating catalyst which provoked reactionary, militarist elements to desperate actions which eventually overwhelmed civilian and liberal elements in society.[7]

The evolution of Hakkō ichiu serves as a changing litmus test of these factional relationships during the next decade.[8]

The term Hakkō ichiu did not enter general circulation until 1940, when the second Konoe administration issued a white paper titled "Fundamental National Policy" (基本国策要綱 Kihon Kokusaku Yōkō), which opened with these words, and in which Prime Minister Konoe proclaimed that the basic aim of Japan's national policy was "the establishment of world peace in conformity with the very spirit in which our nation was founded"[9] and that the first step was the proclamation of a "new order in East Asia" (東亜新秩序 Tōa Shin Chitsujo), which later took the form of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".[10] In the most magnanimous form, the term was used to indicate the making of a universal brotherhood implemented by the uniquely virtuous Yamato.[11] Because this would bring people under the emperor's fatherly benevolence, force was justified against those who resisted.[12]

1940 was declared the 2600th anniversary of the founding of Japan in part in celebration of hakko ichiu.[13]

World War II[edit | edit source]

As the Second Sino-Japanese War dragged on without conclusion, the Japanese government turned increasingly to the nation's spiritual capital to maintain fighting spirit.

Characterization of the fighting as a "holy war" (聖戦 seisen?), similarly grounding the current conflict in the nation's sacred beginnings, became increasingly evident in the Japanese press at this time. In 1940, a Taisei Yokusankai was launched to provide political support to Japan's war in China.

The general spread of the term Hakkō ichiu, neatly encapsulating this view of expansion as mandated in Japan's divine origin, was further propelled by preparations for celebrating the 2600th anniversary of Jimmu's ascension, which fell in the year 1940 according to the traditional chronology. Stories recounted that Jimmu, finding five races in Japan, had made them all as "brothers of one family."[14]

Propaganda purposes[edit | edit source]

As part of its war effort, Japanese propaganda included phrases like "Asia for the Asians!" and emphasized about the perceived need to liberate Asian countries from imperialist powers.[15] The failure to win the war in China was blamed on British and American exploitation of Southeast Asian colonies, even though the Chinese received far more assistance from the Soviet Union.[16] In some cases local populations welcomed Japanese troops when they invaded, driving out British, French and other colonial powers.

The official interpretation of Hakkō ichiu was "universal brotherhood", Hakkō ichiu become used in that same propagandist context by the Japanese. The Japanese were "equal to the Caucasians but, to the peoples of Asia, we act as their leader."[17] Hence Hakkō ichiu meant to signify racial harmony and equality. In general, however, the subsequent brutality and racism of the Japanese led to people of the occupied areas regarding the new Asian imperialists as equal to or (more often) much worse than Western imperialists.[15] The Japanese government directed that local economies be managed strictly for the production of raw war materials for the Japanese"[18]

After Japan declared war on the Allies in December 1941, Allied governments produced several propaganda films citing the Hakkō ichiu as evidence that the Japanese intended to conquer the entire world.

Allied judgement[edit | edit source]

Hakko Ichiu meant the bringing together of the corners of the world under one ruler, or the making of the world one family.[19] This was the alleged ideal of the foundation of the Empire; and in its traditional context meant no more than a universal principle of humanity, which was destined ultimately to pervade the whole universe.[19] The way to the realisation of Hakko Ichiu was through the benign rule of the Emperor; and therefore the "way of the Emperor"—the "Imperial" or the "Kingly way"—was a concept of virtue, and a maxim of conduct.[19] Hakko Ichiu was the moral goal; and loyalty to the Emperor was the road which led to it.[19] Throughout the years that followed measures of military aggression were advocated in the names of Hakko Ichiu eventually became symbols for world domination through military force.[19]

Historical revisionism[edit | edit source]

Since the end of the Pacific War, some have highlighted the Hakkō ichiu slogan as part of a context of historical revisionism.[20]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945, pp. 226–7.
  2. As early as 1928, the Japanese editorials were already preaching the theme of the hakko ichiu without using the specific term. Michio Nakajima, Tennō no daigawari to kokumin, Aoki Shoten 1990, pp. 129–30.
  3. Jitō 字統,Shirakawa Shizuka, Heibonsha, 1994, p. 302, 紘 entry. The kun-reading "ie" for on "u" 宇 is now defunct, but at the time of the Nihon Shoki, readings were not yet fixed in the way that was later to become the case. Rather, any meaning associated with a Chinese character as used in Chinese was, in theory, available as a reading as evidenced by the sometimes extreme variation in the writing of even common words in the Nihon Shoki.
  4. Jonckheere, Fabrice. (2011). "Hakko ichiu theory (八 纮 一 宇)"[1], in Pacific War: the initial expansion. [History of the last war n° 15]. Caraktere ed.. p. 62. ISSN 2104-807X. See also Kosei Ishii
  5. David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, 2008, p. 63.
  6. Bix, Herbert. (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, p. 201.
  7. Morison, Samuel Eliot. (1948). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939 – May 1943, pp. 3–10.
  8. GlobalSecurity.org: "Kodo (Way of the Emperor)"
  9. Edwards, p. 309.
    In the original text,「肇国の大精神に基き世界平和の確立を招来すること」.
  10. James L. McClain, Japan: A Modern History p 470 ISBN 0-393-04156-5
  11. Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p43 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  12. Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan p 11 ISBN 0-06-019314-X
  13. Edwin P. Hoyt, Japan's War, p 196 ISBN 0-07-030612-5
  14. John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War p223 ISBN 0-394-50030-X
  15. 15.0 15.1 Anthony Rhodes, Propaganda: The art of persuasion: World War II, p248 1976, Chelsea House Publishers, New York
  16. James L. McClain, Japan: A Modern History p 471 ISBN 0-393-04156-5
  17. Stephen S. Large. Shōwa Japan. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1998. p. 202.
  18. James L. McClain, Japan: A Modern History p 495 ISBN 0-393-04156-5
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Judgment of International Military Tribunal for the Far East
  20. Goodman, David G. "Visas and Virtue by Chris Tashima" [review], Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 266-269; excerpt, "Japanese historical revisionists, however, assert that Sugihara was not in fact a renegade but an exemplary diplomat who ... dutifully carrying out the high-minded Japanese policy of racial harmony under the aegis of the emperor (hakko ichiu)"

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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