Imperial Rule Assistance Association

The Imperial Rule Assistance Association (Japanese: 大政翼贊會/大政翼賛会, Hepburn: Taisei Yokusankai), or Imperial Aid Association, was the Empire of Japan's ruling organization during much of World War II. It was created by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe on 12 October 1940, to promote the goals of his Shintaisei ("New Order") movement. It evolved into a "statist" ruling political party which aimed at removing the sectionalism in the politics and economics in the Empire of Japan to create a totalitarian one-party state, in order to maximize the efficiency of Japan's total war effort in China.[4] When the organization was launched officially, Konoe was hailed as a "political savior" of a nation in chaos; however, internal divisions soon appeared.

Imperial Rule Assistance Association
大政翼贊會
Taisei Yokusankai
President
Deputy President
  • Heisuke Yanagawa (1941)
  • Kisaburo Ando (1941–1943)
  • Fumio Gotō (1943–1944)
  • Taketora Ogata (1944–1945)
Founded12 October 1940 (12 October 1940)
Dissolved13 June 1945 (13 June 1945)
Merger of
HeadquartersMarunouchi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Empire of Japan
NewspaperTaisei Yokusan
Youth wingGreater Japan Youth (大日本靑少年團, Dai-nippon Seishōnendan)
Women's wingGreater Japan Women's Association (大日本婦人會, Dai-nippon Fujinkai)
Paramilitary wingYokusan Sonendan
Parliamentary groupImperial Rule Assistance Political Association
IdeologyShōwa statism
ReligionState Shintō
Colours  Red   White
Shūgiin (1942)
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Imperial Rule Assistance Association
Japanese name
Kanaたいせいよくさんかい
Kyūjitai大政翼贊會
Shinjitai大政翼賛会

Origins

Establishment of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association
Imperial Rule Assistance Association cadres, 1940

Based on recommendations by the Shōwa Kenkyūkai (Shōwa Research Association), Konoe originally conceived of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association as a reformist political party to overcome the deep-rooted differences and political cliques between bureaucrats, politicians and the military. During the summer of 1937, Konoe appointed 37 members chosen from a broad political spectrum to a preparatory committee which met in Karuizawa, Nagano. The committee included Konoe's political colleagues Fumio Gotō, Count Yoriyasu Arima and entrepreneur and right-wing spokesman Fusanosuke Kuhara. A radical wing of the military was represented by Kingoro Hashimoto, while the traditionalist military wings were represented by Senjūrō Hayashi, Heisuke Yanagawa and Nobuyuki Abe.

Konoe proposed originally that the Imperial Rule Assistance Association be organized along national syndicalist lines, with new members assigned to branches based on occupation, which would then develop channels for mass participation of the common population to "assist with the Imperial Rule".[5]

However, from the start, there was no consensus in a common cause, as the leadership council represented all ends of the political spectrum, and in the end, the party was organized along geographic lines, following the existing political sub-divisions. Therefore, all local government leaders at each level of village, town, city and prefectural government automatically received the equivalent position within their local Imperial Rule Assistance Association branch.[6]

Ideals

Celebrations on founding of the IRAA

Prior to creation of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, Konoe had already passed the National Mobilization Law, which effectively nationalized strategic industries, the news media, and labor unions, in preparation for total war with China.

Labor unions were replaced by the Nation Service Draft Ordinance, which empowered the government to draft civilian workers into critical war industries. Society was mobilized and indoctrinated through the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement, which organized patriotic events and mass rallies, and promoted slogans such as "Yamato-damashii" (Japanese spirit) and "Hakkō ichiu" (All the world under one roof) to support Japanese militarism. This was urged to "restore the spirit and virtues of old Japan".[7]

Some objections to it came on the grounds that kokutai, imperial polity, already required all imperial subjects to support imperial rule.[8]

In addition to drumming up support for the ongoing wars in China and in the Pacific, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association helped maintain public order and provided certain public services via the tonarigumi neighborhood association program.[9] It also played a role in increasing productivity, monitoring rationing, and organizing civil defense.

The Imperial Rule Assistance Association was also militarized, with its members donning khaki-colored uniforms. In the last period of the conflict, the membership received military training and was projected to integrate with the Volunteer Fighting Corps in case of the anticipated Allied invasion.

Development

As soon as October 1940, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association systemized and formalized the Tonarigumi, a nationwide system of neighborhood associations. The 6 November 1940 issue of Shashin Shūhō (Photographic Weekly Report) explained the purpose of this infrastructure:

The Taisei Yokusankai movement has already turned on the switch for rebuilding a new Japan and completing a new Great East Asian order which, writ large, is the construction of a new world order. The Taisei Yokusankai is, broadly speaking, the New Order movement which will, in a word, place One Hundred Million into one body under this new organisation that will conduct all of our energies and abilities for the sake of the nation. Aren't we all mentally prepared to be members of this new organization and, as one adult to another, without holding our superiors in awe or being preoccupied with the past, cast aside all private concerns in order to perform public service? Under the Taisei Yokusankai are regional town, village, and tonarigumi; let's convene council meetings and advance the activities of this organization.[10]

Imperial Rule Assistance Association election speech, 1942

In February 1942, all women's associations were merged into the Greater Japan Women's Association which joined the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in May. Every adult woman in Japan, excepting the under twenty and unmarried, was forced to join the Association.[11]

Likewise, in June, all youth organizations were merged into the Greater Japan Imperial Rule Assistance Youth Corps (翼賛青年団, Yokusan Sonendan), based on the model of the German Sturmabteilung (stormtroopers).[12]

In March 1942, Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō attempted to eliminate the influence of elected politicians by establishing an officially sponsored election nomination commission, which restricted non-government-sanctioned candidates from the ballot.[13] After the 1942 Japanese General Election, all members of Diet were required to join the Imperial Rule Assistance Political Association (Yokusan Seijikai), which effectively made Japan a one-party state.

The Imperial Rule Assistance Association was formally dissolved on 13 June 1945, around three months before the end of World War II in the Pacific Theater. During the Allied occupation of Japan, the American authorities purged thousands of government leaders from public life for having been members of the Association. Later, many of them returned to prominent roles in Japanese politics after the end of the occupation.

Leaders

No. Name Period Image
1 Fumimaro Konoe 1940 – 1941
2 Hideki Tojo 1941 – 1944
3 Kuniaki Koiso 1944 – 1945
4 Kantarō Suzuki 1945 – 1945
House of Representatives
Election year Total seats ±
1942
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Notes

  1. Baker, David (June 2006). "The political economy of fascism: Myth or reality, or myth and reality?". New Political Economy. 11 (2): 227–250. doi:10.1080/13563460600655581. S2CID 155046186.
  2. McClain, James L. (2002). Japan: A Modern History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. pp. 454. ISBN 0393041565. Conservatives such as Hiranuma Kiichiro, who served as prime minister for eight months in 1939, objected that the proposed totalitarian IRAA was nothing but a "new shogunate" that would usurp the power of the emperor's government, and Japanists declared that the national polity, the hallowed kokutai, already united the emperor with subjects who naturally fulfilled their sacred obligation to "assist imperial rule." On a more mundane plane, senior officials within the Home Ministry feared the loss of bureaucratic turf and complained that the proposed network of occupationally based units would interfere with local administration at a particularly crucial time in the nation's history.
  3. Brandon, James R., ed. (2009). Kabuki's Forgotten War: 1931-1945. University of Hawaii Press. p. 113. ISBN 9780824832001. .2 All existing political parties "voluntarily" dissolved themselves, replaced by a single authorized political body, the ultranationalist Imperial Rule Assistance Association.
  4. Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation, page 351
  5. Sims, Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868–2000, p. 220
  6. Duus, The Cambridge History of Japan, page 146
  7. Edwin P. Hoyt, Japan's War, p 189 ISBN 0-07-030612-5
  8. James L. McClain, Japan: A Modern History p 454 ISBN 0-393-04156-5
  9. Aldus, The Police in Occupation Japan: Control, Corruption and Resistance to Reform, page 36
  10. David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, M.E. Sharpe, 2008, p.142, citing Shashin Shūhō
  11. Modern Japan in archives, the Yokusan System, http://www.ndl.go.jp/modern/e/cha4/description15.html
  12. Shillony, Ben-Ami (1981). Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan. Oxford University Press. pp. 23–33, 71–75. ISBN 0-19-820260-1.
  13. Stockwin, Governing Japan: Divided Politics in a Major Economy, page 22

References

  • Aldus, Christop (1999). The Police in Occupation Japan: Control, Corruption and Resistance to Reform. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-14526-0.
  • Duus, Peter (2001). The Cambridge History of Japan. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23915-7.
  • Sims, Richard (2001). Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868–2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23915-7.
  • Stockwin, JAA (1990). Governing Japan: Divided Politics in a Major Economy. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-72802-3.
  • Wolferen, Karel J (1990). The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-72802-3.
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