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Political repression in Imperial Japan

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Title: Political repression in Imperial Japan  
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Subject: Japanese dissidence during the Shōwa period, Yokohama Incident, Tenkō, Political prisoners in Imperial Japan
Collection: Political Repression in Japan
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Political repression in Imperial Japan

Political repression in Imperial Japan lasted from the Meiji period to the fall of the Empire of Japan after the end of World War II. Throughout this period, dissidence was curtailed by laws, and police, and dissidents became Political prisoners in Imperial Japan.


  • History 1
    • End of political repression 1.1
  • Extent of repression in Imperial Japan 2
  • See also 3
  • Further Reading 4
  • References 5


Several laws were passed to curtail dissidence in Imperial Japan. In 1900, the Public Peace Police Law was passed, which criminalized unions and strikes. In 1925, the Peace Preservation Law was passed, which criminalized opposition to the Kokutai (national body/structure). The Peace Preservation Law was subsequently revised over the years. The death penalty was introduced in the 1928 revision of the Peace Preservation Law. However, among the 2713 persons sentenced to imprisonment for Peace Preservation Law crimes between 1928 and 1933, 956 received stays of execution. According to Elise K. Tipton, the rising number of stays of execution during the early 1930s reflected the increasing emphasis on Tenkō,[1] ideological conversion which became widespread after 1933, when Communist leaders Sano Manabu and Nabeyama Sadachika repudiated their allegiance to Moscow and expressed loyalty to the emperor.[2]

An observation system for tenkōsha (converts from Marxism) was achieved in 1936 with passage of the "Law for Protection and Observation of Thought Criminals" following attempts to establish an observation system for tenkōsha in 1934 and 1935.[1]

In May 1869, the Danjodai was established with exclusive responsibility for surveillance of political conspirators. In 1871, it was abolished, but its duties and authority moved to the newly established Justice Ministry. They were reassigned again when the Home Ministry came into being but not exclusively to one section of the police.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Tipton, Elise K. (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar. University of Hawaii Press. p. 142. 
  2. ^ a b Shillony, Ben-Ami (1981). Politics and culture in wartime Japan.  
  3. ^ "Glossary and Abbreviations". Birth of the Constitution of Japan. National Diet Library. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 


  • Richard H. Mitchell (1992). Janus-Faced Justice: Political Criminals in Imperial Japan. University of Hawaii Press. 
  • Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: The Tokkô in Interwar Japan. University of Hawaii Press. 

Further Reading

See also

The regime of Imperial Japan was different from other Axis countries. Elise K. Tipton compares prewar Japan to the eighteenth and nineteenth-century police states of Germany, Austria, and France, rather than to Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Stalinist Russia.[1] Ben-Ami Shillony describes the Japanese regime as repressive but not a dictatorship. Prime Minister Hideki Tojo was not granted any special title, no one pledge personal allegiance to him, there was no faction behind him, and no brain trust or personal coterie around him. All expressions of loyalty were directed solely towards the Emperor. As teamwork, collective leadership, consensus, and loyalty to a sacred monarchy had long been the political standards, dictatorship by a prime minister was strongly discourage. Oppression in Japan was relatively mild when compared with Germany or the Soviet Union. There were no concentration camps, and those who recanted were either released or received short prison terms. Ideological opponents of the state were not killed and most of them were released after the surrender. Most of the political prisoners survived the war.[2]

Extent of repression in Imperial Japan

Following the end of World War II, Imperial Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers. On October 4, 1945, the GHQ issued the Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civil, and Religious Liberties. Also known as the "Human Rights Directive". According to the National Diet Library "This directive eliminated laws limiting the freedom of thought, religion, assembly and speech, removed about 4,000 people from their positions in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Higher Secret Police, granted immediate release to political prisoners and abolished the Higher Secret Police. The Higashikuni Cabinet resigned five days after the directive was issued because they could not carry it out. Their successor, the Shidehara Cabinet, released 3,000 political prisoners based on this directive, and abolished the "Thought Control Law" along with 15 other laws and statutes."[3]

End of political repression


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