Imperial Way Faction

The Kōdōha or Imperial Way Faction (皇道派) was a political faction in the Imperial Japanese Army active in the 1920s and 1930s. The Kōdōha sought to establish a military government that promoted totalitarian, militarist, and aggressive expansionist ideals, and was largely supported by junior officers. The radical Kōdōha rivaled the moderate Tōseiha (Control Faction) for influence in the army until the February 26 Incident in 1936, when it was de facto dissolved and many supporters were disciplined or executed.

The Kōdōha was never an organized political party and had no official standing within the Army, but its ideology and supporters continued to influence Japanese militarism into the late 1930s.[1]

Araki Sadao
General Sadao Araki was regarded as the leader and primary philosopher of the Kōdōha.


The Empire of Japan had enjoyed economic growth during World War I but this ended in the early 1920s with the Shōwa financial crisis. Social unrest increased with the growing polarization of society and inequalities, such as trafficking in girls, with the labor unions increasingly influenced by socialism, communism and anarchism, but the industrial and financial leaders of Japan continued to get wealthier through their inside connections with politicians and bureaucrats. The military was considered "clean" in terms of political corruption, and elements within the army were determined to take direct action to eliminate the perceived threats to Japan created by the weaknesses of liberal democracy and political corruption.


The founders of the Kōdōha were General Sadao Araki and his protégé, Jinzaburō Masaki. Araki was a noted political philosopher within the army, who linked the ancient Japanese bushido code of the samurai with ideas similar to European fascism to form the ideological basis of his philosophy, which linked the Emperor, the people, land and morality as one and indivisible.

The Kōdōha envisioned a return to an idealized pre-industrialized, pre-westernized Japan, in which the state was to be purged of corrupt bureaucrats, opportunistic politicians, and greedy zaibatsu capitalists. The state would be run directly by Emperor Hirohito in a "Shōwa Restoration" assisted by the military. Domestically, the state would return to the traditional values of Japan, and externally, war with the Soviet Union was not only unavoidable, but necessary to eliminate the threat posed by communism.[2] In a news conference in September 1932, Araki first mentioned the word "Kōdōha" ("The Imperial Way"), from which his movement received its popular name.

Araki became Minister of War in the cabinet of Prime Minister Inukai in 1931, and Masaki became Vice Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. Both began to purge followers of their rival General Kazushige Ugaki from important posts in both the ministry and the general staff.[1] Whereas Ugaki was pushing for a modernization of the military in terms of materials and technology, Araki and his followers argued that the spiritual training, or élan, of the Army was more important.


Tetsuzan Nagata and Hideki Tōjō created the Tōseiha (Control Faction) group, a loose faction united mostly by their opposition to Araki and his Kōdōha.

Fundamental to both factions, however, was the common belief that national defense must be strengthened through a reform of national politics. Both factions adopted some ideas from totalitarian, fascist and state socialist political philosophies, and espoused a strong skepticism of political party politics and representative democracy. However, rather than the confrontational approach of the Kōdōha, which wanted to bring about a revolution, the Tōseiha foresaw that a future war would be a total war, which would require the cooperation of the bureaucracy and the zaibatsu conglomerates to maximize Japan's industrial and military capacity.[3] The Kōdōha was strongly supportive of the Strike North strategy of a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union, but the Tōseiha wanted a more cautious defense expansion.[4]


After the Manchurian Incident, the two cliques struggled against each other for dominance over the military.[5] The Kōdōha was initially dominant; however, after the resignation of Araki in 1934 due to ill health, the Kōdōha began to suffer a decline in its influence. Araki was replaced by General Senjūrō Hayashi, who had Tōseiha sympathies.[2]

In November 1934, a plot by Kōdōha army officers to murder a number of important politicians was discovered before it could be implemented. The Tōseiha faction forced the resignation of Masaki from his position as Inspector General of Military Education (the third most powerful position in the Japanese Army hierarchy) for his complicity in the plot, and demoted some 3,000 other officers.

In retaliation, a Kōdōha officer, Saburō Aizawa, murdered Tōseiha leader General Tetsuzan Nagata in the Aizawa Incident. Aizawa's military tribunal was held under the jurisdiction of the First Infantry Division in Tokyo, whose commander, General Heisuke Yanagawa, was a follower of Araki. The trial thus became a vehicle by which the Kōdōha was able to denounce the Tōseiha, portray Aizawa as a selfless patriot, and Nagata as an unprincipled power-mad schemer.[6]

At the climax of the Aizawa trial, to reduce tensions on the Tokyo area, the First Infantry Division was ordered from Tokyo to Manchuria. Instead, this caused the situation to escalate further, as the Kōdōha decided that the time was right for direct action, and backed the First Infantry Division in an attempted coup d'état on 26 February 1936 known as the February 26 Incident. The failure of the coup three days later resulted in the almost complete purge of Kōdōha members from top army positions and the resignation of their leader Sadao Araki.

Thus, after the February 26 Incident, the Kōdōha effectively ceased to exist, and the Tōseiha lost most of its raison d'être.[7] Although Tōseiha followers gained control of the army, the Kōdōha ideals of spiritual power and imperial mysticism remained embedded in the army, as did its tradition of insubordination of junior officers (gekokujō), and resurfaced with the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937.[8]


  1. ^ a b Sims, Richard (2001). Japanese Political History Since the Meiji Renovation 1868–2000. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23915-7., page 193
  2. ^ a b Crosier, Andrew (1997). The Causes of the Second World War. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18601-8., page 200.
  3. ^ Buruma, Ian (2004). Inventing Japan, 1854-1964. Modern Library. ISBN 0-8129-7286-4., page 98
  4. ^ Samuels, Richard J (2007). Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4612-0., page 27
  5. ^ Edwin P. Hoyt, Japan's War, p 118-9 ISBN 0-07-030612-5
  6. ^ Hane, Mikiso (2001). Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. Westview Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-8133-3756-9.
  7. ^ Harries, Meirion (1994). Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. Random House; Reprint edition. p. 191. ISBN 0-679-75303-6.
  8. ^ Black, Jeremy (2003). War in the Modern World Since 1815. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25140-0.
1936 in Japan

Events in the year 1936 in Japan. It corresponds to Shōwa 11 (昭和11年) in the Japanese calendar.

Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan

The Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan during that Empire's existence from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 through the Second World War until the signing of the Constitution of Japan (1868–1947) included the:

Imperial Japanese Army

Imperial Japanese NavyAir forces were divided into the Army Air Service and the Navy Air Service.

Asaichi Isobe

Asaichi Isobe (磯部 浅一, Isobe Asaichi, 1 April 1905 – 19 August 1937) was a Japanese former Imperial Japanese Army officer who was one of the leaders of the February 26th Incident, a coup d'etat attempt by young officers of the Imperial Way Faction.

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Gozen Kaigi

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Military Factions (軍閥, Gunbatsu) is a Japanese language term having two separate meanings. It is used to refer in the Japanese military in general, when it competed against the civilian leadership for control of the government’s domestic and foreign policy in the pre-World War II Empire of Japan. It is also used to refer to political factions or cliques within the Japanese military itself. The term came into common use in the Taishō period (1912-1926).

House of Peers (Japan)

The House of Peers (貴族院, Kizoku-in) was the upper house of the Imperial Diet as mandated under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (in effect from 11 February 1889 to 3 May 1947).

Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff

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Imperial Rescript on Education

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Kashii was born in Fukuoka Prefecture, graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, and became a lieutenant-general in 1931. He was the commander of the Japanese China Garrison Army from 22 December 1930 to 29 February 1932. In November 1931, Kashii imposed martial law over the Japanese-ruled area of the Chinese city of Tientsin (now Tianjin).In the February 26 Incident attempted coup d'état of 1936, Kashii was a leader of government forces that suppressed the revolt. Since he was sympathetic to the Imperial Way Faction, which included some of the officers who started the coup, he initially resisted military action against the revolt. He was later relieved of his duties, and then transferred to the reserves.

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Military Academy incident

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Ministry of War (pre-modern Japan)

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The Tōseiha or Control Faction (統制派) was a political faction in the Imperial Japanese Army active in the 1920s and 1930s. The Tōseiha was a grouping of moderate officers united primarily by their opposition to the radical Kōdōha (Imperial Way) faction and its aggressive expansionist and anti-modernization ideals. The Tōseiha rivaled the Kōdōha for influence in the army until the February 26 Incident in 1936, when the Kōdōha was de facto dissolved and many supporters were disciplined or executed. The Tōseiha became the primary influence in the army, but the Kōdōha ideology and its supporters continued to influence Japanese militarism into the late 1930s.

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