Inejirō Asanuma

Inejiro Asanuma (浅沼 稲次郎, Asanuma Inejirō, 27 December 1898 – 12 October 1960) was a Japanese politician and leader of the Japan Socialist Party. Asanuma became a forceful advocate of socialism in post-war Japan. He was noted for his support of the Chinese Communist Party, and his criticism of U.S–Japanese relations, which were particularly controversial.

Inejiro Asanuma
Asanuma Inejiro 1948.JPG
Asanuma in 1948
1st General Secretary of the Japan Socialist Party
In office
13 October 1955 – 23 March 1960
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byJōtarō Kawakami
3rd Chairman of the Japan Socialist Party
In office
23 March 1960 – 12 October 1960
Preceded bySuzuki Mosaburō
Succeeded byJōtarō Kawakami
Member of the Japanese House of Representatives from Tokyo 1st district
In office
11 April 1946 – 12 October 1960
In office
21 February 1936 – 30 April 1942
Personal details
Born(1898-12-27)27 December 1898
Miyake-jima, Tokyo, Japan
Died12 October 1960(1960-10-12) (aged 61)
Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Cause of deathAssassination (stab wound)
Resting placeTama Cemetery,
Tokyo, Japan
Political partyJapan Socialist
Alma materWaseda University

Asanuma was assassinated with a wakizashi, a traditional short sword,[1] by ultranationalist Otoya Yamaguchi while speaking in a televised political debate in Tokyo. His violent death was seen in graphic detail on national television, causing widespread public shock and outrage.

Early lifeEdit

Asanuma was born on the island of Miyake-jima, a remote volcanic island that is administratively part of Tokyo, on 27 December 1898.[2] His mother died during his birth, leaving him to be raised by his father, who later died of cancer at the age of 42.[3]

Political careerEdit

He served in the Diet from 1936. He grew dissatisfied with the direction World War II was taking[2] and withdrew his candidacy from the 1942 election and retired from politics until after Japan's defeat.[3] He later returned to politics as a socialist and left-wing activist.[2]

Asanuma was widely criticized in Japan for a 1959 incident in which he visited the People's Republic of China and called the United States "the shared enemy of China and Japan" during a speech in Beijing. When he returned from this trip he wore a Mao suit while disembarking from a plane in Japan, sparking criticism even from Socialist leaders.[3] At this time, Japan, its ally the United States, and many other countries recognized the Republic of China as the legitimate government over China.[4]


Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Yasushi Nagao.[5] The photo was taken directly after Yamaguchi stabbed Asanuma and is here seen attempting a second stab, although he was restrained before that could happen.

On 12 October 1960, Asanuma was assassinated by 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi, a nationalist, during a televised political debate for the coming elections for the House of Representatives.[1] While Asanuma spoke from the lectern at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall, Yamaguchi rushed onstage and ran his wakizashi (a traditional samurai short sword)[1] through Asanuma's ribs on the left side, fatally wounding him. Japanese television company NHK was videorecording the debate for later transmission and the tape of Asanuma's assassination was shown many times to millions of viewers.[6][7] The photograph of Asanuma's assassination won its photographer Yasushi Nagao both the Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo of the Year.[2]

Yamaguchi was captured at the scene of the crime, and a few weeks afterwards committed suicide by hanging while in police custody.[1]


The Japan Socialist Party had been an unhappy marriage between far left socialists, centrist socialists, and right socialists, who had been forced together in order to oppose the consolidation of conservative parties into the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955. Asanuma had been a charismatic figure who had been able to hold many of these mutually antagonistic factions together through the force of his personality.[8] Under Asanuma's leadership, the party had won an increasing amount of seats in the Diet in every election over the latter half of the 1950s and seemed to be gathering momentum.

Asanuma's untimely death deprived the party of his adroit leadership, and thrust Saburō Eda into the leadership role instead.[8] A centrist, Eda rapidly took the party in a more centrist direction, far faster than the left socialists were ready to accept.[8] This led to growing infighting within the party, and drastically damaged its ability to present a cohesive message to the public. Over the rest of the 1960s and going forward, the number of seats the Socialists held in the Diet continued to decline until the party's extinction in 1996.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 254. ISBN 978-0674984424.
  2. ^ a b c d Newton 2014, p. 234.
  3. ^ a b c 鶴崎友亀『浅沼稲次郎小伝』(たいまつ新書、1979年)1998年に新時代社より復刻。ISBN 4167209047(復刻版)
  4. ^ Michael Y.M. Kao, "Taiwan's and Beijing's Campaigns for Unification," in Harvey Feldman, Michael Y.M. Kao, eds., Taiwan in a Time of Transition (New York: Paragon House, 1988), 188.
  5. ^ Zelizer, Barbie (2010). About to Die: How News Images Move the Public. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0199752133. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  6. ^ Chun, Jayson Makoto (2006). A Nation of a Hundred Million Idiots?: A Social History of Japanese Television, 1953–1973. Routledge. pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-0-415-97660-2. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  7. ^ Langdon, Frank (1973). Japan's Foreign Policy. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. p. 19. ISBN 0774800151. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 127. ISBN 9780674988484.
  9. ^ Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 125–26. ISBN 9780674988484.

Works citedEdit

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Chair of the Japan Socialist Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by
General Secretary of the Japan Socialist Party
Preceded by
New post
General Secretary of the Farmer-Labour Party
Succeeded by
Party banned