Kishi Nobusuke

From New World Encyclopedia

Nobusuke Kishi (岸 信介 Kishi Nobusuke, November 13, original name Sato Nobusuke, 1896–August 7, 1987) was a Japanese politician and statesman and the fifty–sixth and fifty–seventh Prime Minister of Japan from February 25, 1957 to June 12, 1958 and from then to July 19, 1960. The great-grandson of a leader of the Choshu Rebellion, which was instrumental in bringing about the Meiji Revolution in 1868, Kishi grew up in an atmosphere of politics and intrigue. Several of his immediate family members later occupied important positions in the government. Kishi attended elite schools and entered the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce as a clerk, rising to become one of the senior officials involved in the industrial development of Manchukuo (Manchuria) by Japan. In 1941, he was invited to join the Tojo Cabinet as Minister of Commerce and Industry, and in this capacity, was part of the Japanese leadership during World War II.

Kishi was imprisoned by the Allied Occupation as a war criminal, but released after three years. When he was allowed to go back into politics in 1952, he joined the Democratic Party and built an influential base of support. Kishi was instrumental in merging the conservative Democratic and Liberal Parties into the Liberal-Democractic Party, and in keeping their political power consolidated in the face of threats by the Socialist Party. In 1957, Kishi became Prime Minister. His tenure saw many important developments in Japan’s international relations. In 1960, however, public demonstrations and political opposition to the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation ("Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan") which he had signed with the United States forced him to step down.

Early Life

Kishi Nobusuke was born Satō Nobusuke on November 13, 1896, in Tabuse, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in southwestern Japan. Kishi was the second son of Hidesuke and Moyo Sato. His father, who had originally been born into the Kishi family, had been adopted by the Sato family to preserve their family name; in the same way, Nobusuke was adopted by his father's elder brother and took the family name of Kishi. His biological younger brother, Eisaku Satō, later became a prime minister of Japan.

The Sato and Kishi families were both descended from samurai of the former Choshu area, now known as Yamaguchi prefecture. Kishi’s great-grandfather had been a leader of a movement among the Choshu samurai to overthrow the old regime and establish a new national government, which culminated in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. During the nineteenth century, Yamauchi prefecture produced more prime ministers than any other area of Japan. Kishi Nobusuke grew up in an atmosphere of intense political activity. His elder brother, Ichiro Sato, became a rear admiral; an uncle by marriage, Yosuke Matsuoka, was Japan's foreign minister from 1940-1941; and his younger brother, Eisaku Sato, became prime minister in 1965.

Kishi Nobusuke was educated at Japan’s most prestigious schools, ensuring his career in the bureaucratic elite of Japan. He graduated with honors from Tokyo First Higher School, entered Tokyo Imperial University in 1917, and studied under Shinkichi Uesugi, a conservative, nationalist interpreter of constitutional law. During the early 1920s, Kishi read the works of Ikki Kita, a nationalist thinker who advocated radical restructuring of Japanese society.

Nobusuke Kishi married his cousin, Yoshiko Kishi, the daughter of his adopted parents. The couple had two children, a son, Nobukazu, and a daughter, Yoko.

Political Career

In 1920, Kishi graduated with top honors from Tokyo Imperial University and became a clerk in the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. In 1935, he became one of the senior officials involved in the industrial development of Manchukuo (Manchuria), Japan’s newly acquired colony, and worked closely with Hideki Tojo, chief of staff of Japan's Kwantung army. When Tojo became Prime Minister in October, 1941, he invited Kishi to join his Cabinet as Minister of Commerce and Industry. In this capacity, Kishi was part of the Japanese leadership during World War II.

By 1944, Kishi was increasingly against the Japanese policy of continuing the war at any cost. After the Japanese defeat at Saipan, he spoke out in the Emperor’s court before the Minister of the Interior and several Navy commanders, urging them to end the war. When Prime Minister Tojo insisted on continuing the war, Kishi resigned his position in the Cabinet, even after police came to his home and threatened his life. On July 18, 1944, the Ministers of the Cabinet resigned en masse, and the Tojo government fell.

After the War

After World War II, Allied Occupation forces arrested Kishi and imprisoned him for more than three years as a Class A war criminal. Unlike Tojo (and several other Cabinet members), Kishi was never tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. He spent his detention in Sugamo Prison reading and reflecting on Western liberalism, and though he became more favorable to democracy, many of the reforms of the Occupation forces dismayed him.

The Allied Occupation purged all members of the wartime government, and Kishi was therefore unable to enter public life for several years. When the purge was fully rescinded in 1952, Kishi decided to go into politics, and joined the new Democratic Party. He still maintained influential personal ties with the Japanese political and business elite, and he was described as a master of machiai seiji ("geisha house politics," meaning behind-the-scenes politics). In the confusion of Japanese post-war politics, as older leaders retired, Kishi was able to build a personal following among party politicians that carried considerable weight in factional struggles. In 1954, he helped Hatoyama Ichiro to overthrow Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. The next year, when the conservative Democratic and Liberal parties merged to form the Liberal-Democratic Party, Kishi became secretary-general and acted as mediator between the Hatoyama faction and the Yoshida faction, led by his younger brother.

In 1956, Kishi joined the Ishibashi cabinet as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. When ill health forced the resignation of Ishibashi Tanzan, Kishi was voted in as Prime Minister.

Treaty of Mutual Cooperation

In the first year of Kishi's term, Japan joined the United Nations Security Council, paid reparations to Indonesia, set up a new commercial treaty with Australia, and signed peace treaties with Czechoslovakia and Poland. The main issue of Kishi’s term, though, was Japan’s relationship with the United States. The security treaty signed by the two countries during the last months of the Allied occupation in 1951 made Japan reliant on American armed forces to protect Japanese national security. The treaty gave the United States the right to station troops in Japan not only "to deter armed attack upon Japan" but also, if necessary, "to put down large-scale internal riots and disturbances." By 1957, opposition to the treaty was growing as Japanese self-confidence increased. The Japanese felt that they were unwittingly becoming involved in the Cold War politics of eastern Asia, and that the presence of American troops infringed on their national sovereignty. The Socialists wanted to abrogate the treaty, while the conservatives supported continuing the relationship with the United States, with increased restrictions that would give Japan a greater presence in global politics.

In June, 1957, Kishi visited Washington, D.C. and extracted a promise to withdraw American ground combat forces within a year and negotiate a new mutual defense treaty. Diplomatic negotiations began in 1958. In 1959, Kishi visited Buenos Aires, Argentina. That November, Kishi offered his proposals to the Diet for a revamped extension of the Anpo, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. After the discussion was closed and a vote was taken without the opposition group in the Diet, demonstrators clashed with police in Nagatacho, at the steps of the National Diet Building. Five–hundred people were injured in the first month of demonstrations.

In January 1960, Kishi once again flew to Washington, D.C. to sign the treaty. The new treaty emphasized mutual consultation and obligation, and dropped some of the offensive language from the old treaty, appearing to place the relationship between Japan and the United States on an equilateral basis. Kishi regarded the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation as a diplomatic triumph, and hoped it would help to consolidate his position in the Liberal-Democratic Party. However, when the debate over ratification began in the National Diet, tension between the conflicting factions intensified, undermining his support. Outside the Diet building, student groups, Socialists, Communists, labor leaders, and intellectuals joined in opposition and created the greatest political disturbances the nation had experienced since prewar days. In May, 1960, after police had entered the Diet to remove Socialist party members who had staged a sitdown protest, Kishi forced a vote of approval through the lower house during a lively late-night session. This maneuver intensified public opposition to the treaty, and the popular demonstrations outside the Diet and the prime minister’s official residence increased.

In June, on his way to the airport, White House Press Secretary James Hagerty was besieged in his car by protestors and had to be evacuated by military helicopter. To his embarrassment, Kishi had to request that President Dwight Eisenhower postpone his planned state visit, which never took place. On June 23, 1960, amidst growing public furor over the treaty, Kishi resigned and Ikeda Hayato became prime minister. Soon afterward, Kishi was stabbed by a right-wing fanatic while attending a party for his successor, but the wound was not serious.

For several years after his resignation, Kishi continued to exercise his influence behind the scenes. He remained an active member of the Liberal-Democratic Party, living in Tokyo with his family. Nobusuke Kishi died in Tokyo on August 7, 1987.

For some years after his resignation, Kishi remained an active member of the Liberal-Democratic party in Japan. He lived in Tokyo with his family, and participated in various cultural events and literary projects. Nobusuke Kishi died in Tokyo on August 7, 1987.

In 1979, Kishi was awarded The United Nations Peace Medal with Ryoichi Sasakawa.

Shintaro Abe is Kishi's son-in-law, and his child Shinzo Abe, the current prime minister, is Kishi's grandson.

Kishi's actions have been described as originating the most successful money-laundering operation in the history of Japanese politics.[1]

Kishi and the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP)

Kishi is credited with playing a key role in the initiation of the "1955 System," an extended period during which a single political party (the Liberal-Democratic Party) remained dominant in Japanese politics. During the late 1950s Kishi was instrumental in consolidating the conservative political factions against the perceived threat of the Japan Socialist Party.

In 1947, Katayama Tetsu, a Socialist, was elected Prime Minister, and the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) won a majority in the Diet of Japan. The government collapsed in 1948 because of Marxist rebellion within the party, and in 1951 the JSP split into the Rightist Socialist Party of Japan, made up of moderate social-democrats, and the Leftist Socialist Party of Japan, made up of Marxist socialists. In 1955, the two sides reconciled and merged, and the Japan Socialist Party was reborn. The reunified JSP, even though in the opposition, briefly became the largest political party in the country, until the Liberals and Democrats merged to form the conservative Liberal Democratic Party later in 1955.

The Japan Socialist Party sympathized with the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China (The Communist Party of China), and Eastern Europe. The leaders of the Japanese Socialist Party frequently visited the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China.

Even after leaving the office of Prime Minister, Kishi strongly promoted the restoration of diplomatic relations between Japan and Korea (South Korea), while the Japan Socialist Party supported North Korea.

Bilateral talks on revising the 1951 security pact between Japan and the United States began in 1959, and the new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security was signed in Washington on January 19, 1960. The Japan Socialist Party, which was anti-American, conducted large-scale publicity campaigns intimating that the new Treaty would force Japan to enter the Cold War on the side of the United States and result in the militarization of Japan. When the pact was submitted to the Diet for ratification on February 5, it became the occasion for violence in an all-out effort by the leftist opposition to prevent its passage. When it was finally approved by the House of Representatives on May 20, Japan Socialist Party deputies boycotted the lower house session and tried to prevent the LDP deputies from entering the chamber; they were forcibly removed by the police.


  1. Richard J. Samuels, Kishi and Corruption: An Anatomy of the 1955 System, Japan Policy Research Institute Working Paper No. 83, December 2001. Retrieved April 13, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Ishii, Osamu, and Naoki Ono. 1998. Nichi-Bei gaikō bōei mondai. Amerika Gasshūkoku tai-Nichi seisaku bunsho shūsei. V. Tōkyō: Kashiwa Shobō. ISBN 4760116834 ISBN 9784760116836 ISBN 9784760116836 ISBN 4760116834
  • Kishi, N., and G. R. Ford. 1980. The U.S.-Japanese alliance: the last 20 years, the next 20 years. Asian Perspective. 245-257.
  • Kurzman, Dan. 1960. Kishi and Japan; the search for the sun. New York: I. Obolensky.
  • Samuels, Richard J. 2001. Kishi and corruption: an anatomy of the 1955 system. JPRI working paper, no. 83. Cardiff, CA: Japan Policy Research Institute.
  • Samuels, Richard J. 2003. Machiavelli's children: leaders and their legacies in Italy and Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801434920 ISBN 9780801434921 ISBN 9780801434921 ISBN 0801434920
Preceded by:
Mamoru Shigemitsu
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
Succeeded by:
Aiichiro Fujiyama


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