Reminder: MJHW (Online Meeting) on Assassination and Zen Terror - Friday, July 10th

Joelle Tapas's picture

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Friday, July 10th at 6 pm JST.  Our presenter this month will be Brian Victoria (Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies), who will present his work on assassination and Zen terror (details below).

This month’s session will be held online through ZOOM, and can be accessed using the following sign-in information:

Meeting link:

The password for the meeting will be posted at the top of the MJHW website from July 6th onwards.

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Tapas at  We hope to see you there!

Assassination: The Reichstag Fire of Prewar Japan?

Brian Victoria, Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies

In the spring of 1932 two important figures, politician Inoue Junnosuke and business leader Dan Takuma, were assassinated in what became popularly known as the Blood Oath Corps Incident (Ketsumeidan Jiken). The sense of unease these two assassinations caused in Japanese society was only compounded when, on May 15, 1932, Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was also assassinated in what became known as the May 15th Incident (Goichigo Jiken). While these two incidents are typically treated separately in the history of the period, it was civilian and military members of the same Zen-trained ultranationalist band who carried out all three assassinations. In the course of writing my recent book, Zen Terror in Prewar Japan: Portrait of an Assassin, I came across a set of circumstances (clues?) that suggested the existence of a conspiracy, possibly involving even the emperor, leading to these assassinations. While only three Japanese leaders were killed, the result was the demise of political party-based cabinets, effectively bringing Taisho democracy to an end. While exploring these incidents, I will ask how the historian should deal with the possibility of a conspiracy, especially in the face of a lack of definitive proof of its existence? Should the historian simply ignore it? Or merely suggest (or hint at) the possibility of its existence? Or ‘punt’ and ask future scholars to continue the search for proof? My presentation will address this dilemma in hopes that it may aid present and future scholars as they encounter similar questions in their own research.