Hironori Mizuno was born in Mitsuhama, Onsen County, Iyo Province
(present Mitsu, Matsuyama City, Ehine Prefecture). His mother passed
away when he was only two years old, and his father Hisamatsu, who
served as a warrior under the Iyo Matsuyama Clan, passed away when
he was six years old. He had a brother, his senior of ten years and
three elder sisters. Because his brother was handicapped with his
leg due to a disease he had in his infancy, his father decided that
Hironori would be his successor. After his father’s death Mizuno was
sent to Sasaki, the brother of his mother and most trusted by his
father. His parents entrusted Mizuno’s care to his uncle for the purpose
of receiving a good education His brother and sisters were adopted
by other relatives separately and brought up in unhappy home environments.
He had been so naughty since his infancy and kept on getting into
mischief with his elementary school friends. He was often forced to
do after-school detention and sometimes inflicted with corporal punishments
called ‘chokuritsu’ - in which a student is made to stand in front
of the blackboard. However, he was smart enough to have gotten awarded
in graduation examination. naval uniform
Hironori Mizuno in naval uniform
Quite a lot of money was needed to go to middle school in the Meiji
era. It was often said in those days that a man could manage as long
as he graduated from middle school. His father had gone through great
lengths to save money for Mizuno’s education, even going as far as
foregoing his own medication. Appreciating his father’s favor, Mizuno
was able to continue to middle school. The position as a businessperson
was not respected socially in those days when Japanese economy was
not well developed. ‘Success’ meant not to become rich but to be a
government official or military officer in those days. Mizuno hoped
to join the army at first but later changed his mind to apply for
the navy because his classmate told him that the navy had a brighter
He failed the final exams for graduation in March, 1893 and was consequently
forced to leave middle school. The subjects of admission to the Naval
Academy were mathematics, English, and Chinese classics and no qualifications
were required to take the entrance exam. At that time, it was not
necessary to have a diploma or certificate issued by the principal.
In the following year, however, some more general education subjects
were added on to the above-mentioned three academic ones for admittance
into the Naval Academy. Because he had not studied these subjects
in earnest, he reentered middle school with the purpose of brushing
them up over again. He successfully entered the Naval Academy of Etajima.
After three years of training and ocean sailing, he was commissioned
ensign at the age of 25.
Photograph of a torpedo boat
The Russo-Japanese war broke out in 1904, the year after he was appointed
a torpedo-boat skipper. During the war, he joined the Blockade of
Ryojun Harbour Operation and the Battle of the Japan Sea as captain
of the torpedo-boat flotilla. How he fought in the war is fully described
in his books Sen-ei (The Shadow of War) and Kono Issen (This War).
He authored those commentaries on the war at the order of the Military
Headquarters. The articles were published in domestic newspapers and
magazines, drawing attention for the fact that they were written by
a military officer who took part in the real combat.
|Text of Kono Issen(This war)'s manuscripts
Furthermore, because of Kono Issen (This War) he began to be treated
as a man of letters. Literature enriched his life and after some introspection
led him to be gradually dissuaded from coveting worldly titles and
honors such as ranks or orders. Antipathy against the tyrannies of
the strong and sympathy for the weak developed in his mind as he learned
more and more about the status quo of society. In order to cope with
the US military force which was then threatening to overpower Japan,
he concluded that the only way for Japan to survive was to strengthen
the Japanese naval potentials. With this idea in mind, he wrote yet
another book titled Tsugi no Issen (The Next War) imagining a war
between Japan and the US.
World War I occurred in 1914. Mizuno wanted to see with his own eyes
this unprecedented world war, so he asked for permission to study
in the European nations on a private basis. He set sail from Tokyo
in July, 1916 and reached London by way of the Indian Ocean and the
Cape of Good Hope. He surveyed things of London, Paris, and Rome and
returned to Japan in August of the next year.
With the truce treaty signed in November, 1918, World War I was brought
to a termination at long last. Mizuno made another trip to Europe
privately in order to see the war-torn Germany. At the sight of a
defeated Germany suffering in agony and misery, he could not but think
about relationships between humankind and war, between state and war.
While misery of those who lived in the defeated country is self-evident,
Mizuno also wondered whether people of the victorious countries were
happier than they were before the war. He found that each and every
nation was suffering from famine, difficult livelihoods, and shortage
of workforce. Even countries that had won the war were far from being
able to make up for what was lost through the war.
| Photograph of what appears to be a visa.
Since Mizuno was at one point so obsessed with militaristic ideology
as to consider war to be the best means to make a nation prosperous,
his way of thinking was utterly overturned and shattered. After considering
the morality of war and the value of humanity, he finally came to
the conclusion that the abolition of military weaponry was of prime
importance for realization of world peace and felicity of mankind.
In 1921, at the age of 46 Mizuno put an end to his 25-and-a-half-year
military service. He resolved then and there not to bear arms himself
unless legally authorized, and bid farewell to the sword for good.
After retirement, he never ceased writing about the social condition
in which all was geared to the Pacific War between Japan and the United
In January, 1921, the newspaper "Tokyo Nichinichi" (the
present "Mainichi") published an essay Mizuno wrote in which
he advocated the democratization and enfranchisement of the army.
The public responded to the essay with much interest, saying that
at last, even someone in the navy had come up to advocate "socialism".
Because he had published the article with the permission of his supervisor,
he was put under suspension for 30 days. On the August of that year
he bid farewell to the navy for good. Since then, he switched from
the sword to the pen and kept writing in leading magazines about abolition
or disarmament of the military.
In one of his essays, he said: "The reason why the cabinet led
by Premier Ugaki fizzled out early in the process of its formation
was because there was a system under which the ministers of the Army
and Navy must be assumed by the incumbent generals or admirals to
constitute the cabinet. The military abused the system to prevent
the cabinet from being formed by refusing cooperation. In other words,
the reason why the military became able to manipulate the government
can be attributed to this system." In this way, Mizuno penetrated
into the defects of this system, emphasizing the importance of civilian
control over the government. ("Chuo-koron" January issue,
1924) This indicates how far-seeing he was when the vast majority
of the intellectuals had views quite opposite to his in those days.
In 1922, the Washington Disarmament Conference came to a conclusion.
As the result, the number of capital ships Japan was allowed to possess
was considerably restricted compared with those America and England
could have. What's more, in 1924, in America, "The Anti-Japanese
Immigration Law" was enacted, which set fire to anti-American
sentiment among Japanese people in turn. This finally led to the declaration
of war. There were some critics who went so far as to publish essays
suggesting affirmation of the war against America. Mizuno was resolved
to argue against this kind of agitation. He asserted, "If Japan
should start a war against America, Japan would be sure to lose."
In January 1923, Prime Minister Kato and Strategy officer Uemura drafted
a new-plan of self-defense that considered America an enemy state.
On that occasion, Mizuno published an essay titled "Analysis
of Japan's New Defense Plan". In this article, he states, "In
modern war, it is not the strength of the armed forces alone national
wealth and strength as a whole that play the leading role in deciding
who wins or loses. All things considered, Japan is much inferior to
America and could not stand a prolonged war.
"Only scatterbrains would come up with such a far-fetched idea
as this defense plan". Needless to say, this was quite contrary
to the prevalent public opinion. He also gave the following warning:
"In a real war, the air force plays a first fiddle and then the
whole part of Tokyo would be reduced to ashes overnight by an air-raid
of American air force. We could not possibly avoid defeat if the war
lasted long." What he predicted in his article, especially the
Tokyo air raid and the succeeding defeat of Japan, became a reality
20 years later. As far as the conclusion of the Washington Treaty
was concerned, he praised it so highly that he described it as the
most sacred accomplishment human beings had ever achieved in history.
Mizuno was composed enough to use his own standard in seeing things
from the proper perspective while most people were dancing to the
tune of propaganda created by the government. Since he was aware that
Japan's economy depended much on America, he described in metaphor
like this: "If America wants to crush Japan, it won't bother
to use cannons; American girls have only to go without silk."
In this sentence he meant that cooperation between Japan and America
was indispensable to Japan's economic growth and if the war should
break out, a financial crisis would be sure to take place in Japan.
Mizuno wished to avoid a war and kept severely criticizing those who
were avid for a war against America in spite of not grasping the core
of the situations exactly.
In the fall of 1924, the Japanese navy carried out grand maneuvers
in the Pacific Ocean with America as an imaginary enemy and this triggered
a Japan-America war controversy all at once. Feeling danger in the
rise of such public opinion, Mizuno suggested that the people of Japan
and America should keep cool-headed.
|Hironori Mizuno in private clothes
He suggested that the cause of antagonism between Japan and America
was based on mutual fear and apprehension as well as in vanity and
conceit the Japanese people had regarding the war and their national
character. He also criticized the mass media, the scholars and the
imperialists for arising such suspicion and fear in the Japanese people.
In January 1924, Issei Ugaki took office as War Minister and he set
his hand to disarmament for the first time since the military organization
had been established. To this Mizuno agreed wholeheartedly and in
speaking to those in the military that opposed the disarmament, he
argued that national defense should be focused on the defense of a
nation. He also said that it must never be the defense of military
personnel absolutely and those participating in national defense ought
to be trusted by the nation They must strive to show prudence internationally
and to be insightful internally. They must also not be militaristic
nor who worship imperialism. It is surprising that there existed such
a man who could judge things this way at the time when the majority
of people were beginning to lose sight of the meaning of national
He advocated that the system of appointing only military and naval
officers to the ministers of army circles and the independence of
the prerogative of supreme command should be abolished because these
two were important factors with which the government was manipulated
by the military authorities. Regarding the military and naval officers
in the ministerial system he mentioned that the right man should be
appointed to the right place regardless of whether he or she was from
the civil functionaries because if the military personnel should deny
alliance by this system there would be fear that no one would find
it possible to form a cabinet and maintain it. Furthermore, as for
the theory of the independence of the prerogative supreme command,
Mizuno pointed out that if political tactics were sacrificed for army
strategy, there would be fear that the damage would be tremendous.
(Theory of abolition of appointing system of the military ministers-
August issue of the "Chuo-koron" in 1924.)
Aggravation of circumstances made him give up writing. In 1934, Mizuno
expressed his true feeling in the form of short poems, as follows:
|TATAKAEBA KANARAZUKATSUTO UNUBORETE
IKUSAWO KONOMU IKUSABITO ARI
(There are military personnel who are self-conceited and warlike
enough to feel that they are sure to win any battles.)
WAKESIRANU TAMIWO ODATETE TATAKAINO
FUCHINI OIKOMU YASINKA ARI
(Some ambitious people agitate the uneducated people in public
to the verge of a war.)
WAGACHIKARA KAERIMIMOSEZU HITASURANI
TSUYOKIKOTOBAWO TAMIWA YOROKOBU
(Majority of innocent people tend to be misled by bragging and
bluffing of those who don't live up to their commitments.)
TATAKAEBA KANARAZU SIMENSOKANOKOE
SANZENNENNOREKISI AWARE HOROBIN
(If we wage a war, we will soon be surrounded by foes in all
directions. 3,000-year-old history seems evanescent, and we
will perish in a flash.)
SINRYAKUNO YUMEWO OITSUTSU HAIBOKUNO
TETSU FUMANTOSU TAMI AWARENARI
(It's obvious that we will end up in defeat as the result of
pursuing the unrealistic dream of invasion. It's the people
who will take the consequence of that.)
CHIKARAMOTE TORITARUMONOWA CHIKARAMOTE
(I wonder if those who are about to wage a war are really sure
that things they obtain by force are to be taken away from them
by force in the same way.)
(He saw right through what Hitler really was.)
|Cover of a book of "Senei"
As Japan was heading for WWII, Mizuno's opportunities for expressing
his views and comments in the media were gradually limited and so
he had no other choice but to vent his personal complaints in his
In 1939, WWII started with Hitler invaded Poland. Mizuno wrote as
follows: "Military alliance between Germany and Italy has been
formed. There are many people who advocate Japan's joining it. Dangerous!"
He also caricatures the alliance in the form of a haiku poem.
"Two foolhardy samurai
go on a cherry blossom viewing spree
hand in hand"
On the Cession of Poland he wrote in his diary of September 22, 1939:
"This is a day-light robbery. The Soviet Union has finally degenerated
into aggressionism. What's the difference between socialist regimes
and capitalist nations? Stalin has also proved to be a slave to imperialism.
What's the difference between Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini?"
There were sharp criticisms in his diary of Hitler's arrogant and
self-centered behavior and Stalin's imperialism. In addition to that,
he complained about Britain and France keeping a low profile. Also,
he condemns Hitler severely in his September 30th diary entry.
"Does he have any conscience? Does he have any common sense?
He is not only the destroyer of peace but the subverter of morals.
I mistrust German people's conscience, since they chose him as the
Fuhrer and defer to his commands submissively. How detestable, how
despicable! That sort of evil must be eliminated. However, there are
many Japanese who still respect Germany and adore Hitler. Aren't they
slow-witted, stupid creatures? That sort of thing is a shame to those
who believe in righteousness. What will cowardly Britain and France
do in the face of Hitler's arrogant and shameless Proclamation?"
Looking back from the present day, Mizuno's warnings and predictions
may be taken for granted. However, taking into consideration the political
and social situation 70 years ago, how many of the intellectuals could
have made those kinds of analytical comments with such accuracy?
Yuyu Kiryu (1873~1941) wrote in his critical essay (dated 8/11/1933),
The Great Anti-aircraft Maneuver in "the Kanto District Is a
Laughing Matter": If hostile planes were to air-raid Japan Proper,
they would do immense damage to the cities and disable our ability
to strike back. He also warned that it would be almost nonsensical
to try to put out the fire bombs by carrying bucketfuls of water from
hand to hand. About a decade prior to Kiryu, Mizuno had shown his
extraordinary insight and foresight which his contemporaries never
possessed then and continued to ring warning bells against war. However
Mizuno should not be thought of as an anti-war campaigner, but rather
as a man of philosophy, science, rationalism and a pioneer of freedom
|Monument to Hironori Mizuno
in Shojyu-ji(Shojyu temple),
16-3 Suehiromachi Matsuyama-city
In February of 1941, the Intelligence Bureau of the Government presented
a blacklist to the Chuoh Kohron Monthly Magazine for which Mizuno
had written. Being on the list, his contributions were banned thereafter.
In 1943, while Japan was facing defeat near the end of the war, Mizumo
was obliged to retire for a change of air to the isle of Toshima,
his native village, annexed today to Imabari City of Ehime Prefecture
in the Seto Inland Sea. It was there that he learned the war had come
to a tragic close.
On the 15th of August, 1945 Japan lost the war. In his letter to his
friend Matsushita the day after the defeat, he honestly wrote: As
a soldier in a march to defending the nation, I could not fulfill
my duty at the mercy of government, thus allowing Japan to be lost
to the war. Regarding Japan after the war, he stressed the paramount
importance in changing the public opinion and abandoning the superstition
that the Emperor was to be revered as the Living God (9/27/1945).
He advocated abolishing the Emperor System and establishing the new
political regime by the free will of the populace.
On the 18th of October, 1945 Mizuno died in a hospital of Imabari
City, Ehime Prefecture, at the age of 72.
|He had expressed his view in the following 5-7-5-7-7-syllable
Without flattering the world,
Nor fawning upon the people,
I shall go on my own way
Which I believe to be right.
This tanka is engraved as an epitaph on his tombstone which lies in
the precinct of Shojuji Temple in the city of Matsuyama. It is not
too much to say that the verse truly represents the way he lived as
a pacifist who opposed any kind of war for any reason.
With the collapse of the samurai society during the Meiji Restoration
and the death of his father shortly afterwards, Mizuno was the very
picture of a feudal retainer when he was confided at the age of 6
to the Sasakis' care, his maternal uncle's family.
|The preface was written by Saneyuki Akiyama for a
book of "Senei".
The Akiyama Brothers were Mizuno's cousins on his father's side and
he would often visit the Akiyama household in Naka-Kachimachi. Saneyuki
Akiyama had contributed a foreword to Mizuno's ' Senei', a work published
in Ryojun Kaisen Shiki in 1914 which Mizuno himself held in high regard,
but for some reason or another his foreword was not adopted.