Tokyobling's Blog

The 2.26 Incident – Takahashi Korekiyo

Posted in People, Places by tokyobling on February 26, 2015

Today is the 79th anniversary of one of the last Japanese military coups and one of the most famous acts of political violence in modern Japan, the “2.26 Incident”. The story is far too complicated to tell in a simple blog post, but the short story of it is that a group of young officers in the military decided to try and purge the government and the military of their enemies, and attempt that ultimately failed after three days of martial law in central Tokyo. The coup makers wanted to revive a more imperial era and move away from modern economics and capitalism.

This blog post will focus on just one of the incidents in the event, the assassination of the minister of finance, Takahashi Korekiyo (高橋是清). The early hours of February 26th 1936 saw a lot of snowfall on the capital, and one of the army units that took part in the coup, the 3rd Imperial Guard under 1st Lt. Motoaki Nakahashi, assembled 120 men and marched to the Takahashi family’s mansion in Aoyama, next to where the Canadian Embassy is located today. Arrived they woke up the servants and half the force broke into the house where the two most senior officers found Takahashi in bed asleep, killing him before he even woke up.

The finance minister Takahashi was an incredibly interesting character. Having been adopted at birth into a samurai family at birth in 1854, he studied English at a school in Yokohama nd set of for California in 1867. He was promptly captured by his landlord, an American merchant and sold into slavery by the merchant’s parents but escaped and returned to Japan in 1868. He soon started working at the Bank of Japan and later the ministry of finance. When the Great Depression hit Japan he revitalized the economy by a series of reforms that heavily influenced none other than John Maynard Keynes. As with all reforms his policies created both losers and winners, and this fact together with his policy of reducing military size and influence led him to be one of the coup makers main targets, especially after his 1934 decision to cut the military budget radically.

Had he lived he might have effectively stopped the war in the pacific, the war between the US and Japan 1941-1945.

After the assassination his house was moved to the Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum in Koganei, where it is one of the most interesting houses on display, not only because of its history but also because of how remarkably comfortable it seems even to foreign visitors. One of the photos is of Takahashi with one of his granddaughters (whom I think married the grandson of the 1st, 5th, 7th and 10th prime minister of Japan, Hirobumi Ito). Another of his grandchildren, Toyoji, was a forward in the Japanese National Soccer team at the Berlin Olympics later that year.





6 Responses

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  1. Mikku said, on February 26, 2015 at 6:11 am

    An interesting read! I’ve been to that open air museum (which is great) but didn’t know the story behind the house.


    • tokyobling said, on February 26, 2015 at 6:39 am

      Thank you Mikku! There are so many aspects to this, but once I start digging into everything that happened, all the different stories start branching out and I lose track of the blog post itself. I’ll keep writing about this for next year though, I hope.


  2. D... said, on February 26, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Hello Dear Friend, it’s been too long. This is an interesting and sad story. My Asian friends and I have had very interesting conversations regarding the our (Asian) American history. And the racism that we have experienced, although nothing compared to our ancestors. Just thinking that this poor fella was sold into slavery, and lucky enough to get out of it, could you imagine what Japan would have been like without him? The name John Maynard Keynes communicates well the impact that Takahashi Korekiyo had on Japans economy. It’s just too sad that some misguided youths thought that assassination would be the best alternative. What a waste of life and opportunity. Thinking about it makes me sad, it makes me wonder what if things were different, the ripple effect of changes.

    I hope you are well friend 🙂


    • tokyobling said, on February 27, 2015 at 1:23 am

      Long time no comment D…! Glad to hear from you, always! Yes, without Takahashi Japan would undoubtedly have been a different place, and probably for the worse. Balance in everything is important, and once again the world seems to have a surplus of hotheaded young men. Let’s hope things return to some sort of balance soon!


  3. rudyhou said, on March 11, 2015 at 8:33 am

    oh i really like the look of that old house.


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