Taigyaku Jiken (High Treason Case) (大逆事件)

Taigyaku Jiken

Taigyaku Jiken is a collective term referring to the incidents in which perpetrators were prosecuted for high treason, which was a crime to inflict or try to inflict harm on Emperor, Empress or Crown Prince, as defined in the article 116 of the former Penal Code enforced in 1882 and the article 73 of the Penal Code enforced in 1908 after the enactment of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (the article was eliminated in 1947). Outside of Japan, crimes of treason and rebellion against Emperor or King are sometimes called high treason.

Generally, Taigyaku Jiken especially refers to the so-called Kotoku Incident in which Shusui KOTOKU, a socialist, was prosecuted for trying to kill then-Emperor in 1910 and 1911.


The Japanese government, putting a great importance on the Emperor system to govern the nation under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, treated high treason as a felony and punished offenders capitally. Trials were undertaken behind closed doors by Daishin-in (Predecessor of the Supreme Court of Japan) and appeals by the offenders were not accepted ('the first and last instance'). There are four publicly-known cases of high treason so far.


-Kotoku Incident


-Toranomon Incident


- Bokuretsu Incident (aka. Bokuretsu, Fumiko KANEKO Incident)


-Sakuradamon Incident (aka. Lee Bong-chang Incident)

Generally, 'Taigyaku Jiken' refers to the Kotoku Incident in 1910, which was the most influential among such cases on later history.

The perpetrators of the Toranomon Incident and the Sakuradamon Incident were caught red-handed, while the Kotoku Incident and the Bokuretsu Incident were uncovered in the plotting phase.

Referred Articles of Penal Code
Article 116 of the former Penal Code: Any person who inflicts or attempts to inflict harm on Emperor, grandmother or mother of the Emperor, Empress, or Crown Prince shall be sentenced to death.

Article 73 of the Penal Code, before the revision in 1947: Any person who inflicts or attempts to inflict harm on Emperor, grandmother or mother of the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince, or the heir of the Crown Prince, shall be sentenced to death.

Kotoku Incident

On May 25, 1910, 'Shinshu Akashina Bomb Incident' occurred, in which a socialist in the Shinshu region, Takichi MIYASHITA, and other three socialists were arrested for plotting to kill the Meiji Emperor. The Incident triggered the Japanese government to step up crackdowns on all the socialists and anarchists through investigations and house search and the government even faked treason cases in an effort to eradicate them.

Since the Shinshu Akashina Bomb Incident, several hundred socialists and anarchists were arrested, and prosecutors indicted 26 people for plotting to kill the Emperor Meiji. By Attorney General Itaru MATSUMURO, Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Daishin-in Kiichiro HIRANUMA, and Chief Public Prosecutor of Kobe district court attorney's office Matsukichi KOYAMA, the case was made up and trials and executions were carried out at an unprecedented speed. The deputy chief prosecutor, Hiranuma, told them in closing arguments that 'your motive lay in your faith'.

On January 18, 1911, 24 people were sentenced to death and two were sentenced to imprisonment for a definite term (the chief justice was Joichiro TSURU). 11 people, Shusui KOTOKU, Unpei MORICHIKA, Takichi MIYASHITA, Tadao NIIMURA, Rikisaku FURUKAWA, Kenshi OKUNOMIYA, Seinosuke OISHI, Heishiro NARUISHI, Uitta MATSUO, Uichiro NIIMI and Gudo UCHIYAMA, were executed on January 24, and another one (Suga KANNO) on January 25. Five people, Kenmyo TAKAGI, Setsudo MINEO, Ichiro OKAMOTO, Yasutaro MIURA and Dogen SASAKI, died in prison after being granted a special pardon that reduced their sentence to life in prison. Those who were released on parole were Seima SAKAMOTO, Kanzaburo NARUISHI, Seiichi SAKIKUBO, Kuhei TAKEDA, Yojiro TOBIMATSU, Toramatsu OKABAYASHI and Ushiji KOMATSU.

Although Sakae OSUGI, Kanson ARAHATA, Toshihiko SAKAI and Hitoshi YAMAKAWA, who were serving their sentence for the Red Flag Incident, were not charged for complicity, they lost many comrades and the movement stalled for a while. This Incident greatly affected literary figures as well, and Takuboku ISHIKAWA studied the books of Pyotr Alekseevich KROPOTKIN and trial records after the Incident. Also, Roka TOKUTOMI clarified his stance against the capital punishment in the lecture of 'Muhonron' (On Rebellion). During the trial, Shusui told prosecutors, 'the current Emperor is from the Northern Imperial Court, which assassinated the Emperor of the Southern Imperial Court and robbed him of the Three Sacred Treasures of the Imperial Family', and it was leaked to the people and triggered the argument on which Court was legitimate.

After World War II, materials related to the assassination plot of the Emperor were discovered, revealing that the number of people actually involved in the plot were only five, Takichi MIYASHIA, Suga KANNO, Unpei MORICHIKA, Tadao NIIMURA and Rikisaku FURUKAWA. After 1960s, 'the association to find a truth of Taigyaku Jiken' led the movement to demand retrial of the case.

Toranomon Incident

The Toranomon Incident was an assassination attempt occurred on December 27, 1923 at Toranomon, by Daisuke NANBA who fired a stick-shaped gun at Imperial Prince Hirohito (later the Emperor Showa), then-regent and crown prince, when Prince was heading by car for the opening ceremony of the 48th Imperial Diet, and Nanba was arrested red-handed. Prince was not wounded but a chamberlain sitting next to him suffered an injury on his face. Nanba was sentenced to death in Daishin-in on November 13, 1924. The sentence was carried out on November 15, the same year. Due to the Incident, the Gonbei YAMAMOTO cabinet resigned en masse, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kurahei YUASA and Director of Police Administration of Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Matsutaro SHORIKI were given a dishonorable discharge, and the governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Nanba was born, was reprimanded with a pay cut for two months. Daisuke's father, Sakunoshin NANBA, who was a member of the House of Representatives and also a member of the Koshin club (parliamentary group), resigned immediately, and starved to death by refusing food after confining himself to his own house in Suo Village, Kumage County, Yamaguchi Prefecture (present-day, Hikari City, Yamaguchi Prefecture).

Bokuretsu Incident

Two days after the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1, 1923, a series of lynching of Korean people by Japanese nationals occurred under martial law. During such chaotic period after the earthquake, anarchist Bokuretsu and his mistress Fumiko KANEKO were arrested under the pretext of 'protective custody' and indicted for an offense against the Explosives Control Act on February 15, 1924, and later their charge was switched to high treason and the two were prosecuted again on May 2, 1925 and May 4 respectively.

Bokuretsu and Fumiko were sentenced to death on March 25, 1926. Although their death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment under an amnesty on April 5, Fumiko tore up the pardon order in front of a warden. Fumiko hanged herself on July 22, the same year, behind the eyes of prison guards in the Tochigi female prison. In July, the same year, Ikki KITA who was plotting to overturn the Cabinet distributed among political figures a photo of Bokuretsu holding Kaneko on his knees in the interrogation, and the treatment of the two in the prison became a political issue for several months. Bokuretsu was discharged from prison on October 27, 1945 after Japan's defeat in World War II. Bokuretsu who came out of prison as a committed anticommunist did not join Zai Nihon Chosenjin Renmei (present-day, Chongryon or General Association of Korean Residents in Japan) but formed Zai Nihon Chosen Kyoryumindan (present-day, Mindan or Korean Residents Union in Japan) in October 1946 and presided as the first organization head until February 1949. After going back to Korea, he served as the commissioner of internal affairs of the Syngman Rhee administration, but was later taken to Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) during the Korean War. Bokuretsu was later actively involved in the Korean peace effort as the vice-chairman of the peaceful unification committee of the Korean Peninsula.

Sakuradamon Incident

Lee Bong-chang, an activist for Korean independence, hurled a grenade at the horse-drawn carriage of the Emperor Showa when the Emperor was on his way home after the military review of the Japanese Army taken place outside the Sakuradamon Gate, and in the Incident one imperial guard was injured. This incident was commonly called Lee Bong-chang Incident or Sakuradamon Lese Majesty Incident, while the Japanese government especially called it Lee Bong-chang Lese Majesty Incident. Then-prime minister, Tsuyoshi INUKAI, submitted his letter of resignation but was persuaded to stay in office. Lee was sentenced to death in Daishin-in on September 30 and executed in the Ichigaya prison on October 10, 1932. In 1946, North and South Korean residents in Japan uncovered his remains and a national funeral was carried out in his native country, Korea. His remains are now buried in Hyochang Park of Seoul Metropolitan City as 'loyal retainer' along with Paek Chung-Gee and Yoon Bong-gil (both independence activists).