Fumimaro Konoe

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Prince Fumimaro Konoe (Kyūjitai: 近衞 文麿, Shinjitai: 近衛 文麿, Konoe Fumimaro) (often Konoye, October 12, 1891 – December 16, 1945) was a Japanese politician who served as the 34th, 38th and 39th Prime Minister of Japan and founder/leader of the Taisei Yokusankai.


Early life

Prince Fumimaro Konoe was born into the ancient Fujiwara clan, and was the heir of the princely Konoe family in Tokyo. This was a highly prestigious Japanese family, so lofty that the older and more powerful noble, Saionji Kinmochi, addressed the young student as "your excellency" when he first met him. The Prince received a broad education, acquiring both German and English. He was particularly drawn to Socialist writings, and at age 23 translated and published Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism.

Konoe’s father, Atsumaro, had been politically active, having organized the Anti-Russia Society in 1903. Atsumaro had been considered a potential candidate for Prime Minister, but died in 1904. That left Konoe with the title of Prince, plenty of social standing but not much money, and plenty of room for a mentor/father-figure. That mentor was Saionji. Even so, Konoe never fully embraced his mentor’s pro-Western attitudes.

Trip to Versailles

Prince Konoe convinced Saionji to include him in the Japanese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Konoe made a considerable public splash in 1918 when he published—in advance of Versailles—an essay titled Reject the Anglo-American-Centered Peace. He wrote approvingly of the ideals of democracy and humanitarianism, and his expectation that these values would come to permeate Japanese society. However, he castigated Japanese leaders who seemed enthralled by the British and the Americans and who spoke in favor of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the League of Nations, claiming these countries used idealism as "a mask for their own self-interest."

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