Prince Higashikuninomiya Naruhiko (東久邇宮稔彦王)

Prince Naruhiko HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA (December 3, 1887 - January 20, 1990) was the 43rd Prime Minister of Japan (in office August 17, 1945 - October 9, 1945). He was a member of the former imperial family. He was an Army military man. He was the only Prime Minister ever to serve from the Imperial family and the first Prime Minister following WWII.. In the Army, he served at the rank of General. He held the Ikai (imperial rank) of Junii (Junior Second Rank) and was presented with medals of merit: the Kinshi Kunsho (Decoration of the Golden Pheasant) and the Order of the Chrysanthemum, first rank.

After the WWII, he formed the first and last cabinet comprised of Imperial family members to form the constitution during the post-war settlements. The cabinet carried out the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender with the Allied Nations, calling for the break up of the army and navy, demobilization of soldiers, a national confession of Japanese war guilt. However, the cabinet was unable to keep up with schedule of the democratization policies of the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ) and resigned en masse after 54 days, making it the shortest-lived of the post-WWII cabinets.

Before the War

He was born in 1887 as the ninth son of Imperial Prince Asahiko KUNINOMIYA. He was given a Miyago (reigning name) of Higashikuninomiya and started a family. It was extraordinary for an Imperial princess to marry an ordinary citizen. He entered the Imperial Japanese Army, where he graduated from the Military Academy (Japan) and Rikugun Daigakko (the Army War College). In 1915, he married Princess Toshiko, the ninth Princess of Emperor Meiji. He went to France to study in 1920 and graduated from the French Army College. Even after graduation, he stayed with his lover in Paris and rejected frequent orders to return to Japan. Using the demise of Emperor Taisho and the imperial funeral as pretext, Chichibunomiya Imperial Prince Yasuhito, who was a student in London at the time, went to Paris and persuaded him to return to Japan. Upon returning to Japan, he became known as a liberal within the Imperial family.

Afterward, he successively filled the positions of the head of the Second division of the Imperial Army, and the head of the Fourth division as well as head of the aviation headquarters of the Army. During the Sino-Japanese war, he was stationed in North China as the commander of the second troop division. During the Pacific War, he was an Army General at the Defense General Headquarters. In 1941, immediately preceding the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States, the third Konoe Cabinet resigned en masse and his name was mentioned as a possibility for the next Prime Minister. Although it was proposed as a means of averting crises at home and abroad by making a member of the Imperial family Prime Minister, the nomination was killed by Koichi KIDO, Minister of the Interior, who opposed it as he thought it might bring trouble to the Imperial family. When the tide of the war started to turn against Japan, he advocated peace, as his viewpoint opposed Hideki TOJO.

HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA who knew of the technological gap between Western countries and Japan from his experience of studying abroad participated in establishment of educational institutions such as the Koa Kogyo Daigaku (Established in 1942 and which later became the Chiba Institute of Technology) which aimed at improving technology in Asia. He is said to have devoted all his energies towards establishing the Department of Aviation Engineering (Abolished by GHQ after the War) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

After the war

On August 17, he became the first post-WWII Prime Minister and organized the Higashikuninomiya Cabinet. He held concurrently the post of Minister of the Army as an Army General on active duty. While the cabinet carried out as its main duty the general postwar settlements, including the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender, disarmament, breaking up of the military authorities and democratization, it did not consider a large-scale reform of the old political system.

On October 4, the 'Memorandum on the Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civilian and Religious Freedom' was sent by GHQ to the cabinet, which found itself in a difficult position and resigned en mass the following day.

On October 14, 1947, Prince Naruhiko was demoted to the status of a commoner as one of the 51 Imperial members of 11 Miyake (families allowed to have the status of Imperial family) and after that he went by the name of Naruhiko HIGASHIKUNI. His life after that met with varying levels of success. He first opened an unsuccessful black market grocery, then a teahouse, then eventually tried to sell Miyake antiques, although none of these kept going for long.

Although he started a Zen religious organization known as 'Higashikuni-kyo' on April 15, 1950, he was notified in June of that same year by the Ministry of Justice that the use of the name 'Higashikuni-kyo' was prohibited because it might cause a problem if a former member of the imperial family founded a religious organization. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government also would not approve it as a religious corporation. Thus, it was disbanded as a private organization. After that, he ran various businesses which were all unsuccessful.

In 1960, at the time of revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty, he, along with Tanzan ISHIBASHI and Tetsu KATAYAMA, also a former Prime Minister, urged Nobusuke KISHI, the current Prime Minister, to resign.

On April 29, 1964, he received a award.

In 1971, he became the first President of the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Culture founded by Katsumasa KAKEHASHI (The first Chief Director).

In his later years, his Koseki (household registers) was taken over by a woman called Kinu MASUDA (self-proclaimed: Shiko HIGASHIKUNI).

On January 20, 1990, he died at the age of 102. This made him the longest living person ever to have served as prime minister, and one of only two to have lived past 100, the other being enWillem Drees of the Netherlands (July 5, 1886 - May 14, 1988), in countries where the date of birth has been recorded, as listed in the Guinness Book of Records. He also holds the record as the longest-lived member of the Japanese Imperial family in the period since definite records have been kept. As an exception, he was allowed to be buried in Toshimagaoka cemetery following his death.

He served as Chairman of the Confederation of the World Federation Establishment (presently World Federalist Movement of Japan).

Prime Minister

HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA was appointed Prime Minister on August 17, 1945, two days after Emperor Showa informed the people that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration. The appointment was based on the thought that HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA, an Imperial family member and Army General, was suitable candidate to disarm the Army, which had not agreed with the surrender of Japan, and to smoothly proceed with the formalities relating to the termination of the War under the Potsdam Declaration.

Nationally popular Fumimaro KONOE was appointed to Deputy Prime Minister-status as Minister of State (without portfolio), Mamoru SHIGEMITSU as Foreign Minister and Juichi TSUSHIMA as Finance Minister. Mitsumasa YONAI (ex-premier) took office as Minister of Navy for the third time. HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA served concurrently as the Minister of Army until the return of Sadamu SHIMOMURA, Army General (August 17 - August 23) who was tentatively appointed as Minister of Army.

The newspapers referred to the Prime Minister from the Imperial family as 'Higashikuni Shusho no Miya' (Prince Premier Higashikuni).

Although they had been notified of the surrender of Japan, the Army and Navy were still deployed at home and abroad, and so the first order of business of the Higashikuninomiya Cabinet was to disarm the Japanese military, which had been demanded by the Allied Nations. For that purpose, HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA sent the members of the Imperial family as imperial messengers to former Japanese territories and occupied areas to persuade the local Army divisions to disarm. Furthermore, another important duty was to ensure that preparations for accepting the allied forces were flawlessso that the occupation authorities could start governing without trouble; the cabinet successfully achieved the purpose.

Among the remarks of HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA while in office, the one which is particularly well-known is the following passage from a policy speech made to the Diet on September 5.

The opinion of a so-called 'national confession of Japanese war guilt' was regarded as the main political doctrine of Prime Minister HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA. In a way, it may be understood as reasoning which obscures the war responsibility of state high command. Immediately before the surrender, the Information Board of the Ministry of Interior (the pre-war Ministry of Home Affairs) issued the following notice to the media.
'It is useless to try, after the war, to establish responsibility for the outbreak of the war and the war itself, and it will not be allowed.'
Furthermore, after the war, the government ministries and agencies actively and systematically burned and disposed of relevant documents to prevent them from being seized by occupation authorities as evidence for war responsibility.

On the other hand, GHQ tried to curb the spread of 'a national confession of Japanese war guilt' using guidance orders such as the order for prohibition of newspaper publication and so on, then started to prepare for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in an attempt to make it clear that government and military leaders must take the responsibility for the Japanese war crimes.

The Prime Minister announced his plan to accept the release of political prisoners and allow freedom of speech, assembly, and association immediately after forming a cabinet, and indicated his vision of an amendment to the Election law and the implementation of a general election. However, the release of political prisoners was not realized due to the opposition of the Ministry of Interior and then, in opposition to the impediment of democratization, GHQ sent out the 'Memorandum on Removal of the Restrictions on the Political, Civilian and Religious Freedom' on October 4, 1945, in which GHQ ordered the Peace Preservation Law and the Special Higher Police abolished and the officials of the Ministry of Interior who opposed liberalization and democratization dismissed. Iwao YAMAZAKI, Home Minister expressed his intention to resign as he could not be responsible for maintaining security without the Peace Preservation Law, which the Prime Minister supported, and the cabinet resigned en masse on the next day.


The fact that only held office for 54 days may be due to the fact that he became Prime Minister at an extremely difficult time when a large number of military personnel advocated the continuation of the war (Refer to the Kyujo [place where Emperor lives] Incident) and this was at the time of the broadcast of the Emperor's announcement of Japan's surrender as well as an Imperial family member, Nashimoto no Miya was arrested, thus some say that it was only Prime Minister Naruhiko Higashikuninomiya who could pull the country through the crisis. It can be credited to him that surrender was accepted within ten days while ensuring that nobody attempted to inflict bodily harm to GHQ members as they landed in Japan and quickly disarmed military forces.

The logic of Higashikuninomiya shown in 'A national confession of Japanese war guilt' was in contrast to that of Foreign Minister Shigemitsu who insisted that past political leaders were exactly the persons who should take responsibility. Eventually, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu resigned partly due to such differences in opinion as one the above.


Father: Prince Asahiko KUNINOMIYA

Mother: Utako TERAO

Siblings: Prince Kuninori KAYANOMIYA - Prince Kuniyoshi KUNINOMIYA- Prince Morimasa NASHIMOTONOMIYA- Prince Taka - Prince Nobu - Prince Yasuhiko ASAKANOMIYA- Prince Naruhiko (Female persons omitted).



Prince Morihiro (1917 -1969)

Prince Moromasa (1918 - 1923)

Akitsune AWATA (1920 - 2006)

On October 25, 1940, he was demoted to commoner and became the Marquis Awata.

Toshihiko TARAMA (1929 -)

In 1947, he was adopted by Kinu TARAMA and emigrated to Brazil.

Other notes

Although 'Higashikuni-kyo' should have been disbanded, it was restored as a religious corporation in recent years.

A temple called the 'Ryukai-ji Temple' located in Ueno, Iwatsuki Ward, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture is operated under 'Founder: Naruhiko HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA' and 'Originator: Ryukai OHARA,' but how it relates to HIGASHIKUNINOMIYA is unknown.


His classmates in the Gakushuin Primary School included Prince Tanehito ARISUGAWANOMIYA, Prince Naruhisa KITASHIRAKAWANOMIYA, Prince Yoshiteru KITASHIRAKAWANOMIYA (later demoted to commoner under the name Marquis Teruhisa KOMATSU) and Prince Yasuhiko ASAKANOMIYA. He also was classmates Ton SATOMI, a good friend who went on to become a novelist.

Minetaro YAMANAKA, who attended military academy a year ahead of him, later, as a novelist, wrote the popular novel 'Tekichu Odan Sanbyakuri' (Crossing 300-ri Behind Enemy Lines) and influenced him to read Roan UCHIDA's translation of the controversial novel "Resurrection" written Lev Tolstoi. When Emperor Meiji happened to hear of this, his demotion from nobility to commoner was discussed.

While at the Rikugun Daigakko (Army War College), he had the honor of dining with Emperor Meiji, but he declined the invitation on the grounds that he had diarrhea, for which he was reprimanded by Prince Yoshihito, the Crown Prince (who was later to become Emperor Taisho).
Although he made a direct appeal to Emperor Meiji for his demotion from nobility to commoner, the Emperor turned a deaf ear to the appeal saying, 'Don't create a headache for an old man!'

When he had learned to drive before going to France to study, driving had been regarded as something that was only to be done by an uncouth man or a man of humble position at that time in Japan, therefore, it was considered outrageous that an Imperial family member would be seen behind the wheel.
Prince Naruhisa KITASIRAKAWANOMIYA learned driving during his stay in France and went for a drive with Prince Naruhiko, saying 'I want Prince Naruhiko to check out my driving skill,' however, as his skill was untrustworthy, Prince Naruhiko said to him that 'As you are not yet a good driver, you should refrain from driving.'
A very safe and wide road would be OK, but you had better be careful.'
However, Prince Naruhisa refused to be persuaded, and on April 1, 1923, he invited Prince Naruhiko to go for another drive saying 'Shall we take a few days' drive to the summer resort of Deauville on the Normandy coast?'
Prince Naruhiko refused the invitation, replying 'Forgive me for saying so, but I think your driving skill is as yet not perfect, so you had best refrain from driving. Besides, I have an appointment in England,' he said before heading off to London. Changing driving companions, Prince Naruhisa invited Prince Yasuhiko ASAKANOMIYA, who also was studying in France, and together they headed off on a road trip with Princess Fusako, the wife of Prince Naruhisa, a French driver and a few others the morning of that same day. He picked up Prince Yasuhiko on the way and, after stopping off for lunch at Évreux, Prince Naruhisa took the wheel. At a place not far from the village of Perrier la Campagne, he lost control of the vehicle while trying to pass the car in front, skidding sideways before flying off the road and colliding with a large acacia tree at the roadside. The accident instantly killed Prince Naruhisa and the French driver while Princess Fusako and Prince Yasuhiko were seriously injured. Prince Naruhiko, informed by a news agency of the accident at his hotel in London, came back to France the following day to see the place where Prince Naruhisa had been killed.

Prince Naruhiko took up his paintbrush under Monet's guidance during his stay in France for study. He deepened his friendship with Georges Clemenceau, Monet's close friend whom he introduced. When he met with Marshal Philippe Pétain and Clemenceau, both of them said to him that 'The United States is preparing to attack Japan', which, upon his return to Japan, he related this opinion of inevitable war between Japan and the United States to those in all quarters, where nobody except Kinmochi SAIONJI gave careful attention to it.
On the eve of the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States, he informed Hideki TOJO, War Minister about the Clemenceau's advice, however, Tojo refused to be persuaded, saying 'We must fight rather than become a country ruined doing nothing.'