Kido criticized as ‘Chrysanthemum Curtain’
As 1945 arrived, Konoe and other members of the Imperial Court group finally began to get serious about trying to find a way to end the Pacific War. As tools, they used Chief Secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Yasumasa Matsudaira, Secretary to the Foreign Minister Toshikazu Kase, Secretary to the War Minister Sei Matsutani and Rear Admiral Sokichi Takagi.
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Koichi Kido said, “Japan must do everything it can to win a good chance to hold peace talks with the United States and Britain on an equal footing.”
Around June 1944, he had also said, “If the chance arises, the only option will be for the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and the Foreign Minister to take all responsibility and ask for an Imperial decision to make peace.”
Kido firmly believed the war could not be stopped in midcourse. He felt the shortest path to peace was to fight it out until a certain stage of the war had been completed.
After the war ended, Kido recalled that he shared the Emperor’s feelings and began thinking seriously of ending the Pacific War around February 1945.
However, Kido was criticized as “an obstruction in the Imperial Court” for not conveying the opinions of the jushin to the Emperor.
Hiroshi Shimomura, President of the Cabinet Information Bureau and a well-known poet who went by the name Kainan, said Kido’s greatest flaw was that he “didn’t ask many people for advice or think very deeply.”
Prince Takamatsu admonished Morisada Hosokawa, who was frustrated with the snail-like pace of moves toward peace, for criticizing Kido as “the number one evil.”
Between February 7 and 26, 1945, seven jushin, including Kido, were invited to the Imperial Palace to have an Imperial audience at the Emperor’s request. The Emperor questioned each of them individually on their assessment of the war situation and what measures should be taken accordingly.
“The Emperor was planning to pursue an offer to make peace after listening to their opinions,” Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita speculated at that time.
On February 7, the Emperor met with Hiranuma, Hirota, Konoe, Wakatsuki, Makino, Okada and Tojo, in that order. Konoe had an audience with the Emperor on February 14.
According to accounts of Konoe’s words to the Emperor, Konoe clearly said at the beginning, “It is regrettable to say but our defeat has already become certain.”
“From the principle of retaining the national polity, what we should be concerned about is not defeat itself, but a communist revolution that might take place after the defeat,” Konoe said.
Konoe saw “every condition conducive for making a communist revolution successful being forged,” and pointed out that “a reform movement by a group in the military” was his greatest concern.
“If we continue this war with no hope of winning, we’ll fall into the communists’ trap,” He stressed. “I am convinced that steps to end the war should be taken without further delay.”
This address by Konoe was the first time the Emperor had been advised to make peace with the Allied Powers. However, the Emperor resisted Konoe’s proposal.
“I think what you said will be rather difficult to achieve unless we find a way out of the difficult situations in another stunning military success,” the Emperor reportedly said.
Tojo was the last to have an audience with the Emperor. He was unshakable in his bullish view of the war situation and lashed out at the Japanese people in front of the Emperor.
“The latest air raid on the homeland is just a mere precursor of strikes that will follow based on modern warfare strategy,” Tojo said. “If the public gets exhausted by such a trivial event, we can never consider accomplishing anything great in the Greater East Asia War.”
“Complaints about war rations have come about because people remember what their diet was like before,” he continued. “I have not yet heard of a single subject of the Emperor dying of hunger.”
After the war, Kido criticized the comments by the jushin.
“I expected their addresses would be devoid of genuine content,” he said. “They just addressed topics that skirted the harsh realities. Only Konoe gave the Emperor a direct answer.”
Wakatsuki wrote in his memoirs of the conflict he felt at the time.
“When I had the distinction of being presented to speak to the Emperor, there was no way I could give any suggestion we should surrender,” he explained.