Extreme right-wing Japanese nationalist
and indicted war criminal
. In the years before World War II
, Sasakawa, a successful businessman with yakuza
ties, strongly encouraged Japanese aggression abroad. In 1931
he took over the fascist Patriotic People's Mass Party
and turned it into a 15,000-man army of black-shirted soldiers in emulation of Benito Mussolini
, whom he idolized. His army was responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians in China
during the war.
After the war he was imprisoned for three years as a Class A war criminal by the U.S. occupation forces, but was quietly released when his anti-communist beliefs led certain elements in the American government to regard him as a potentially useful ally in the Cold War.
His tremendous wealth came not only from riches pillaged from China during the war but from his control over one of the three state-sanctioned gambling concessions in Japan. He has been linked to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, played a dominant role in the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party, and founded the Asian People's Anti-Communist League. He also founded the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a Japanese lobbying group which has been described as Sasakawa's bid to win the Nobel prize. He died in the mid-1990s.