Pure Spirits: Imperial Japanese Justice and Right-Wing Terrorists, 1878–1936
Why was the legal system in 1930s Japan so friendly to right-wing offenders, even when they tried to assassinate leading statesmen and generals? The answer is intertwined with a cultural narrative defined here as “subjectivism”, that assigned vital importance to a criminal’s subjective state of mind when evaluating his or her transgressions. Though influenced by Western thought, this narrative was indigenous to Japan. It originated in the late Edo period, shortly prior to the establishment of the Meiji State in 1868, under specific historical circumstances and was later reinforced by the policy of the early Meiji State. Consequently, it pervaded education, politics and popular discourse alike, in the civilian sphere and even more so in the army.
Until the early 1920s, this trend had a relatively modest influence on the Japanese justice system. It then began to gain traction in military courts dealing with political crimes of army personnel. From 1932 it influenced civilian courts as well, though civilian judges were relatively more reluctant to accept it than their military peers. After a peak in the mid-1930s, it again receded into the background, following the abortive coup d’état of February 26, 1936.
Copyright (c) 2018 Danny Orbach
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal Asian Studies by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.