Gareth Jones

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Interview With General Araki Sadao

Gareth Jones, Tokyo - 11.3.35
Manchester Guardian 

It is curious that the firebrands of the world should often be small in stature and meek in manner. 

The personality of General Araki, the “Tiger” of Japan, the prime mover in the conquest of Manchuria, former War Minister bears out the truth of this, as I found during a visit to him in Tokyo. 

When I had reached his small humble wooden home in a narrow lane on the outskirts of the city, had passed the miniature trees in his few yards of garden, had taken off my shoes at the threshold and donned slippers, I was taken to a modest room with European furniture.  In one corner there stood a medieval suit of armour on the helmet of which a golden dragon was perched.  A stature of General Nogi who with his wife committed harakiri on the death of the Emperor Meiji, showed the type of courage which General Araki admires.  The tiger skin on the sofa and the picture of a wild tiger with staring eyes about to spring, perhaps were symbols of the methods of sudden attack favoured by the Japanese army in the past.  As a contrast there was underneath the picture of the tiger an oil painting – most Victorian and amateur – of apples and grapes.  Near the window a bullet had the place of honour. 

General Araki, dressed in a black silk kimono, his head shaven like that of a Buddhist monk, entered quietly.  His voice was quiet; his eyes were sharp and keen; his moustache was long and tapering to a point.  His movements and welcome were more those of a priest than of a military man.   

Since he is held to be the greatest opponent of Communism in Japan and was once regarded as a supporter of war against the Soviet Union,  I asked him through an interpreter – for he can speak no foreign language – his present attitude towards the Soviet regime. 

“The Russians are more generous that I ever imagined they would be.” he replied smiling.  “They have invited me, one of their great enemies, to come and visit them.  They are indeed kind-hearted.  They are true sons of nature”. 

“And your attitude towards their policy?” I asked. 

“My view is “laissez-faire” as far as Russia is concerned.  They should have full freedom to develop the Socialist cause in their own country, but I strongly object to their ideas in our country.  The Communists treat human beings like machines and I am opposed to this machine-like view of human institutions.  If the worship of he machine grows, human civilisation may be destroyed. 

“Do you think that Communism will succeed in China, General Araki?” 

“With conditions in China as anarchical as they are and with support from the Soviet Government, there is a chance of Communism spreading in China”. 

“Communism said to be strong in Sinkiang and to be spreading in Szechuan.  Many people fear a large Communist State from the borders of the Soviet Union to the South of Szechuan.  Will the influence of Communism spread from there?” 

“In those North Western provinces, which you mention”, replied General Araki, “Communism seems to have more chances of success than elsewhere.  Even those provinces become Communist, however, the advance of Red influence will be slow, because the Communists have been meeting reverses at Chiang Kai-shek’s hands”. 

“What can Japan do to help China to overcome Communism?” 

“In the works of Bessedovski, the author states that the shortest cut to Bolshevism in China would be to help Chiang Kai-shek to unify China.  When he had accomplished this, young Communists should be instigated to rise against Chiang Kai-shek and drive him from power.  In such a way unified China would be brought under Communist direction.  The most effective way for Japan to prevent China from coming under Soviet influence would be to deal directly with the Soviets, point out to the Soviets the stupidity of such an action and persuade the Soviet Authorities from embarking upon such an undertaking.  To send armed forces into China to counteract the Soviet agents would be most foolish. 

“Chiang Kai-shek, I must add was too clever for the Bolsheviks.  With their help he built up power and when he had reached success he suppressed the Chinese Communists. 

“At present the Soviet Government seems to be concentrating its efforts on Sinkiang  and Mongolia and is pursuing a milder policy towards Japan”. 

I asked him then: “Is a struggle inevitable between Japan and the Soviet Union?” 

“It all depends on the attitude of the other side”, answered the General, but I found it difficult to continue this line of conversation, for he was anxious to talk about the unity of the Third International and the Soviet Government.  I wished to leave this subject, which is now largely academic and come to actualities and I asked: 

“What is the truth about the probable effects of Soviet air attacks upon Japan?  I hear two points of view, the first, that the Soviets would be able to deal a fatal blow at Japan’s great cities and the second, that its effects would be small”. 

“If we were taken by surprise, there would be some danger but if we are well informed beforehand we can take defensive measures”.  

“How great do you estimate the Soviet air force near Vladivostok to be?” 

“There are no accurate reports but there are probably about 500 planes”.  

“And their quality, General Araki?” 

“The quality is very varied, old and new, badly constructed and well constructed. The Russians, however, are resourceful.  Sometimes they use scouting planes as bombs.” 

“What would Japan do to counter-act the growing Soviet influence in Inner Mongolia?” 

“It is futile to help the Chinese against the encroachment of Soviet influence. The only way is to take up the issue with the Soviet authorities.” 

I braved the Tiger and said: “They would immediately deny with indignation that they had ever attempted to penetrate with their influence into Inner Mongolia,” but General Araki did not like to be pointed out this and a slight almost unnoticeable flicker of disapproval passed across his face. 

“What ideals would you advocate – Asia which would be more fitting than Communism?  Pan-Asianism.  If it were cultural, I should support. 

“However , we must co-operate with China. It will be more easily said than done.  It will be very difficult to carry this out.” 

“Why is a part of the Army opposed to the policy of co-operation?” 

The former War Minister denied this emphatically, although it was common knowledge throughout Tokyo. 

“Do you agree with the views expressed in the Army pamphlet – the State Socialistic views?” 

“Not with the socialisation of industry. I admit that some industries would perhaps be more efficient if they were nationalised but it is the spirit and not the form that is important. 

“It is always upon the spirit that I lay stress.  The world should know more about our spirit, for the world has tended to ignore Asiatic civilisation.  I am firmly convinced that the fundamentals of Asiatic civilisation are just as good as the European.  Thus you see I am for a cultural Pan-Asianism, but if it is political it is narrow-mindedness and I denounce it.  Unless all the peoples of the world get together, disaster will befall humanity.  May the 20th Century be the century of transition from national separation to international harmony”. 

It is not these last sentiments, however, that attract many of the young Nationalist to the personality of Araki and that cause political observers to forecast his leadership of the nation if there is a period of stress.


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