In the wake of World War II, the Allied forces charged 28 Japanese men with crimes against humanity. Correspondents at the Tokyo trial thought the evidence fell most heavily on 10 of the accused. In December 1948, five of these defendants were hanged, while four received sentences of life in prison. The tenth was a brilliant philosopher-patriot named Okawa Shumei. His story proved strangest of all.
Among all the political and military leaders on trial, Okawa was the lone civilian. In the years leading up to World War II, he had outlined a divine mission for Japan to lead Asia against the West, prophesized a great clash with the United States, planned coups d'etat with military rebels, and financed the assassination of Japan's prime minister.
Beyond "all vestiges of doubt", concluded a classified American intelligence report, "Okawa moved in the best circles of nationalist intrigue."Okawa's guilt as a conspirator appeared straightforward. But on the first day of the Tokyo trial, he made headlines around the world by slapping star defendant and wartime prime minister Tojo Hideki on the head.
Had Okawa lost his sanity? Or was he faking madness to avoid a grim punishment? A U.S. Army psychiatrist stationed in occupied Japan, Major Daniel Jaffe - the author's grandfather - was assigned to determine Okawa's ability to stand trial, and thus his fate.
©2014 Eric Jaffe (P)2014 Tantor