International Military Tribunal for the Far East

International Military Tribunal for the Far East

War Crime Tribunal in Tokyo

The eleven justices for the IMTFE. July 29, 1946.

The eleven justices for the IMTFE. July 29, 1946.

Following the Cairo Declaration of December 1, 1943, in which the United States, Great Britain, and China announced their determination “to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan” in the Far East theater, the Allies pronounced their policy regarding Japanese war crimes in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945.

“We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race or destroyed as a nation,” read the declaration, “but stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, including those who have visited cruelties upon our prisoners.” [142]

About two weeks after the surrender, the Japanese government agreed that the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration would be carried out, and on January 19, 1946, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), issued a special proclamation that announced the establishment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE).

Eleven judges, nine from the nations that signed the Instrument of Surrender, one from India and one from the Commonwealth of the Philippines, were eventually appointed by the SCAP.

Following months of preparation, the IMTFE, also known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, first convened on April 29, 1946, and four days later the prosecution opened its case, charging the defendants with “Conventional War Crimes,” “Crimes against Peace,” and “Crimes against Humanity.” The trial continued for more than two and a half years, hearing testimony from 419 witnesses, and admitting 4,336 exhibits of evidence including depositions and affidavits from 779 other individuals. [143]

A member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, Miner Searle Bates, testified to the atrocities on July 29, 1946.

A member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, Miner Searle Bates, testified to the atrocities on July 29, 1946.

The prosecution began the Nanking phase of its case in July 1946 and Dr. Robert Wilson, a surgeon and a member of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, took the witness stand first.

It was at this moment that the majority of Japanese populace first heard about the inconceivable scale and dimension of the Rape of Nanking. “The horrible acts of the Japanese Army have now been revealed to the people for the first time,” wrote the Asahi newspaper on July 26. [144]

“I, myself, observed a whole series of shootings of individual civilians without any provocation or apparent reason whatsoever,” testified another witness, Miner Searle Bates, a missionary and a professor of history at the University of Nanking. “The bodies of civilians lay on the streets and alleys in the vicinity of my own house for many days after the Japanese entry.”

Bates told the court how the Japanese soldiers systematically and arbitrarily gathered and executed Chinese prisoners of war, how extensively they raped women, including the five different occasions that he had seen with his own eyes, and how painstakingly they looted houses, shops and other buildings. [145]

Among other members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone, John Magee also testified in court and George A. Fitch, Lewis Smythe and James McCallum filed affidavits with their diaries and letters.

The collection of their official documents of protest to the Japanese embassy, Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone edited by Hsü Shushi, was also submitted. In the end, a total of 11 people including 5 Chinese survivors took the witness stand and 21 people filed affidavits. [146]

Matsui Iwane

The commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, Matsui Iwane, being brought into courtroom to appear before the IMTFE.

The commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, Matsui Iwane, being brought into courtroom to appear before the IMTFE.

With the mounting evidence of the Nanking Atrocities presented against him, the commander-in-chief of the China Central Area Army (CCAA), Matsui Iwane, wobbled between denying the mass-scale atrocities and evading his responsibility for what had happened. Eventually he ended up making numerous conflicting statements.

In the interrogation in Sugamo prison preceding the trial Matsui admitted that he heard about the many outrages committed by his troops from Japanese diplomats when he entered Nanking on December 17, 1937.

In court, to the contrary, he told the judges that he was not “officially” briefed at the consulate about the evildoings, presumably to avoid admitting any contact with the consulate officials such as Second Secretary (later Acting Consul-General) Fukui Kiyoshi and Attaché Fukuda Tokuyasu who received and dealt with the protests filed by the International Committee.

In the same interrogation session before the trail Matsui said one officer and three low-ranking soldiers were court-martialed because of their misbehavior in Nanking and the officer was sentenced to death.

In his affidavit he said he ordered his corps to investigate the atrocities and punish the evildoers.

In court, however, Matsui said that he did not have jurisdiction over the soldiers’ misconduct since he was not in the position of supervising military discipline and morals. Throughout his testimony, Matsui continued to utter lame excuses. [147]

There are some episodes that clearly indicate the supreme commander of the CCAA knew exactly what was going on in Nanjing and could not effectively stop his troops going on the rampage.

Matsui making his triumphal entry into Nanking on December 17, 1937.

Matsui making his triumphal entry into Nanking on December 17, 1937.

According to his diary, one day after he made the ceremonial triumphal entry into the city on December 17, 1937, he instructed the chiefs of staff from each division to tighten military discipline and try to eradicate the sense of disdain for Chinese people among their soldiers. [148]

On February 7, 1938, Matsui delivered a speech at a memorial service for the Japanese officers and men of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force who got killed in action. In front of the high-ranking officers, Domei News Agency reported, he emphasized the necessity to “put an end to various reports affecting the prestige of the Japanese troops.” [149]

The entry for the same day in his diary read, “I could only feel sadness and responsibility today, which has been overwhelmingly piercing my heart. This is caused by the Army’s misbehaviors after the fall of Nanking and failure to proceed with the autonomous government and other political plans.” [150]

The mass executions of Chinese prisoners of war, however, were not probably a big concern in Matsui’s mind, compared with other atrocities. In fact, the deputy chief of staff under Matsui, fellow defendant Muto Akira, told the International Prosecution Section about Japan’s policy on Chinese POWs when interrogated in Sugamo prison before the IMTFE convened. A part of the proceedings read:

IPS: …. Of course, you took prisoners from the Chinese armies?

Muto: No. The question of whether Chinese captives would be declared prisoners of war or not was quite a problem, and it was finally decided in 1938 that because the Chinese conflict was officially known as an “incident” that Chinese captives would not be regarded as prisoners of war….

IPS: As a matter of fact, the Chinese “incident” was a war, was it not?

Muto: Actually, yes, but the Japanese government looked upon it as being an incident.

IPS: So that you… carried on a policy of not treating the Chinese captives as prisoners of war?

Muto: Yes. [151]

In court, Muto straightforwardly admitted that what the prosecutors dubbed the Rape of Nanking took place. There were many other Japanese witnesses who acknowledged that there were excesses of Japanese troops in Nanking, though their perceptions as to the scale of the Rape of Nanking varied.

Among the most candid witnesses was Ishii Itaro, the East Asia Bureau chief of the Foreign Ministry. He testified that he was briefed about the rape, arson, looting, and murders from Foreign Ministry offices in Nanjing and Shanghai. In his autobiography, Ishii wrote that he and Foreign Minister Hirota Koki warned the Army to take action many times.

“This is the truth about what was called the ‘Holy War,’ and the ‘Emperor’s Military.’ From the beginning I dubbed the incidents the ‘Nanking Atrocities’…. It left an eternally indelible stain on our history,” lamented Ishii in his book. [152]

The Judgment

The IMTFE was held at War Ministry Buildings in Tokyo. Photo taken on July 22, 1946.

The IMTFE was held at War Ministry Buildings in Tokyo. Photo taken on July 22, 1946.

In the end the Tribunal connected only two defendants to the Rape of Nanking.

Matsui was convicted of count 55, which charged him with being one of the senior officers who “deliberately and recklessly disregarded their legal duty [by virtue of their respective offices] to take adequate steps to secure the observance [of the Laws and Customs of War] and prevent breaches thereof, and thereby violated the laws of war.”

Hirota Koki, who had been the Foreign Minister when Japan conquered Nanjing, was convicted of participating in “the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy” (count 1), waging “a war of aggression and a war in violation of international laws, treaties, agreements and assurances against the Republic of China” (count 27) and count 55. [153]

On November 12, 1948, on the basis of a simple majority of the eleven judges, Matsui and Hirota, with five other convicted Class-A war criminals, were sentenced to death by hanging. Eighteen others received lesser sentences.

The death sentence imposed on Hirota, who was apparently sent to the gallows on the basis of a bare six votes, shocked the general public and prompted a petition on his behalf, which soon gathered over 300,000 signatures, but to no avail. [154]

The statue of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, erected by Matsui.

The statue of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, erected by Matsui.

Matsui’s Buddhist confessor Hanayama wrote of the conversation he had with Matsui on November 29, about three weeks before his hanging. “I am ashamed of the Nanking Incident,” said Matsui according to Hanayama.

“After the memorial service, I gathered up everybody and warned them with tears of anger. Both Prince Asaka and Lieutenant General Yanagawa were there. [I told them] we came all the way to stand on the majesty of the Emperor, but the dignity [of the Imperial Army] was lost at a stroke through the brutal acts of the soldiers. But then everyone laughed. To my displeasure, a certain division commander even uttered, ‘of course.'” [155]

Though how much he wished to atone for what had happened is impossible to speculate, he had probably been nurturing some sense of remorse.

After he retired, Matsui built a syncretic sanctuary of a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine to deify the spirits of Japanese and Chinese soldiers who died in the China theater and erected the statue of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, in 1940.156 He was said to have visited the place almost every day until he was imprisoned.

Critics of the Tribunal

From its very beginning, the legitimacy of the IMTFE was questioned by many.

All the eleven justices were from the victor nations. Except for the Indian justice, Radhabinod Pal, no judges had much experience in international law. Besides, had the trial been in a normal court, some of them would probably have been disqualified. The Chinese justice, Mei Ju-ao, had no experience as a judge in China or elsewhere.

The U. S. S. R. representative, Major General I. M. Zaryanov, did not speak either Japanese or English, the two official languages of the tribunal. The Philippine justice, Delfin Jaranilla, was a Bataan Death March survivor. The Australian justice and the designated president of the tribunal, William Webb, had been involved in an investigation of Japanese atrocities in New Guinea. [157]

August 6, 1946. Justice Bernard V. A. Röling (Netherlands).

August 6, 1946. Justice Bernard V. A. Röling (Netherlands).

Many argued the Tokyo Charter was ex post facto, or retroactive, legislation. The burden of criminality that made a failure to prevent war crimes also a crime, and the individuals’ criminality for acts of states, had never been indictable in international law before the Axis powers’ defeat.

Immunity was granted for Emperor Hirohito and his family by the United States. The U. S., it was revealed years later, also decided not to bring certain members of the Japanese Army to court, namely the officers and scientific researchers of Unit 731 who experimented with bacteriological weapons on human guinea pigs in China, in exchange for the research data. [158]

On the day the judgment was read, five of the eleven justices released separate opinions outside the court.

In his concurring opinion Justice Webb (Australia) took issue with Emperor Hirohito’s legal status.

“The suggestion that the Emperor was bound to act on advice is contrary to the evidence,” wrote Webb.

September 24, 1946. The eleven justices on bench.

September 24, 1946. The eleven justices on bench.

While refraining from personal indictment of Hirohito, Webb indicated that Hirohito bore responsibility as a Constitutional Monarch who accepted “ministerial and other advice for war.” [159]

Justice Jaranilla (Philippines) disagreed with the penalties imposed by the tribunal. “They are, in my judgment, too lenient,” wrote the justice, “not exemplary and deterrent, and not commensurate with the gravity of the offence or offences committed.” [160]

Justice Henri Bernard (France) pointed out the tribunal’s flawed course of action such as the absence of Hirohito and the lack of sufficient deliberations by the judges. “A verdict reached by a Tribunal after a defective procedure cannot be a valid one,” concluded Bernard. [161]

“It is well-nigh impossible to define the concept of initiating or waging a war of aggression both accurately and comprehensively,” wrote Justice Bernard V. A. Röling (Netherlands) in his dissenting opinion.

Pointing out the difficulties and limitations in holding individuals responsible for an act of state, and making omission of responsibility a crime, Röling called for the acquittal of several defendants including Hirota. [162]

December 1, 1947. Justice Radhabinod Pal (India).

December 1, 1947. Justice Radhabinod Pal (India).

Justice Radhabinod Pal (India) produced a 1,235-page judgment in which he dismissed the legitimacy of the IMTFE as mere victor’s justice.

“I would hold that each and every one of the accused must be found not guilty of each and every one of the charges in the indictment and should be acquitted on all those charges,” concluded Pal. [163]

It must be noted, however, that Pal did not question whether the Rape of Nanking took place or not.

While taking into account the influence of wartime propaganda, exaggerations and distortions of facts in the evidence, and “over-zealous” and “hostile” witnesses, Pal concluded:

“The evidence is still overwhelming that atrocities were perpetrated by the members of the Japanese armed forces against the civilian population of some of the territories occupied by them as also against the prisoners of war.” [164]

After the Judgment

No matter how vulnerable the legitimacy of the IMTFE was, Japan accepted the judgment of the tribunal and of the other war crimes trials by the Allied nations, including the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal, at the San Francisco Peace Conference in September 1951.

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

By 1958, with the consent of a majority of the governments represented on the Tribunal, Japan paroled and released every remaining Class-A war criminals. [165]

The Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a Shinto shrine established in 1869 for people to worship “the divine spirits of those who sacrificed themselves for their country,” [166] now enshrines some 2.5 million souls including those convicted for war crimes.

The decision to embrace even the Class-A war criminals finally came in 1978. Since then Japanese government officials’ visits to the Shrine have occasionally aroused protests in China and other Asian countries. [167]

Go back to: Table of Contents


  1. National Archives and Records Service, Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1; John W. Dower, Embracing the Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W. N. Norton & Company, 1999), 445.
  2. National Archives and Records Service, 1; Dower, 449-450, 455.
  3. Quoted in Takashi Yoshida, 73.
  4. Arnold C. Brackman, The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (New York: William Morrow, 1987), 178-180.
  5. Brook, “Introduction: Documenting the Rape of Nanking,” in Documents of the Rape of Nanking, 16; Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 33-34; Fujiwara, “‘Tokyo Saiban ni yoru Dechiage’ Setsu koso ga Dechiage [The Theory of ‘Fabrication at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial’ Is the Real Fabrication], in Nanking Daigyakusatsu Hiteiron 13 no Uso [Thirteen lies in the Nanjing Massacre Deniers’ Claims], 20.
  6. Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 36-46; Brackman, 182-184.
  7. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu II [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing II] (Tokyo: Kaiko, 1993), 143.
  8. Domei, “Japanese Army Discipline to Be Tightened,” North China Daily News, 8 February 1938, quoted in Nanking Senshi [History of the Battle of Nanjing] (Tokyo: Kaiko, 1993), 410.
  9. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu II [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing II], 169.
  10. Quoted in Brackman, 174.
  11. Itaro Ishii, Gaikokan no Issho [A Life of A Diplomat], quoted in Shashinshu: Nanking Daigyakusatsu [Photographs: The Nanjing Massacre] (Tokyo: Elpis, 1995), 119. See also Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 35.
  12. The Indictment in The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: Proceedings of the Tribunal / Pages 1-2,097, ed. R. John Pritchard and Sonia Magbanua Zaide (New York: Garland Publishing, 1981), 2-14; The Judgment in Documents of the Rape of Nanking, 264-267.
  13. Brackman, 395; Dower, 459.
  14. Quoted in Toshiyuki Hayase, Shogun no Shinjitsu [The Truth of Shogun] (Tokyo: Kojin, 1999), 313.
  15. Myouko Itami, interview by author. Ms. Itami is one of the priestesses at the sanctuary, Koa Kannon.
  16. Richard H. Minear, Victor’s Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1971), 81-86; Dower, 465.
  17. Fujiwara, “‘Tokyo Saiban ni yoru Dechiage’ Setsu koso ga Dechiage [The Theory of ‘Fabrication at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial’ Is the Real Fabrication], 21-22; Dower, 464-465.
  18. William Webb, “Separate Opinion,” in The Tokyo Judgment: The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) 29 April 1946 – 12 November 1948, ed. B. V. A. Röling and C. F. Rüter (Amsterdam: University Press Amsterdam, 1977), 478.
  19. Delfin Jaranilla, “Concurring Opinion,” ibid., 514
  20. Henri Bernard, “Dissenting Judgment,” ibid., 494-495.
  21. Bernard V. A. Röling, “Opinion,” ibid., 1,061-1,064 and 1,121-1,127.
  22. Radhabinod Pal, “Judgment,” ibid., 1035.
  23. Pal, “Judgment (Excerpts),” in Documents on the Rape of Nanking, 273-278.
  24. National Archives and Records, 4
  25. “Yasukuni Jinja,” brochure given at the Yasukuni Shrine.
  26. Allen S. Whiting, China Eyes Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 53.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved

Nanking War Crimes Tribunal

Nanking War Crimes Tribunal

Trial of the Nanking Atrocities

Two Second Lieutenants in the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 16th Division, Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi, who were tried in Nanking.

Two Second Lieutenants in the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 16th Division, Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi, who were tried in Nanking.

Along with the major Japanese governmental and military leaders indicted for Class-A war crimes, some 5,700 other Japanese [168] were tried for Class B and C war crimes by the Allied nations in Yokohama, Singapore, Rabaul, Batavia, Manila, Nanjing and numerous other venues. [169]

China established 13 tribunals, tried 650 cases, convicted 504 Japanese and sentenced 149 to death.

In Nanjing, presumably due to the difficulties in investigating atrocities that had happened more than 8 years earlier while caught up in the Civil War against the Communists, only four Japanese army officers were tried for the war crimes relating to the Nanking Atrocities between 1946 and 1947.

The accused were the commander of the 6th Division, Lieutenant General Tani Hisao, the company commander of the 6th Division, Captain Tanaka Gunkichi, and two Second Lieutenants in the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 16th Division, Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi. Among the four defendants, Tani was the only one who was in a high commanding position when the city fell.

Of other possible suspects, General Matsui Iwane, the commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, was being tried at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East as a Class-A war crime suspect.

Lieutenant General Nakajima Kesago, the commander of the 16th Division and Lieutenant General Yanagawa Heisuke, the commander of the 10th Army, both died in 1945.

Lieutenant General Prince Asaka in Nanking.

Lieutenant General Prince Asaka in Nanking.

Lieutenant General Prince Asaka, the commander of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and Emperor Hirohito’s uncle, was granted immunity for any war crimes trial because of his lineage as a member of the royal family.

And finally, Lieutenant Colonel Cho Isamu, an information staff officer of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and a general staff of the CCAA, committed suicide in Okinawa before the Pacific War ended. [170]

Thus, Tani was the only one alive and available. In court he pleaded not guilty and indicated Nakajima and his troops were the real culprits, but the mounting evidence adduced against him and the testimonies of eyewitnesses and victims showed otherwise.

He was found guilty on February 6, 1947 and the court pronounced the sentence of death on March 10, which read:

Hisao Tani, having been convicted of instigating, inspiring and encouraging during the war the men under his command to stage general massacres of prisoners of war and non-combatants and to perpetrate such crimes as rape, plunder and wanton destruction of property, is hereby sentenced to death.

On April 26 he was sent before the firing squad at Yuhuatai execution site. [171]

The other three were brought to Nanking thanks to the domestic propaganda activity of the Japanese government during the wartime.

Tanaka was once mentioned in a book called Imperial Soldiers in Japan and became famous for killing “300 hateful Chinese enemies” with his “buddy sword” Sukehiro.

The Tokyo Nichi Nichi article on the killing contest. December 13, 1937.

The Tokyo Nichi Nichi article on the killing contest. December 13, 1937.

Mukai and Noda were also well known for their killing contest to cut down a hundred Chinese soldiers in combat with their swords on the way to Nanking. Their story was serially published in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi newspaper, where the two second lieutenants were treated as war heroes (some of the articles in English can be found at the bottom of this page).

However, as many historians point out today, the stories of hyped heroism, in which those soldiers courageously killed a number of enemies in hand-to-hand combat with swords, couldn’t be taken at face value. [172]

Indeed, when Noda came back to his hometown in Japan and made a speech at an elementary school, he told his young audience that of more than a hundred Chinese soldiers he killed, most were actually prisoners of war.

In 1971 one of the schoolchildren, Shishime Akira, wrote to a magazine of what he heard from Noda years before, a part of which quoted the second lieutenant as saying:

I killed only four or five with sword in the real combat…. After we captured an enemy trench, we’d tell them, “Ni Lai Lai.” The Chinese soldiers were stupid enough to come out the trench toward us one after another. We’d line them up and cut them down from one end to the other. [173]

As if representing the hundreds of other “great swordsmen” in the Imperial Army of Japan who severed the heads of unresisting Chinese captives, Tanaka, Mukai and Noda were all sentenced to death and executed on January 28, 1948.

Interview: Fujiwara Akira [174]

Fujiwara served in the China theater in the Army for four years. "When I saw common Chinese people resisting us, I questioned the meaning of 'Holy War," says Fujiwara. "We were supposed to help them. But in reality we made an enemy of them." Interview by author on February 25, 2000.

Fujiwara served in the China theater in the Army for four years. “When I saw common Chinese people resisting us, I questioned the meaning of ‘Holy War,” says Fujiwara. “We were supposed to help them. But in reality we made an enemy of them.” Interview by author on February 25, 2000.

Fujiwara Akira is a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University. He has published a number of books on the Imperial Army’s wartime atrocities in Asia. He is considered one of Japan’s most prominent scholars on the Nanking Atrocities today.

“I think the Tokyo War Crimes Trial has a tremendous significance in our history in the sense that it meted out justice for Japan’s aggression for the first time. The trial collected abundant historical evidence in a relatively short period of time as well, which is a treasure house of materials for even today’s researchers….”

“Yes, it [the IMTFE] has its own limitations and problems. The United States intentionally overlooked the experiments on human guinea pigs and poisonous gas experiments done by the Japanese troops in an exchange for the scientific data. The trial did not delve into all the battles and atrocities in all of China. They only chose a couple of them as symbolic incidents, such as the Rape of Nanjing and the one in Manila. But the Imperial Army massacred far more people all over China than in Nanjing alone. The trial also granted immunity to the Emperor and Prince Asaka [the commander-in-chief of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force]. There were some aspects that were problematic….”

“I would say Matsui [the commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army] was far more responsible [for the Nanking Atrocities] than Prince Asaka was. After all, Matsui was his superior officer who had been in charge of the Central China theater. Prince Asaka was appointed in December and arrived China on the 7th. Of course, there is no doubt that he should have been tried, though….”

“The problem of the Class B and C war crimes trials in China was that another civil war was going on between the Nationalists and the Communists. I guess they didn’t have much time and manpower for the trial in Nanjing. In that sense, probably the Tokyo Trial was more thorough and systematic. I am also aware of the argument that the Second Lieutenant officers [who initiated the contest to cut down 100 Chinese soldiers with their swords] tried in the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal were innocent. But the current argument lacks the context. They might not have been guilty as charged [for killing more than 100 Chinese in hand-to-hand combat] but I am almost certain that they beheaded many [Chinese prisoners of war]….”

Go back to: Table of Contents


  1. Richard H. Minear, Victor’s Justice: The Tokyo War Crimes Trial (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1971), 6.
  2. Philip R. Piccigallo, The Japanese on Trial: Allied War Crimes Operations in the East, 1945-1951 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), 33 and173.
  3. Fujiwara, “‘Tokyo Saiban ni yoru Dechiage’ Setsu koso ga Dechiage [The Theory of ‘Fabrication at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial’ Is the Real Fabrication], 23-24; Kasahara, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 6-8; Hata, Nanking Jiken [The Nanjing Incident], 46-47; Frank Gibney, “Editor’s Introduction,” in Katsuichi Honda, The Nanjing Massacre: A Japanese Journalist Confronts Japan’s National Shame, ed. Frank Gibney, trans. Karen Sandness (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1999), xxi, n2.
  4. Hata, 48-49; Piccigallo, 165-166.
  5. The three researchers interviewed by author for this project, Daqing Yang, Ikuhiko Hata, and Akira Fujiwara said that the contest could have been mere mass murder of prisoners.
  6. Quoted in Katsuichi Honda, Nanking he no Michi [The Road to Nanjing], 162-163.
  7. Akira Fujiwara, interview by author, Tokyo, Japan, 25 February 2000.

©2000 Masato Kajimoto. All Rights Reserved

Reference: Articles on the Killing Contest

Note: The following article was quoted in Timperley’s What War Means (American title: Japanese Terror in China) in 1938. It appeared in the Japan Advertiser, an American owned and edited English-language daily paper in Tokyo, on December 7, 1937.


Sub-lieutenant Toshiaki Mukai and Sub-lieutenant Takeshi Noda, both of the Katagiri unit at Kuyung, in a friendly contest to see “which of them will first fell 100 Chinese in individual sword combat before the Japanese forces completely occupy Nanking are well in the final phase of their race, running almost neck to neck.

On Sunday when their unit was fighting outside Kuyung, the “score,” according to the Asahi, was: Sub-lieutenant Mukai, 89, and Sub-lieutenant Noda, 78.

On December 14, 1937, the same paper published another report that read:


The winner of the competition between Sub-Lieutenant Toshiaki Mukai and Sub-Lieutenant lwao [Takeshi] Noda to see who would be the first to kill 100 Chinese with his Yamato sword has not been decided, the Nichi Nichi reports from the slopes of Purple Mountain, outside Nanking.

Mukai has a score of 106 and his rival has dispatched 105 men, but the two contestants have found it impossible to determine which passed the 100 mark first. Instead of settling it with a discussion, they are going to extend the goal by 50.

Mukai’s blade was slightly damaged in the competition. He explained that this was the result of cutting a Chinese in half, helmet and all. The contest was “fun,” he declared, and he thought it a good thing that both men had gone over the 100 mark without knowing that the other had done so.

Early Saturday morning, when the Nichi Nichi man interviewed the sub-lieutenant at a point overlooking Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s tomb, another Japanese unit set fire to the slopes of Purple Mountain in an attempt to drive out the Chinese troops.

The action also smoked out Sub-Lieutenant Mukai and his unit, and the men stood idly by while bullets passed overhead. “Not a shot hits me while I am holding this sword on my shoulder,” he explained confidently.

Reference: The Judgment of the IMTFE

Reference: The Judgment of the IMTFE

Note: The following texts were excerpted from the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The photographs of Matsui and Hirota were inserted by author.


When MATSUI was appointed Commander of the Shanghai Expeditionary Forces and left Tokyo for the fighting area, he already had thoughts of pushing on to Nanking after the intended capture of Shanghai. He requested five divisions for the Shanghai Expeditionary Force before leaving Tokyo. Actual preparations for the advance upon China’s capital were made, for he had previously made a study of the topography in the vicinity of Shanghai and Nanking. On 8 October 1937, MATSUI issued a statement in which he said:

“The devil-defying sharp bayonets were just on the point of being unsheathed so as to develop their divine influence, and that the mission of the Army was to fulfill all its duties of protecting Japanese residents and interests, and to chastise the Nanking Government and the outrageous Chinese.”

As the area of hostilities around Shanghai was likely to expand, MATSUI was appointed Commander in Chief of the Central China Expeditionary Forces.

MUTO, Akira, was appointed MATSUI’S vice-chief of staff in late November 1937. Approximately one month after the capture of Shanghai, the Japanese Army arrived outside the city of Nanking. MATSUI issued an order to the effect that as Nanking was the capital of China, its capture was an international event and careful studies should be made so as to dazzle China with Japan’s military glory. The Japanese demand for surrender was ignored by the Chinese Government. Bombardment started and the city fell on 13 December 1937. The Japanese Army that entered Nanking was a newly formed organization but it was composed of experienced troops. MATSUI made his triumphant entry on 17 December 1937. From 13 December onward, there occurred what has come to be known as the “Rape of Nanking” which will be dealt with in a later phase. On 1 January 1938, a provisional self-governing body was set up, flying the old discarded five colored Chinese flag instead of the Blue Sky and White Sun which is the official national flag of China.


As the Central China Expeditionary Force under command of MATSUI approached the city of Nanking in early December 1937, over one-half of its one million inhabitants and all but a few neutrals who remained behind to organize an International Safety Zone, fled from the city. The Chinese Army retreated, leaving approximately 50,000 troops behind to defend the city. As the Japanese forces stormed the South Gate on the night of 12 December 1937, most of the remaining 50,000 troops escaped through the North and West Gates of the city. Nearly all the Chinese soldiers had evacuated the city or had abandoned their arms and uniforms and sought refuge in the International Safety Zone and all resistance had ceased as the Japanese Army entered the city on the morning of 13 December 1937. The Japanese soldiers swarmed over the city and committed various atrocities. According to one of the eyewitnesses they were let loose like a barbarian horde to desecrate the city. It was said by eyewitnesses that the city appeared to have fallen into the hands of the Japanese as captured prey, that it had not merely been taken in organized warfare, and that the members of the victorious Japanese Army had set upon the prize to commit unlimited violence. Individual soldiers and small groups of two or three roamed over the city murdering, raping, looting, and burning. There was no discipline whatever. Many soldiers were drunk. Soldiers went through the streets indiscriminately killing Chinese men, women and children without apparent provocation or excuse until in places the streets and alleys were littered with the bodies of their victims. According to another witness Chinese were hunted like rabbits, everyone seen to move was shot. At least 12,000 non-combatant Chinese men, women and children met their deaths in these indiscriminate killings during the first two or three days of the Japanese occupation of the city.

There were many cases of rape. Death was a frequent penalty for the slightest resistance on the part of a victim or the members of her family who sought to protect her. Even girls of tender years and old women were raped in large numbers throughout the city, and many cases of abnormal and sadistic behavior in connection with these rapings occurred. Many women were killed after the act and their bodies mutilated. Approximately 20,000 cases of rape occurred within the city during the first month of the occupation. Japanese soldiers took from the people everything they desired. Soldiers were observed to stop unarmed civilians on the road, search them, and finding nothing of value then to shoot them. Very many residential and commercial properties were entered and looted. Looted stocks were carried away in trucks. After looting shops and warehouses, the Japanese soldiers frequently set fire to them. Taiping Road, the most important shopping street, and block after block of the commercial section of the city were destroyed by fire. Soldiers burned the homes of civilians for no apparent reason. Such burning appeared to follow a prescribed pattern after a few days and continued for six weeks. Approximately one-third of the city was thus destroyed. Organized and wholesale murder of male civilians was conducted with the apparent sanction of the commanders on the pretence that Chinese soldiers had removed their uniforms and were mingling with the population. Groups of Chinese civilians were formed, bound with their hands behind their backs, and marched outside the walls of the city where they were killed in groups by machine gun fire and with bayonets. More than 20,000 Chinese men of military age are known to have died in this fashion. The German Government was informed by its representative about “atrocities and criminal act not of an individual but of an entire Army, namely, the Japanese,” which Army, later in the Report, was qualified as a “bestial machinery.”

Those outside the city fared little better than those within. Practically the same situation existed in all the communities within 200 li (about 66 miles) of Nanking. The population had fled into the countryside in an attempt to escape from the Japanese soldiers. In places they had grouped themselves into fugitive camps. The Japanese captured many of these camps and visited upon the fugitives treatment similar to that accorded the inhabitants of Nanking. Of the civilians who had fled Nanking over 57,000 were overtaken and interned. These were starved and tortured in captivity until a large number died. Many of the survivors were killed by machine gun fire and by bayoneting. Large parties of Chinese soldiers laid down their arms and surrendered outside Nanking; within 72 hours after their surrender they were killed in groups by machine gun fire along the bank of the Yangtze River. Over 30,000 such prisoners of war were so killed. There was not even a pretence of trial of these prisoners so massacred. Estimates made at a later date indicate that the total number of civilians and prisoners of war murdered in Nanking and its vicinity during the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation was over 200,000. That these estimates are not exaggerated is borne out by the fact that burial societies and other organizations counted more than 155,000 bodies which they buried. They also reported that most of those were bound with their hands tied behind their backs. These figures do not take into account those persons whose bodies were destroyed by burning or by throwing them into the Yangtze River or otherwise disposed of by Japanese.

Japanese Embassy officials entered the city of Nanking with the advance elements of the Army; and on 14 December an official of the Embassy informed the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone that the “Army was determined to make it bad for Nanking, but, that the Embassy officials were going to try to moderate the action.” The Embassy officials also informed the members of the Committee that at the time of the occupation of the city no more than 17 military policemen were provided by the Army commanders to maintain order within the city. When it transpired that complaints to the Army officials did not have any result, those Japanese embassy officials suggested to the foreign missionaries that the latter should try and get publicity in Japan, so that the Japanese Government would be forced by public opinion to curb the Army. Dr. Bates testified that the terror was intense for two and one-half to three weeks, and was serious six to seven weeks following the fall of the city. Smythe, the Secretary of the Int. Committee for the Safety Zone, filed two protests a day for the first six weeks. MATSUI, who had remained in a rear area until 17 December, made a triumphal entry into the city on that day and on 18 December held a religious service for the dead, after which he issued a statement in the course of which he said:

“I extend much sympathy to millions of innocent people in the Kiangpei and Chekiang districts, who suffered the evils of war. Now the flag of the rising sun is floating high over Nanking, and the Imperial Way is shining in the southern parts of the Yangtze-Kiang. The dawn of the renaissance of the East is on the verge of offering itself. On this occasion, I hope for reconsideration of the situation by the 400 million people of China.”

MATSUI remained in the city for nearly a week. MUTO, then a colonel, had joined MATSUI’S Staff on 10 November 1937 and was with MATSUI during the drive on Nanking and participated in the triumphal entry and occupation of the city. Both he and MATSUI admit that they heard of the atrocities being committed in the city during their stay at rear headquarters after the fall of the city. MATSUI admits that he heard that foreign governments were protesting against the commission of these atrocities. No effective action was taken to remedy the situation. Evidence was given before the Tribunal by an eyewitness that while MATSUI was in Nanking on the 19th of December the business section of the city was in flames. On that day the witness counted fourteen fires in the principal business street alone. After the entry of MATSUI and MUTO into the city, the situation did not improve for weeks.

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Press and the Japanese Embassy in Nanking sent out reports detailing the atrocities being committed in and around Nanking. The Japanese Minister-at-Large to China, Ito, Nobufumi, was in Shanghai from September 1937 to February 1938. He received reports from the Japanese Embassy in Nanking and from members of the Diplomatic Corps and Press regarding the conduct of the Japanese troops and sent a resume of the reports to the Japanese Foreign Minister, HIROTA. These reports as well as many others giving information of the atrocities committed at Nanking, which were forwarded by members of the Japanese diplomatic officials in China, were forwarded by HIROTA to the War Ministry of which UMEZU was Vice-Minister. They were discussed at Liaison Conferences, which were normally attended by the Prime Minister, War and Navy Ministers, Foreign Minister HIROTA, Finance Minister KAYA, and the Chiefs of the Army and Navy General Staffs. News reports of the atrocities were widespread. MINAMI, who was serving as Governor-General of Korea at the time, admits that he read these reports in the Press. Following these unfavorable reports and the pressure of public opinion aroused in nations all over the world, the Japanese Government recalled MATSUI and approximately 80 of his officers but took no action to punish any of them. MATSUI, after his return to Japan on 5 March 1938, was appointed a Cabinet Councilor and on 29 April 1940 was decorated by the Japanese Government for “meritorious services” in the China War. MATSUI, in explaining his recall, says that he was not replaced by HATA because of the atrocities committed by his troops at Nanking but because he considered his work ended at Nanking and wished to retire from the Army. He was never punished.

The barbarous behavior of the Japanese Army cannot be excused as the acts of a soldiery which had temporarily gotten out of hand when at last a stubbornly defended position had capitulated – rape, arson and murder continued to be committed on a large scale for at least six weeks after the city had been taken and for at least four weeks after MATSUI and MUTO had entered the city.

The new Japanese Garrison Commander at Nanking, General Amaya, on 5 February 1938, at the Japanese Embassy in Nanking made a statement to the Foreign diplomatic corps criticizing the attitude of the foreigners who had been sending abroad reports of Japanese atrocities at Nanking and upbraiding them for encouraging anti-Japanese feeling. This statement by Amaya reflected the attitude of the Japanese Military toward foreigners in China, who were hostile to the Japanese policy of waging an unrestrained punitive war against the people of China.


Matsui Iwane

Matsui Iwane

The accused MATSUI is charged under Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, 54 and 55.

MATSUI was a senior Officer in the Japanese Army and attained the rank of General in 1933. He had a wide experience in the Army, including service in the Kwantung Army and in the General Staff. Although his close association with those who conceived and carried out the conspiracy suggests that he must have been aware of the purposes and policies of the conspirators, the evidence before the Tribunal does not justify a finding that he was a conspirator.

His military service in China in 1937 and 1938 cannot be regarded, of itself, as the waging of an aggressive war. To justify a conviction under Count 27 it was the duty of the prosecution to tender evidence which would justify an inference that he had knowledge of the criminal character of that war. This has not been done.

In 1935 MATSUI was placed on the retired list but in 1937 he was recalled to active duty to command the Shanghai Expeditionary Force. He was then appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Central China Area Army, which included the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and the Tenth Army. With these troops he captured the city of Nanking on 13th December 1937.

Before the fall of Nanking the Chinese forces withdrew and the occupation was of a defenseless city. Then followed a long succession of most horrible atrocities committed by the Japanese Army upon the helpless citizens. Wholesale massacres, individual murders, rape, looting and arson were committed by Japanese soldiers. Although the extent of the atrocities was denied by Japanese witnesses the contrary evidence of neutral witnesses of different nationalities and undoubted responsibility is overwhelming. This orgy of crime started with the capture of the City on the 13th December 1937 and did not cease until early in February 1938. In this period of six or seven weeks thousands of women were raped, upwards of 100,000 people were killed and untold property was stolen and burned. At the height of these dreadful happenings, on 17 December, MATSUI made a triumphal entry into the City and remained there from five to seven days. From his own observations and from the reports of his staff he must have been aware of what was happening. He admits he was told of some degree of misbehavior of his Army by the Kempeitai and by Consular Officials. Daily reports of these atrocities were made to Japanese diplomatic representatives in Nanking who, in turn, reported them to Tokyo.

The Tribunal is satisfied that MATSUI knew what was happening. He did nothing, or nothing effective to abate these horrors. He did issue orders before the capture of the City enjoining propriety of conduct upon his troops and later he issued further orders to the same purport. These orders were of no effect as is now known, and as he must have known. It was pleaded in his behalf that at this time he was ill. His illness was not sufficient to prevent his conducting the military operations of his command nor to prevent his visiting the City for days while these atrocities were occurring. He was in command of the Army responsible for these happenings. He knew of them. He had the power, as he had the duty, to control his troops and to protect the unfortunate citizens of Nanking. He must be held criminally responsible for his failure to discharge this duty.

The Tribunal holds the accused MATSUI guilty under Count 55, and not guilty under Counts l, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36 and 54.


Hirota Koki

Hirota Koki

HIROTA is indicted under Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 54, and 55.

HIROTA was Foreign Minister from 1933 until March 1936 when he became Prime Minister. From the fall of his Cabinet in February 1937 for four months he held no public office. He was Foreign Minister again in the First Konoye Cabinet until May 1938. From that time forward his relation with public affairs was limited to attending meetings of the Senior Statesmen (Jushin) from time to time to advise on the appointment of Prime Ministers and on other important questions submitted.

From 1933 to 1938, when HIROTA held these high offices, the Japanese gains in Manchuria were being consolidated and turned to the advantage of Japan and the political and economic life of North China was being “guided” in order to separate it from the rest of China in preparation for the domination by Japan of the Chinese political and economic life. In 1936 his cabinet formulated and adopted the national policy of expansion in East Asia and the Southern Areas. This policy of far-reaching effect was eventually to lead to the war between Japan and the Western Powers in 1941. Also in 1936 the Japanese aggressive policy with regard to the U. S. S. R. was reiterated and advanced, culminating in the Anti-Comintern Pact.

From the 7th of July 1937 when the war in China was revived, throughout HIROTA’s tenure of office, the military operations in China received the full support of the Cabinet. Early in 1938, also, the real policy towards China was clarified and every effort made to subjugate China and abolish the Chinese National Government and to replace it with a government dominated by Japan.

In early 1938 the plan and legislation for mobilization of manpower, industrial potential, and natural resources was adopted. This plan with little change in essentials was the basis on which the preparations to continue the China War and for waging further aggressive wars were carried out during the succeeding years. All these plans and activities were fully known to and supported by HIROTA.

Thus during his tenure of office HIROTA, apparently a very able man and a forceful leader, was at times the originator and at other times a supporter of the aggressive plans adopted and executed by the military and the various Cabinets.

On his behalf Counsel in final argument urged the Tribunal to consider HIROTA’s consistent advocacy of peace and peaceful or diplomatic negotiation of disputed questions. It is true that HIROTA, faithful to his diplomatic training, consistently advocated attempting firstly to settle disputes through diplomatic channels. However, it is abundantly clear that in so doing he was never willing to sacrifice any of the gains or expected gains made or expected to be made at the expense of Japan’s neighbors and he consistently agreed to the use of force if diplomatic negotiations failed to obtain fulfillment of the Japanese demands. The Tribunal therefore cannot accept as exculpating this accused the defense offered on this point.

The Tribunal consequently finds that at least from 1933 HIROTA participated in the common plan or conspiracy to wage aggressive wars. As Foreign Minister he also participated in the waging of war against China.

As to Counts 29, 31 and 32 HIROTA’s attitude and advice as one of the Senior Statesmen in 1941 is quite consistent with his being opposed to the opening of hostilities against the Western Powers. He held no public office after 1938 and played no part in the direction of the wars referred to in these Counts. The Tribunal holds that the evidence offered does not establish his guilt on these Counts.

As to Counts 33 and 35, there is no proof of HIROTA’s participation in or support of the military operations at Lake Khassan, or in French Indo-China in 1945.

With regard to War Crimes there is no evidence of HIROTA’s having ordered, authorized, or permitted the commission of the crimes as alleged in Count 54.

As to Count 55 the only evidence relating him to such crimes deals with the atrocities at Nanking in December 1937 and January and February 1938. As Foreign Minister he received reports of these atrocities immediately after the entry of the Japanese forces into Nanking. According to the Defence evidence credence was given to these reports and the matter was taken up with the War Ministry. Assurances were accepted from the War Ministry that the atrocities would be stopped. After these assurances had been given reports of atrocities continued to come in for at least a month. The Tribunal is of opinion that HIROTA was derelict in his duty in not insisting before the Cabinet that immediate action be taken to put an end to the atrocities, failing any other action open to him to bring about the same result. He was content to rely on assurances which he knew were not being implemented while hundreds of murders, violations of women, and other atrocities were being committed daily. His inaction amounted to criminal negligence.

The Tribunal finds HIROTA guilty under Counts 1, 27 and 55. He is not guilty under Counts 29, 31, 32, 33, 35 and 54.

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