TOUJOU Eiki (東条英機) was born in Tokyo, Japan on December 30, 1884. The son of an army general, he graduated from the Japanese Military Academy in 1905, and 10 years later completed his studies at the army war college with honors. He advocated a theory of total war after World War I, drafting the first total mobilization plans for the Imperial Army and, in the 1930s, the integration of Manchuria's (then the puppet state of Manchukuo) economy with Japan's.

Around this time, Tojo (to use the conventional Western spelling) changed the reading of his first name from the Chinese "Eiki" to the more Japanized "Hideki", although the characters and the meaning -- something along the lines of "glorious opportunity" -- remained the same. He was promoted to major general in 1933, and he became the head of the military police for the Kwantung Army (Japan's army in China). In March 1937 he became lieutenant general and the army's chief of staff.

In May 1938 prime minister Fumimaro Konoye appointed Tojo as his vice minister of war, but he only served for six months until returning to head the Japanese Air Force. In July 1941 he was re-appointed as the minister of war, and on October 16, 1941 he became prime minister. Later on, Tojo also became home minister, foreign minister, and (in 1944) Commander in Chief of the General Staff, seemingly concentrating all power in his hands.

An extreme right-winger and obviously a member of the military faction, Tojo advocated an aggressive foreign policy and opposed withdrawing troops from Korea and China. While it is not known what role Tojo played in creating the plan, he certainly approved the attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing the US into World War II.

When the inevitability of defeat became clear after the loss of Saipan in July 1944, Tojo resigned from office. He attempted suicide nine days after Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945, but survived and was arrested and nursed back to health in captivity. This didn't do him much good though, as he was tried by the Allies as a war criminal and executed by hanging in Sugamo Prison on December 23, 1948.

Tojo's exact role in the events of World War II remain controversial. The official Allied view expounded at the trial was that Tojo was a dictator, a loony Japanese carbon copy of Adolf Hitler, who held the Emperor hostage and led Japan to destruction. However, while Tojo obviously played a significant role in the war, there is some evidence that he was acting on orders from Hirohito (in reality as well as in legal fiction, that is) and that his role was more that of a competent bureaucrat than an evil military mastermind. Even in death he continued to arouse controversy: Tojo's soul is enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, the site of yearly pilgrimages (and yearly complaints from China and Korea) by Japanese leaders to this day.


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