Column: Prince Mikasa and War

“Japan’s Longest Day,” a film released last year, 70 years since the end of World War II, is a masterpiece that tells a powerful tale. The film looks at the inside story of machinations in Japan prior to the nation’s unconditional surrender at the end of World War II and centers on Korechika Anami, who was the minister of war. However, the fact that Anami met Prince Mikasa three days before the broadcast of the Emperor’s announcement of Japan’s surrender was omitted from the film.

Prince Mikasa was part of the Imperial Japanese Army. He sharply rebuked Anami, who had asked Mikasa to persuade Emperor Showa, who desired peace, to change his mind and make an all-out resistance against America. The death of Prince Mikasa on October 27 means that Japan has lost a witness who played a significant role in the history of the Showa era.

Prince Mikasa’s distrust of the Imperial Japanese Army seems to have had its roots in China where he served as a staff officer in the Headquarters of the China Expeditionary Army. It was then that he heard about and witnessed the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army under the name of a “holy war.” After the war ended, while devoting himself to researching Oriental history in peaceful Japan, Prince Mikasa shared his reflections on the war. Even almost 40 years after it ended, he revealed his remorse in a book where he said he still wrestled with pangs of conscience.

In addition to research in the field of his expertise, Prince Mikasa visited various historical ruins around Japan and even held a bamboo tool to help in archaeological digs. It would seem that Prince Mikasa held an ongoing desire to work with the people of this nation and hand down Japan’s true, unvarnished history to future generations.

“The study of history inevitably faces the maelstrom of war. Peace is only a rest between wars.” With these words, Prince Mikasa expressed a stern stance. In his last book, he stressed that we must make the utmost effort to maintain times of peace for as long as possible. Now is the time to ponder the significance of his important words.

(Originally published on October 28, 2016)