Japan’s Postwar PM Yoshida Wanted to Give Emperor Close Adviser

Courtesy of National Diet Library
Shigeru Yoshida

After World War II, former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida (1878-1967), in the years after he left office, thought about the establishment of the post of close adviser to the emperor, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Yoshida was tasked with rebuilding Japan as prime minister in the years after World War II. He joined the Foreign Ministry, served as the foreign minister for Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara after the end of the war and became prime minister for the first time in 1946. He led five administrations and signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Experts speculate that Yoshida, who was dissatisfied with the postwar system of support for the emperor, considered it was necessary to establish as an institution a position that functions as a supreme adviser to the emperor.

The latest discovery came while researchers were studying the diary of Yahachi Kawai (1877-1960), who served as vice-grand chamberlain to the emperor as well as president of the House of Councillors.

Kazunari Naito, an archivist of the Imperial Household Agency’s Archives and Mausolea Department, was among the researchers who found the references to Yoshida’s thoughts in the diary.

According to Kawai’s diary, “former Prime Minister Yoshida’s intention to appoint a close adviser to the emperor” was relayed to him on Feb. 11, 1959, by Kenzo Matsumura, a leading figure in the Liberal Democratic Party.

Kawai described his response to Yoshida’s idea in the diary, writing: “I could not agree more, but I am struggling as there is no appropriate way to make it happen. I will consult with former Grand Steward Michiji Tajima.”

As he promised Matsumura, Kawai on Feb. 13 visited Tajima, who served as grand steward, the head of the Imperial Household Agency, under the Yoshida Cabinet.

Kawai wrote that Tajima said, “Ultimately, it is extremely difficult to realize the idea under the current Constitution.”

The reference is believed to have meant that it would be difficult under the Constitution to restore the post of an aide to the emperor like the lord keeper of the privy seal, which was abolished after World War II.

But Kawai also wrote that Tajima “agreed with me regarding its necessity.”

Kawai reported Tajima’s remarks to Matsumura the following day and left the matter to Yoshida.

Aoyama Gakuin University Prof. Hitoshi Komiya, who took part in the research, speculated that what Yoshida envisaged as a close adviser was a position similar to that of the lord keeper who would be allowed to give the emperor political advice.

“Yoshida may have believed that people in posts such as chamberlains [still in place after the end of the war] only served the emperor simply in a dutiful approach for clerical purposes, so they didn’t provide sufficient advice,” Komiya said. “At the time, Japan was in turmoil over the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and Yoshida, who felt deep veneration for the Imperial family, must have been concerned about the family’s future.”

Gakushuin University Prof. Toshikazu Inoue, who is an expert on Yoshida, said, “It may be that Yoshida thought it was desirable for the emperor to have an influence on politics.”

The diary is scheduled to be published on Friday as “Kawai Yahachi Nikki Sengohen 5” (The Diary of Kawai Yahachi: The Postwar Years V) from Shinzansha Publisher Co.

Courtesy of Shinzansha Publisher Co.
A part of a Feb. 11, 1959, diary entry of Yahachi Kawai, a former vice-grand chamberlain to the emperor, in which he refers to former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida’s thoughts on an envisaged idea of setting up an adviser to the emperor.