Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff

The Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff (軍令部, Gunreibu) was the highest organ within the Imperial Japanese Navy. In charge of planning and operations, it was headed by an Admiral headquartered in Tokyo.

Imperial Japanese Navy HQ, 1930s


Created in 1893, the Navy General Staff took over operational (as opposed to administrative) authority over the Imperial Japanese Navy from the Navy Ministry. It was responsible for the planning and execution of national defense strategy. Through the Imperial General Headquarters it reported directly to the Emperor, not to the Prime Minister, National Diet or even the Navy Ministry. It was always headed by an admiral on active duty, and was based in Tokyo.

"The ministry was responsible for the naval budget, ship construction, weapons procurement, personnel, relations with the Diet and the cabinet and broad matters of naval policy. The General Staff directed the operations of the fleet and the preparation of war plans".[1]

After the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–22, where Japan agreed to keep the size of its fleet smaller than that of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Imperial Japanese Navy became divided into the mutually hostile Fleet Faction and Treaty Faction political cliques. The Navy Ministry tended to be pro-Treaty Faction and was anxious to maintain the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. However the Navy General Staff came to be dominated by the Fleet faction, and gradually gained ascendancy in the 1930s with increasing Japanese militarism. The Navy General Staff pushed through the attack on Pearl Harbor against the wishes of the more diplomatic Navy Ministry.

After 1937, both the Navy Minister and the Chief of the Navy General Staff were members of the Imperial General Headquarters.

With the defeat of the Empire of Japan in World War II, the Navy General Staff was abolished together with the Imperial Japanese Navy by the American occupation authorities in November 1945 and was not revived by the post-war Constitution of Japan.


The General Staff was organized as follows:

  • 1st Department: Operations Bureau
    • 1st Section: Operations
    • 2nd Section: Training
  • 2nd Department: Weapons and Mobilization Bureau
    • 3rd Section: Weapons
    • 4th Section: Mobilization
  • 3rd Department: Intelligence Bureau
    • 5th Section: Intelligence for America
    • 6th Section: Intelligence for China
    • 7th Section: Intelligence for Soviet Union
    • 8th Section: Intelligence for UK and Europe
  • 4th Department: Communications Bureau
    • 9th Section: Communications
    • 10th Section: Cryptography

Chiefs of the General Staff

No. Portrait Chief of the General StaffTook officeLeft officeTime in office
Toshiyoshi, ItōRear Admiral
Itō Toshiyoshi

8 March 188917 May 188970 days
Shinanojō, ArichiRear Admiral
Arichi Shinanojō

17 May 188917 June 18912 years, 31 days
Yoshika, InoueRear Admiral
Baron Inoue Yoshika

17 June 189112 December 18921 year, 178 days
Kuranosuke, NakamutaVice Admiral
Viscount Nakamuta Kuranosuke

12 December 1892[lower-alpha 1]18 July 1894[lower-alpha 2]1 year, 218 days
Sukenori, KabayamaVice Admiral[lower-alpha 3]
Viscount Kabayama Sukenori

18 July 189411 May 1895[lower-alpha 4]297 days
Sukeyuki, ItōVice Admiral[lower-alpha 6]
Itō Sukeyuki[lower-alpha 7]

11 May 189520 December 190510 years, 223 days
Heihachirō, TōgōAdmiral
Tōgō Heihachirō[lower-alpha 9]

20 December 19051 December 19093 years, 346 days
Gorō, IjuinVice Admiral[lower-alpha 10]
Baron Ijūin Gorō

1 December 190922 April 19144 years, 142 days
Hayao, ShimamuraVice Admiral[lower-alpha 12]
Shimamura Hayao[lower-alpha 13]

22 April 19141 December 19206 years, 223 days
Gentarō, YamashitaAdmiral
Yamashita Gentarō

1 December 192015 April 19254 years, 135 days
Suzuki, KantarōAdmiral
Kantarō Suzuki

15 April 192522 January 1929[lower-alpha 14]3 years, 282 days
Kato, KanjiAdmiral
Katō Hiroharu

22 January 192911 June 1930[lower-alpha 15]1 year, 140 days
Naomi, TaniguchiVice Admiral
Taniguchi Naomi

11 June 19302 February 1932[lower-alpha 16]1 year, 236 days
Hiroyasu, FushimiAdmiral[lower-alpha 17]
Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu

2 February 19329 April 19419 years, 66 days
Osami, NaganoAdmiral[lower-alpha 18]
Nagano Osami

9 April 194121 February 1944[lower-alpha 19]2 years, 318 days
Shigetarō, ShimadaAdmiral
Shimada Shigetarō

21 February 1944[lower-alpha 20]2 August 1944[lower-alpha 21]163 days
Koshirō, OikawaAdmiral
Oikawa Koshirō

2 August 194429 May 1945[lower-alpha 22]300 days
Soemu, ToyodaAdmiral
Toyoda Soemu

29 May 194515 October 1945139 days

See also


  1. Concurrently Headmaster of the Naval War College until 20 May 1893.
  2. Re-assigned to Privy Council over objections to escalating hostilities with China that led to the First Sino-Japanese War.
  3. Promoted to Admiral on 5 May 1895.
  4. Resigned to accept appointment as first Governor-General of Taiwan.
  5. Created Viscount on 5 August 1898.
  6. Promoted to Admiral on 28 September 1898.
  7. Created Viscount on 5 August 1898.
  8. Created Count on 21 September 1907.
  9. Created Count on 21 September 1907.
  10. Promoted to Admiral on 1 December 1910.
  11. Created Baron on 14 July 1916.
  12. Promoted to Admiral on 28 August 1915.
  13. Created Baron on 14 July 1916.
  14. Resigned to become Grand Chamberlain.
  15. Resigned rather than attend a state dinner in honor of US Ambassador William Richards Castle Jr.
  16. Forced to resign due to tepid support for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.
  17. Promoted to Marshal Admiral on 27 May 1932.
  18. Promoted to Marshal Admiral on 21 June 1943.
  19. Forced to resign following Operation Hailstone.
  20. Concurrently Minister of the Navy until 17 July 1944.
  21. Forced to resign after the downfall of the Tōjō Cabinet following the loss of Saipan.
  22. Resigned in protest of the Emperor's refusal to consider peace proposals.


  1. Spector


  • Asada, Sadao (2006). From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-042-8.
  • Schencking, J. Charles (2005). Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, And The Emergence Of The Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4977-9.
  • Spector, Ronald (1985). Eagle Against the Sun. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-394-74101-3.
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