Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko: Wikis


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In this Japanese name, the family name is Higashikuni.
Higashikuni Naruhiko
東久邇宮 稔彦王

In office
17 August 1945 – 9 October 1945
Monarch Emperor Shōwa
Governor Douglas MacArthur
Preceded by Kantarō Suzuki
Succeeded by Kijūrō Shidehara

Born 3 December 1887(1887-12-03)
Kyoto, Japan
Died 20 January 1990 (aged 102)
Tokyo, Japan
Political party Independent
Alma mater Imperial Japanese Army Academy
Army War College
Profession Imperial Prince

Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko (東久邇宮 稔彦王 Higashikuni no miya Naruhiko ō ?, 3 December 1887 - 20 January 1990) was the 43rd Prime Minister of Japan from 17 August 1945 to 9 October 1945 for a period of 54 days. An uncle of Emperor Shōwa twice over, Prince Higashikuni was the only member of the Japanese imperial family to head a cabinet. The founder of (千葉工業大学, Chiba Institute of Technology).




Early life

Prince Naruhiko was born in Kyoto, the ninth son of Prince Kuni Asahiko (Kuni no miya Asahiko Shinnō) and the court lady Terao Utako. His father, Prince Asahiko, was a son of Prince Fushimi Kuniie (Fushimi no miya Kuniie Shinnō), the twentieth head of the Fushimi-no-miya, the oldest of the sesshu shinnōke or cadet branches of the imperial dynasty from whom an emperor might be chosen in default of a direct heir. Prince Naruhiko was a half-brother of Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi, the father of the future Empress Kōjun, the wife of Emperor Shōwa. His other half-brothers, Prince Asaka Yasuhiko, Prince Nashimoto Morimasa, and Prince Kaya Kuninori, all formed new branches of the imperial family (ōke) during the Meiji period.

Marriage and family

Emperor Meiji granted Prince Naruhiko the title Higashikuni no miya and permission to start a new branch of the imperial family on November 3, 1906. Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko married the ninth daughter of Emperor Meiji, Princess Toshiko (May 11, 1896 - March 5, 1978), on May 18, 1915. The couple had four sons.

  1. Prince Higashikuni Morihiro (盛厚王 Morohiro ō ?, May 6, 1916 – February 1, 1969); married Princess Shigeko, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun.
  2. Prince Moromasa (師正王 Moromasa ō ?, 1917 – September 1, 1923); died in the Great Kanto Earthquake.
  3. Prince Akitsune (彰常王 Akitsune ō ?, May 13, 1920 – August 30, 2006); renounced imperial title and created Marquis Awata Akitsune, 1940
  4. Prince Toshihiko (俊彦王 Toshihiko ō ?, born March 24, 1929); renounced imperial title and created Count Tarama Toshihiko, 1943; relocated to Lins, São Paulo, Brazil, 1950.

Military career

Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko was a career officer in the Imperial Japanese Army. In 1908, he graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and, in 1914, he graduated from the Army War College. He was commissioned a captain in the 29th Infantry Brigade, and promoted to major in the IJA 7th Division in 1915.

Prince Higashikuni then studied military tactics at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr in Paris France, from 1920 to 1926. Always somewhat of a rebel, Prince Higashikuni's behavior in Paris scandalized the Imperial Court. He left his wife and children in Japan, and the death of his second son did not prompt his return. He had a French mistress, enjoyed fast cars and high living. In 1926, the Imperial Household Ministry dispatched a chamberlain to Paris to collect him.

Upon his return to Japan, he was assigned to the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Headquarters and eventually rose to the rank of major general, having successively served as commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade (1930-1934), the IJA 4th Division (1934-1937), and after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (1937-1938), and the IJA 2nd Army stationed in China (1938-1939).

While he was commander of the Army Air service, he ordered massive bombing of Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Chongqing. In 1937, the bombings of Nanjing and Guangzhou led to a resolution of protest by the Far Eastern Advisory Committee of the League of Nations. According to a memo discovered by historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Higashikuni also authorized the use of poison gas against Chinese on 16 August 1938. [1]

Promoted to full general, Prince Higashikuni served from 1939 as a member of the Supreme War Council. The prince was awarded the Order of the Golden Kite, 1st Class in 1940.

Before the start of the Second World War, on 15 October 1941, outgoing Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe proposed Prince Higashikuni to Emperor Shōwa as his successor for prime minister.[2] Konoe believed that only a member of the Imperial Family with a distinguished military background could restrain the pro-war faction led by Generals Hajime Sugiyama, Hideki Tōjō, and Akira Mutō). Prince Higashikuni was also the choice of both Chief of staffs of the Army and the Navy.

However, both Emperor Shōwa and the Lord Privy Seal, Kido Koichi, believed that it would be inappropriate for a member of the Imperial Family to serve as he could be blamed for anything which went wrong in the war. Thus, two days later, Hirohito chose General Hideki Tōjō as Prime Minister despite the wish of the Navy and the Army, who would have preferred Prince Higashikuni. In 1946, he explained this decision : "I actually thought Prince Higashikuni suitable as chief of staff of the Army; but I think the appointment of a member of the imperial house to a political office must be considered very carefully. Above all, in time of peace this is fine, but when there is a fear that there may even be a war, then more importantly, considering the welfare of the imperial house, I wonder about the wisdom of a member of the imperial family serving [as prime minister]." [3].

Six weeks later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. During the early stages of the Pacific War, Prince Higashikuni served as commander of the Home Defense Command from 1941 to 1944. Files of the Investigative Records Repository (IRR) made public in 2002 show that it was in fact he who ordered the execution of the Doolittle Airmen.

Prince Higashikuni remained steadfast in his opposition to the war with the western powers, and was part of the conspiracy (with Prince Asaka, Prince Takamatsu, and former Prime Minister Konoe) which finally ousted Tōjō in July 1944 following the fall of Saipan to American forces. The American researchers with SCAP also found out that he had planned towards the end of the war to depose Hirohito, placing the minor Akihito on the throne instead, governing the country with himself as regent.[4]

Higashikuni's cabinet with Mamoru Shigemitsu, Mitsumasa Yonai and Fumimaro Konoe in front row.

As Prime Minister

After the course of the war turned against Japan, and the decision was made to accept the Potsdam Declaration, Emperor Shōwa appointed Prince Higashikuni to the position of Prime Minister of Japan on August 16, 1945, replacing Admiral Kantarō Suzuki. The mission of the Higashikuni cabinet was twofold: first, to ensure the orderly cessation of hostilities and demobilization of the Japanese armed forces; and second, to reassure the Japanese people that the imperial institution remained secure. Prince Higashikuni resigned in October over a dispute with the American occupation forces over the repeal of the 1925 Peace Preservation Law.

Life after resignation

On February 27 and March 4, 1946, Prince Higashikuni gave interviews to the Yomiuri-Hochi and New York Times newspapers in which he claimed that many members of the imperial family had approved Emperor Hirohito’s abdication, with Prince Takamatsu serving as regent until Crown Prince Akihito came of age. In the government, only Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara and the Imperial Household Minister opposed this.

In 1946, Prince Higashikuni asked Emperor Shōwa for permission to renounce his membership in the Imperial Family and become a commoner. Emperor Shōwa denied the request. However, along with other members of the imperial branch families (shinnōke and ōke), Prince Higashikuni lost his title and most of his wealth as a result of the American occupation’s abolition of the princely houses on October 17, 1947.

As a private citizen, Higashikuni operated several unsuccessful retail enterprises (including a provisions store, second-hand goods store, and dressmaker's shop). He even created his own new Zen Buddhism-based religious sect, the Higashikuni-kyo, which was subsequently banned by the American occupation authorities.

The former prince became the honorary chairman of the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF) in 1957, and honorary president of several other organizations.

In 1958, Higashikuni published his wartime journals under the title, Ichi Kozoku no Senso Nikki (or The War Diary of a Member of the Imperial Family). He published his autobiographical memoirs, Higashikuni Nikki, in 1968.

Former Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko died of heart failure in Tokyo on January 20, 1990 at the age of 102, having outlived his wife, two of his sons, his siblings, and his nephew, Emperor Shōwa. Higashikuni is today mainly remembered as Japan's first postwar prime minister. He was one of the longest lived prime ministers of all time, along with Willem Drees, Christopher Hornsrud and Antoine Pinay.


  1. ^ Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi (1991). "Emperor Hirohito on Localized Aggression in China". Sino-Japanese Studies 4 (1), p.7.
  2. ^ Peter Wetzler, Hirohito and War, 1998, p.41
  3. ^ Wetzler, ibid., p.44, Terasaki Hidenari, Shôwa tennô dokuhakuroku, 1991, p.118
  4. ^ vgl. Records of the Army Staff: The Investigative Records Repository (IRR) released under the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act of 2000



  • Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. W. W. Norton & Company (2000). ISBN 0-393-32027-8
  • Frank, Richard B. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Penguin (Non-Classics); Reissue edition (2001). ISBN 0-14-100146-1
  • Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 – 1964. Little, Brown and Company (1978). ISBN 0-316-54498-1
  • Spector, Ronald. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan. Vintage; Vintage edition (1985). ISBN 0-394-74101-3
  • Toland, John. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. Modern Library; Reprint edition (2003). ISBN 0-8129-6858-1
Political offices
Preceded by
Kantarō Suzuki
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Kijūrō Shidehara


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