This event will see the launch of the second edition of Professor Yuki Tanaka's book Hidden Horrors - Japanese War Crimes in World War II (Rowman & Littlefield 2017). Professor Tanaka will give a lecture on Okuzaki Kenzo and his postwar campaigning against Japan's emperor system.
During the Asia-Pacific War, a total of 157,646 Japanese troops were sent to eastern New Guinea; only 10,072 survived to the end of the war, a mortality rate of 94 percent. The majority of these deaths were from starvation and tropical disease. In Professor Tanaka's book, Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II, he described how desperate Japanese soldiers consumed the flesh of their own comrades killed while fighting as well as that of Australians, Pakistanis and Indians in New Guinea. In the 1987 Japanese documentary film Yuki Yuki te Shingun, Okuzaki Kenzo, a survivor of the New Guinean campaign, revealed how some of his comrades became the victims of cannibalism committed by their own superiors. Okuzaki remained bitter following his wartime experiences and pursued the issue of Hirohito’s war responsibility until his death. At the New Year’s public opening of the Imperial Palace on January 2 1969, he shot four pinballs aimed at Emperor Hirohito who was standing on the veranda. While doing so he called to the ghost of his war comrade and shouted “Yamazaki, Shoot the Emperor (Hirohito)!” None of the pinballs hit Hirohito, but Okuzaki was arrested immediately.
This incident is well known in Japan, but what is still virtually unknown is how Okuzaki struggled to defend his actions in court. He was detained for one and a half years, and finally on June 8 1970 he was found guilty of 'assault' in accordance with Article 102 of the Criminal Law at the Tokyo District Court. He immediately appealed to the Tokyo High Court. Yet, the High Court judgment, too, found Okuzaki guilty, condemning his action as a well-planned and grave criminal act against the Emperor. Okuzaki took his final appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that Chapter 1 of Japan’s Constitution on the Emperor is invalid in accordance with the Constitution’s preamble. The Supreme Court instantly dismissed Okuzaki’s argument.
This was the first and so far the only legal challenge to Chapter 1 of Japan’s Constitution. Professor Tanaka closely examines how compelling Okuzaki’s argument was, yet how illogically the Supreme Court rejected it, intentionally avoiding responding directly to Okuzaki’s appeal. It is interesting now to investigate this unique legal case because, as the national symbol, the emperor’s role is presently widely discussed in Japan due to Emperor Akihito’s planned abdication.
Yuki Tanaka was a research professor at Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University until he retired in 2015. He now lives in Melbourne and works as a free lance historian and political critic.
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