JAPANESE NARCO-UTOPIAN SCHEMES IN MANCHUKUO BEFORE WW II: THE JAPANESE MOVIE “THE SETTING SUN”March 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Posted in Asia, China, Film, Financial, History, Japan | Leave a comment
Manchukuo and Pan-Asian Narco-Utopian Dreams
The Japanese movie “Setting Sun” which features Donald Sutherland and Diane Lane depicts the Japanese takeover of Manchuria from 1928-1945 and the narco-utopian pan-Asian daydreams of certain Japanese military leaders such as Ishiwara Kanji.
Directed by Rou Tomono
Produced by Lee Faulkner
Written by Duane Dell’Amico
Rou Tomono (novel)
Rou Tomono (screenplay)
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Yoshihiro Yamazaki
Editing by Osamu Inoue
Release date(s) 1992
Running time 150 min.
Kanji Ishiwara (Ishiwara Kanj, 18 January 1889 – 15 August 1949) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. He and Itagaki Seishirō were the men primarily responsible for the Mukden Incident that took place in Manchuria in 1931.
Ishiwara was born in Tsuruoka city, Yamagata prefecture into a samurai class family. His father was a police officer, but as his clan had supported the Tokugawa bakufu and then the Northern Alliance during the Boshin War of the Meiji Restoration, its members were shut out of higher government positions.
At age thirteen, Ishiwara was enrolled in a military prep school. He was subsequently accepted at the 21st class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and graduated in 1909. He served in the IJA 65th Infantry Regiment in Korea after its annexation by Japan in 1910, and in 1915 he passed the exams for admittance to the 30th class of the Army Staff College. He graduated second in his class in 1918. 
He stayed in Berlin and in Munich from 1922-1925, focusing on military history and military strategy. He hired several former officers from the German General Staff to tutor him, and by the time he returned to Japan, he had formed a considerable background on military theory and doctrine.
Prior to leaving for Germany, Ishiwara converted to Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren had taught that a period of massive conflict would precede a golden era of human culture in which the truth of Buddhism would prevail. Japan would be the center and main promulgator of this faith, which would encompass the entire world. Ishiwara felt that the period of world conflict was fast approaching, and Japan relying upon its vision of the kokutai and its sacred mission to “liberate” China, would lead a unified East Asia to defeat the West. 
Ishiwara and Manchuria
Ishiwara was assigned as an instructor to the Army Staff College, followed by a staff position within the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. He arrived there at the end of 1928, some months after the assassination of Zhang Zuolin by Daisaku Komoto. Ishiwara quickly realized that the confused political situation in northern China, along with Japan’s already significant economic investments in the area provided the Kwantung Army with a unique opportunity, and began a plan to take advantage of the situation.
On 18 September 1931, a bomb was secretly planted on the tracks of the Japanese-controlled Southern Manchuria Railway. Charging that Chinese soldiers had attacked the rail line, Japanese troops under Ishiwara’s orders quickly seized the Chinese military barracks in the nearby city of Liutiaokou. Without bothering to inform the new Kwantung Army commander General Shigeru Honjō or the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff in Tokyo, Ishiwara ordered Kwantung Army units to seize control of all other Manchurian cities.
The sudden invasion of Manchuria alarmed political leaders in Japan, and brought international condemnation down on Japan from the world community. Ishiwara thought it most likely that he would be executed or at least dishonorably discharged for his insubordination. However, the success of the operation brought just the opposite. Ishiwara was adulated by right-wing younger officers, ultranationalist societies for his daring and initiative. He was returned to Japan, and given command of the IJA 4th Infantry Regiment in Sendai.
Ishiwara was appointed to the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff in 1935 as Chief of Operations, which gave him primary responsibility for articulating his vision for Japan’s future. Ishiwara was a strong proponent of pan-Asianism and the hokushinron philosophy. He proposed that Japan should join with Manchukuo and China to form an “East Asian League”, which would then prepare for and then fight a war with the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union was defeated, Japan could move to the south to free Southeast Asia from European colonial rule. Japan would then be ready to tackle the United States. 
However, in order to implement these plans, Japan would need to build up its economy and military. Ishiwara envisioned a one-party “national defense state” with a command economy in which political parties were abolished, and venal politicians and greedy businessmen removed from power.
However, Ishiwara stopped short of calling for a Shōwa Restoration and violent overthrow of the government. When the February 26 Incident erupted in 1936, rebels assassinated a number of major politicians and government leaders and demanded a change in government in line with Ishiwara’s philosophies. However, Ishiwara confounded their expectations by speaking out strongly against the rebellion and demanding proclamation of martial law. After Vice Chief of Staff Hajime Sugiyama pulled in from garrisons around Tokyo, Ishiwara was named Operations Officer of the Martial Law Headquarters.
Return to Manchukuo, and disgrace
In March 1937 Ishiwara was promoted to major general and transferred back to Manchukuo as Vice Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army. He discovered to his dismay that his Army colleagues had no intention of creation a new pan-Asian paradise, and were quite content to play the role of colonial occupiers. Ishiwara denounced the Kwantung Army leadership, and proposed that all officers take a pay cut. He confronted Kwantung Army commander in chief General Hideki Tojo over his allocation of funds to an officers’ wives club. After becoming an embarrassment to his seniors, he was relieved of command and reassigned to a local army base at Maizuru on the seacoast near Kyoto.
Back in Japan, he began to analyze Soviet tactics at Nomonhan, where Japanese forces were defeated, proposing counterstrategies to be adopted by the Army. He continued to write and give public addresses, continuing to advocate an East Asia League partnership with China and Manchukuo and continuing to oppose the invasion of China. He became a lieutenant general in 1939 and was assigned command of the IJA 16th Division.
His political nemesis, Hideki Tōjō, now risen to the highest ranks, felt that the outspoken Ishiwara should be retired from the Army, but feared the reactions of young officers and right-wing activists. Finally, after Ishiwara publicly denounced Tōjō as an enemy of Japan, who should “be arrested and executed,” he was put on the retired list. Ishiwara went back to Yamagata, where he continued to write and study agriculture until the end of the war.
After the end of World War II, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers called upon Ishiwara as a witness for the defense in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. No charges were ever brought against Ishiwara himself, possibly due to his public opposition to Tōjō, the war against China and the attack on Pearl Harbor. He displayed his old fire in front of the American prosecutor, observing that U.S. President Harry S. Truman should be indicted for the mass bombing of Japanese civilians.
- Maga, Timothy P. (2001). Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2177-9.
- Peattie, Mark R. (1975). Ishiwara Kanji and Japan’s confrontation with the West. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691030995.
- Samuels, Richard J. (2007). Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801446120.
- 1. Japanese
- 2. Ammenthorp, The Generals of World War II
- 3. Peatty, Ishiwara Kanji and Japan’s confrontation with the West
- 4. Peatty, Ishiwara Kanji and Japan’s Confrontation with the West
- 5. Maga, Judgement at Tokyo
The opium poppy was grown to obtain opium. In November 1932 the Mitsui Zaibatsu conglomerate held a state monopoly for poppy farming with the “declared intention” of reducing its heavy local use. Fixed cultivation areas were set up in Jehol and northwest Kirin. For 1934-35, cultivation area was evaluated as 480 square kilometres (190 sq mi) with a yield of 1.1 tonnes/km². There was much illegal growing, and its high profitability retarded the effective suppression of this dangerous drug.
“Nikisansuke”, a secret Japanese merchant group, participated in the opium industry.
This group was formed by:
- Hoshino Naoki (Army thinker)
- Tojo Hideki (Army politician)
- Kishi Nobusuke (Merchant and right-wing supporter)
- Matsuoka Yosuke (Army follower and foreign affairs minister)
- Ayukawa Yoshisuke (Chairman of Manchukuo Zaibatsu)
- Kuhara Fusanosuke (Right-wing thinker)
The monopoly generated profits of twenty to thirty million yen per year.
The military prohibited the use of opium and other narcotics by its troops (punishment was loss of Japanese citizenship) but allowed it to be used as a “demoralization weapon” against “inferior races”, a term that included all non-Japanese peoples.
One of the participants, Naoki Hoshino negotiated a large loan from Japanese banks using a lien on the profits of Manchukuo’s Opium Monopoly Bureau as collateral. Another authority states that annual narcotics revenue in China, including Manchukuo, was estimated by the Japanese military at 300 million yen a year.
Similar policies operated across Japanese-occupied Asia.