Monday, October 4, 2010

Imperial Japan (1912 - 1945)

Miyazaki Kamikaze Monument, Miyazaki City

After the Meiji Reformation, Miyazaki had emerged from rural back water to a major industrial center.  By 1912, Japan had defeated both China and Russia in wars for Asian hegemony.  Crafting the military strategy and diplomatic treaties was a Miyazaki native from Obi, Komura Jutaro.
Graduating from the Ito primary and secondary schools in Obi, Komura went to study at the Imperial University in Tokyo.  From a peasant background, Komura was a true example of how the Meiji Reformation bred success and urged Japan to pursue Japanese interests.  Studying at Harvard in 1877 he wrote in his diary, “If we (Japanese) can learn the modern ways of law, politics, military, and medicine and make these Japanese then we can set Japan on an equal level with the Europeans and Americans no other Asian nation has been able to.”  This desire is what drove the Japanese of his generation.  By the time he negotiated Japanese interests in the Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905, there was no doubt that Japan was well on the way to being an empire to rival those of Europe and the newly discovered imperial desires of the USA.
As ambassador to Great Britain, Komura helped win Miyazaki many British contracts for manufactured goods.  These contracts were set for a minimum of 20 years.  His final act for Japan was negotiating the Korean Annexation Treaty of 1911.  By 1912 Komura’s legacy was the fact that Japan was an imperial power and Meiji passed on his throne to a sickly son, Emperor Taisho.
Emperor Taisho suffered severe neurological problems stemming from childhood illnesses.  This set in motion a military and imperial household coalition that actually performed the duties of the emperor behind the scenes of the parliament and people.  The stage was set when he addressed the first opening of parliament under his reign.  Taking out a stack pages from an envelope he read only five words, “Parliament is open for session.”  The emperor then rolled up all the pages like a telescope and peered at the parliamentary delegates.  The emperor then placed all the sheets, individually, back into the envelope and left with his escorts.  It was determined that very day that Emperor Taisho perform the few ceremonial duties for the year and the real business be conducted by the military elite and imperial household agents.  This would not change until his son Hirohito took the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1926.
By 1916, the Japanese National Railway had run the length from Oita Prefecture, through Miyazaki, and to the south to Kagoshima.  Miyazaki Station was the premier station in Miyazaki.  Opened in August 1913, the station was designed as a samurai mansion.  The wide front and back lots provided plenty of room for carriages, cargo wagons, trucks, and even picnics.  The many military endeavors Japan engaged in made the related businesses in Miyazaki more efficient with the railway opening in the prefecture.
For Miyazaki, this meant another boom for the prefecture.  With Japan’s new military strength, naval yards were built in Hyuga City and Nichinan.  Munitions from factories were picked up by Japanese Navy vessels and taken to their destinations.  By 1920, Miyazaki Town also boasted a naval yard that sent chemicals, food, and munitions on naval vessels bound for imperial military use.  By 1924, Miyazaki City went from township to city.  A stunning new prefectural capital building was built to celebrate the occasion.  Nobeoka had a very large chemical industry, and also new factories producing a new invention from the USA called the radio.  With the radio came factories that needed to produce the vacuum tubes, so Miyazaki was boasting industry of high tech for the times.
Towns like Sadowara, Takanabe, Kushima, Ebino, and Tsuno used their agricultural prowess.  Canned foods were the rage for convenience and for military use.  These towns canned seafood, pork, poultry, beef, vegetable, and rice products by the tens of tons every day; the fisheries, livestock lots, and agricultural lands nearby assured freshness and soon Miyazaki was known as “the prefecture that feeds Japan’s empire.”  Demand was so great that by 1922 almost every town had consolidated farms and all farming was done by machine and almost none by hand.  Unfortunately, towns like Takaoka and others on the periphery never saw the opportunity the others did.  These towns were seen as, “Too different, too poor, too everything.”
This may be unfair.  Towns like Takaoka just didn’t see economic progress as an end all to problems and progress.  These towns enjoyed their simple ways and slower way of life that others forgot in the rush to get rich and comfortable.  Being at the foot of towering mountains, they hunted an equal share of their food as that they grew in fields.  Where you needed a car, bus, or train to get around in the cities, they could walk or ride a horse to their fields and tend them, then hunt, then fish, then return home and have the three meals for the day ready before 9 am.  To pay bills outside of their farming, they made tofu, miso, and other daily staples they took by cart into the cities to sell at the markets.  Depending on the season, they also sold the wild boar, deer, rabbits, pheasants, and quails they had hunted.  The towns that were inland simply had no desire to be industrialized to gain status as an industrialized town.
This set in motion in Miyazaki a clear distinction between the cities and rural areas.  By night fall it became quite clear that rural dwellers were to be back from whence they came and allow the city dwellers to enjoy their night life.
December 25, 1926 all of Japan learned that Japan would have a new emperor.  Emperor Taisho had died and his son Hirohito would ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.  Dedicated to building further Japan’s military strength, Hirohito promised to eject all other imperial powers from Asia and set Japan as the dominant power.  Miyazaki again saw benefit of this.  Air bases were opened in Hyuga, Miyazaki City, and Miyakonojo.  Army bases were opened in Miyakonojo and Sadowara.  Coal mines began operation in Miyakonojo, Ebino, and Kushima.
In less than 60 years, Miyazaki had reinvented itself from a feudal agricultural fiefdom and into a major military complex.  Everything was being geared to the military effort; from Nobeoka’s chemicals, Hyuga’s port, Sadowara’s canning, Miyazaki City’s aircraft machining, Miyakonojo’s bases and coal, and Kushima’s fishing.  Miyazaki’s mild climate, deep coastal harbors, and plentiful land space gave the Imperial government reason to celebrate.  People from all over Japanese rural areas were moving in to take factory jobs, work in the canneries, drive trucks, work in warehouses, unload freight train cars, and work in engineering positions with such companies as Mitsubishi, NYK Steel, and Hino Industries.  Many also came to serve at the military installations.  Miyazaki fed, assembled, designed, equipped, hosted, trained and transported the Imperial military personnel and its equipment.
By 1931, Miyazaki was contributing to the start of a war of domination that would end in a literal firestorm of defeat.  Imperial Japanese forces invaded Manchuria.  Civilian rule of the government fell to military nationalists.  Before long, Miyazaki children were being military drilled in their school yards.  Town and neighborhood associations had their control taken by nationalist groups from Tokyo that demanded all citizens drill in military parades and learn to use common household items as weapons.  All of Japan, and Miyazaki, soon learned what “marching in step” meant.
By 1940, Japan had found itself deep in alliance with Nazi Germany and Italy.  Miyazaki hosted German and Italian military officers to the opening of the nationalist Hakku Ichiu Park (now Heiwadai Park) to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the reign of the mythical Emperor Jimmu, Japan’s first emperor mythically born of the sun goddess Amaterasu.  The park contains a large column that celebrates the fact that Japan will be the eight threads (islands) that tie the entire world as one (empire).  Many of the German and Italian military guests took exception to this, but the Emperor placated their feelings by saying, “Just as you relish in your Nordic and Roman myths, we relish in our Yamato myths.”  The park became a popular Shinto pilgrimage and tourist attraction during the war years, and still is today.  It sits adjacent to Miyazaki Shrine, which supposedly houses the throne of Emperor Jimmu.
By late 1944 the airbases in Hyuga, Miyazaki City, and Miyakonojo were converted into Special Command (kamikaze) bases.  The ports in Hyuga and Miyazaki City were designated as military priority facilities.  By May 1945, Nobeoka, Hyuga, Miyazaki City, Nichinan, Miyakonojo, and Kushima were effectively rendered by US bombers as out of action for the Imperial effort.  Miyazaki had become accustomed to US bombers and fighters.
The drills at schools increased, entire towns and neighborhoods were now drilling with real weapons.  But come August 1945 it was all over.  When commanded to work longer and harder, Miyazaki did.  When told to drill because Japanese survival depended upon it, Miyazaki did.  When it all ended, Miyazaki found Nobeoka 40% in ruins, Miyazaki City 38% in ruins, Nichinan 25% in ruins, Miyakonojo also in ruins.  An estimated 60,000 lives were lost.  Bridges, rail lines, train stations, roads and factories were destroyed, right along with kamikaze bases and Army barracks.
On August 15, 1945 Miyazaki citizens heard broadcast on radio and CD speakers the following from Emperor Hirohito at 12 pm that all of Japan heard:
Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State, and the devoted service of our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers without condition.
The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.
Like the rest of Japan, Miyazaki became frozen in fear of what was to happen.  The cities were quickly bustling with people leaving to walk, hitch hike, or ride bicycles into the rural areas.  The cities lay in ruin, and served as a reminder of what the Emperor commented as “the sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter”.  At least the rural areas still had the farms, and farms meant food.  Working as a hired hand meant you got fed.  The cities lost all they had to offer.  Factories were gone, roads were in tatters, and dreams disappeared with the Emperor’s speech.  If Miyazaki was spared one thing, the farms were still producing.  Yet, that summer of 1945 had been horrible in rural areas because of a drought.  The farms had as much to offer as the cities.  It was the “Grapes of Wrath” in Kabuki style.
By September 1945, GHQ had sent US, British and Australian forces to assess and help rebuild Miyazaki.  Miyazaki was short on food, medicine, and hope; as one US officer reported to GHQ in Tokyo, “If you could send God himself, these people need a miracle.”  While Japan kept the emperor, many in Miyazaki questioned, “Just what empire is he the Emperor of?”
By February 1946, another 5,000 in Miyazaki would die of starvation, privation, disease, and infection from earlier injuries in the bombings.  The Emperor enjoyed his winter in the Nagano resort town Karuizawa.  He and Gen. Douglas MacArthur played tennis quite frequently together at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.  While his nation starved, Hirohito felt no pain.  Hirohito kept his throne and his subjects suffered his defeat.  This caused a great resentment in Kyushu that was not felt anywhere else in Japan.  By May 1946, Miyazaki had a number of citizens calling for self rule.  Tokyo had caused the suffering and many wanted out of Tokyo’s control.


  1. How do you get to the Kamikaze Shrine at the Miyazaki Airport. I would love to see it but can't find it on the map.

    I love your history of Miyazaki. I haven't found anything in English about Miyazaki's history.

  2. Lynette,
    The best thing to do is ask the taxi drivers at the airport.
    On foot it is near impossible. Take a taxi and tell them where you want to go. It is such a small road and so near the airport that on foot security guards with the shipping companies will hassel you.
    I just went to a taxi and said in Japanese, "Take me to to the kamikase monument."
    Hope this helps. Not on maps because of the guilt felt over the War.