Testimony by Prime Minister Tojo before the
International Military Tribunal for the Far East

Senior Statesmen's Conference held in the
Presence of the Emperor on 29 November 1941

On 29 November 1941, two days before the Imperial Conference, the Government invited the Senior Statesmen to convene at the Imperial Palace, according to the gracious wish of the Emperor, in order to convey to them the Government's intentions in regard to opening hostilities against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands, and, at the same time, to allow them to report to the Throne their opinions in this regard. This procedure was uncertain because of His Majesty's great desire for peace, which lead him to explore every possible avenue that might avert war. The Senior Statesmen called to the meeting were: ex-Prime Ministers Prince Konoye, Baron Hiranuma, General Hayashi, Mr Hirota, General Abe, Admiral Yonai, Baron Wakatsuki and Admiral Okada, as well as Mr Hara, President of the Privy Council.

Although this meeting was designated a Senior Statesmen's Conference, it was, in fact, an informal talk rather than a conference. No president presided over the meeting nor were those present asked to make any decisions. I would like to make it clear that although these men were called "Senior Statesmen" they differed to a marked degree from the "Elder Statesmen" or "Genro" of the Russo- Japanese war period. "Elder Statesmen" or "Genro" in these days were


specifically named as veteran statesmen of the nation by Imperial Rescript and shouldered the responsibility for decisions made during times of grave national crisis. The "Senior Statesmen," however, were not officially nominated as such and were summoned only because, in the past, they had occupied the position of Prime Minister of Japan.

At the meeting, the Government was represented by myself as Prime Minister and War Minister, Navy Minister Shimada, Foreign Minister Togo, Finance Minister Kaya and the President of the Planning Board Suzuki. No one attended from Imperial General Headquarters. I explained why the Government felt that war with the United States and Great Britain was unavoidable and Foreign Minister Togo gave details of the United States-Japanese negotiations. Some questions were asked by the Senior Statesmen in regard to the United States-Japanese negotiations, as well as Japan's war potential. The Government answered these questions but, at the moment, I do not remember the details. The testimony of Admiral Okada before this tribunal on 26 September 1947 that I refused to explain on the grounds that these matters were "national secrets" is definitely not founded on fact. The only matters on which full details ware not given were those pertaining to pure war strategy.

After luncheon, the Emperor summoned the Senior Statesmen to his presence and asked their opinions in regard to a possible war against the United States and Great Britain. In addition to the


Senior Statesmen, the Ministers of the Cabinet who had attended the morning meeting, as well as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, Kido, attended the afternoon meeting. I think the substance of the opinions of those present is recorded very clearly in Marquis Kido's diary. The opinions expressed were generally as follows:

1. Even if these negotiations failed, we should refrain from war and make plans for future negotiations. [1]

2. There was no alternative but to have confidence in the Government, since, after thorough investigations, it had decided to resort to war.

3. In the event of a prolonged war, much anxiety would be felt in regard to Japan's capacity to maintain the supply of materials and also in regard to public opinion. [2]

4. If this war was for self-existence, then we must be prepared to wage war, even if we foresaw eventual defeat, but it might prove dangerous if we resorted to war simply to uphold the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Plan.

I explained the Government's intentions on each point. In regard to the first opinion, I explained that the Government had

[1] This opinion was expressed by Admirals Yonai and Okada as they feared that the inevitable sudden decline in Japan's war supplies should Japan go to war would have a serious effect on the Navy's capacity to wage war. This opinion was not supported by the others present.

[2] Although this opinion was expressed, no constructive measures to counter the situation, should it arise, were suggested.


done everything in its power to successfully conclude negotiations, but, after taking everything into consideration, had finally reached the conclusion that, unless we resorted to war, Japan's existence as a nation would be threatened. I then explained the reasons why the Government had not adopted the first plan of the Liaison Conference held from 23 October to 2 November 1941. There wee no need to comment on the second opinion. With regard to the third, I explained as follows:

Japan desired an early decisive battle, but in war there was always the other side so that there would always be times when the situation would not develop as expected or desired. Therefore, we must be prepared for a prolonged war. We had made extensive research into Japan's potential in a prolonged war during the liaison conferences, and, in general, the following constituted the main elements of the problem.

1. Could Japan's supply capacity hold-out during a protracted war and, if so, would the fighting morale of the Japanese people be sustained?

2. At what time and how could the war be terminated?

In regard to the first query, it all depended upon the outcome of the initial stages of the war. Though we could not state with certainty Japan would be successful, Imperial General Headquarters seemed extremely confident of success during the initial operations.


(No mention was made of matters pertaining to pure war strategy, which included the projected attack on Hawaii.) If we could attain the anticipated success, of which Imperial General Headquarters was so confident, we should be able to mitigate our dire need of supplies to some extent by securing the strategic areas and thus acquire important war materials, especially oil. The Government and the Armed Forces would exert every effort to attain this goal. Next was the question of sustaining transportation. In this, we would have to rely chiefly on the Navy. In regard to the unrest of the people at. large, the Government would take every possible precaution, keeping in mind the four years of war against China and the trend of increasing propaganda on the part of our enemies, but, above all, we would rely on the loyalty of our people who had never yet failed their country in a moment of crisis.

With regard to the second query, much thought was given to this question during the liaison conferences and we investigated a plan to negotiate peace at a proper time through the mediation of the Soviet Union or the Vatican. We were not able to arrive at a definite plan in which we had confidence. We would, therefore, be pleased to listen to any suggestions any member might make. If we succeeded in the initial engagement, we would secure the strategic areas as rapidly as possible so that a plan could be established to hold out, if necessary, during a protracted war. Thereafter, we would proceed with active operations on the one hand, while, on the other, we would


cultivate and develop every national potential. At the same time, we would attempt every possible measure, both politically and strategically, in cooperation with Germany, to compel Great Britain and Chungking to sue for peace and thus undermine the United States' will to fight.

I explained that we would proceed on the basis of this policy, but, at the moment, there was no definite plan as to the means by which the war would be terminated. That would have to be decided in accordance with the then existing circumstances.

The meeting concluded at 1600 hours.

After the meeting adjourned, a Liaison Conference was held at the Palace, when it was decided that the meeting to discuss the question of opening hostilities against the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands would be held on 1 December.

Suddenly, a little past 1500 hours on 30 November, I was summoned by the Emperor. I immediately proceeded to the Palace and was granted an audience. The Emperor informed me that Prince Takamatsu, his Imperial brother, had told him that the Navy desired to avoid war. The Emperor asked for my comments on this subject and I replied as follows:

It is the common desire of your Government and Imperial General Headquarters to avoid this war. The Liaison Conference, after prudent and thorough deliberation, arrived at the decision, which has already been reported to the Throne informally, that there was no alternative but to resort to a war of self-defense.


If, however, your Majesty still entertains any slight doubt on this matter, it would be wise to summon the Chief of Navy General Staff and the Navy Minister and have them explain the situation more fully.

About 1900 hours that evening, Marquis Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, notified me by telephone that the Emperor would allow the Imperial Conference to be held on 1 December.