The Showa period in Japanese history is marked by imperialist expansion and nationalistic fervor. It would be the military leaders of this time that would be most memorable in print journalism and on the tongues of soldiers in the jungles. While the international community would want to deal with the Prime Minister and Japan’s members in the Diet it was the military that was truly in charge of Japan before and during the Second World War.
Emperor Hirohito spent more time focusing on quieting discontent at home. He was not explicitly commanding where Japan’s military invaded but he always gave the final okay.
After the assassination of Prime Minister Osachi and the ousting of moderate Keisuke Okada, Koki Hirota was elected Prime Minister. In his time in power he would give the military more political autonomy and sign an alliance with Germany and Italy.
The trend of imperialistic Prime Ministers set in place by Koki would be continued by Fumimaro Konoe who would discredit the Chinese government and put the military in direct control of Japanese civilian organizations.
Probably the most memorable Prime Minister Hideki Tojo came into power in 1941. Tojo would enact nationalistic education systems and eugenics at home while being directly responsible for the first major victories for Japan in WWII.
One of Japan’s last military Prime Ministers, Kuniaki Koiso was a strong proponent of State Shintoism, which turned Japanese Nationalism essentially into a religion.
Ambassador Hachiro Arita was believed to be one of the few opponents of Japan’s alliance with Germany and Italy. Popular opinion forced Arita to make compromises.
Kichisaburo Nomura was a top Admiral in Japan’s Supreme War Council in the lead up to the Second Sino-Japanese War. He would later become the Japanese Ambassador to the US at the time of Pearl Harbor.
Baron Sadao Araki was the Minister of Education in 1938 beginning the use of propaganda and Samurai Code in national classrooms.
Military Career man Colonel Kingoro Hashimoto would give the orders to sink the USS Panay in 1937 continuing to sour US-Japanese relations.
After his involvement in the Second Sino-Japanese War, Lt. Gen. Heisuke Yanagawa led Japan’s Justice Department and Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department. Leading to wide range surveillance and arrests.