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Unformatted text preview: aside everything in the way of adulation, [and] bring into being our
original condition.36 Japan was a sacred land, ruled by a godlike (though isolated and nonacting) emperor. Its citizens were the members of a great family headed by
the emperor, and they were expected to serve the state with unquestioning loyalty. The military, in particular, was not to be criticized, for it had
the holy mission of expanding Japanese influence abroad and it was, in
any case, answerable only to the emperor (which meant, for practical
purposes, that it was answerable to no one).
The suppression in the 1930s not only of proletarian authors and 298 The Fruits of Modernity playwrights but even of professors with scholarly views that were deemed
incompatible with the national polity effectively muted much of the literary and academic worlds. The cause célèbre in the elimination of freedom of expression was the attack in 1935 on Professor Minobe Tatsukichi (1873–1948) and his so-called Emperor-Organ theory of the Meiji
Constitution. Years earlier, Minobe, a scholar of constitutional law at
Tokyo Imperial University, had advanced the interpretation that the emperor should be regarded, under the Meiji Constitution, as the highest
organ of state, an organ analogous to the head of the human body. Although strongly criticized by some other scholars at the time for presuming to define an emperor whose august authority was beyond definition and who should be mystically regarded as one with the state itself,
Minobe’s theory was generally accepted in academic circles, and later he
was even honored by appointment to the House of Peers. In 1935 a
fellow member of Peers attacked Minobe in a speech in the House, claiming that the Emperor-Organ theory, about which the average Japanese
knew nothing, was a grave offense against the imperial institution. The
following week Minobe, also in a speech to the House of Peers, readily
exposed his accuser’s argument as nonsensical and was warmly applauded
by the House. The matter seemed closed, but before long there arose a
ground swell of opposition to Minobe from veterans’ organizations and
other groups throughout the country. Army leaders and polit...
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- Spring '13