Background: This is a partial translation of a 128-page booklet
about Japan first published in 1942 by the Nazi Partyís publishing house. New printings brught the press run to 700,000 by 1944. I
include a full translation of the introduction and final chapter, with
brief summaries of what is between. The last chapter is particularly interesting
as a treatment of the Japanese army, an army vastly different from Germanyís.
The book includes numerous photographs of Japanese life which are not
The author is a rather interesting person whose grandson provided me
with further information about him.
The source: Albrecht Fürst von Urach, Das Geheimnis japanischer
Kraft (Berlin: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1943).
The Secret of Japanís
by Albrecht Fürst von Urach
The rise of Japan to a world power during the past 80 years is the greatest
miracle in world history. The mighty empires of antiquity, the major political
institutions of the Middle Ages and the early modern era, the Spanish
Empire, the British Empire, all needed centuries to achieve their full
strength. Japanís rise has been meteoric. After only 80 years, it is one
of the few great powers that determine the fate of the world.
What did the rest of the world, or we in Germany, know only
two generations ago about Japan? Let us be honest. Very little.
had heard of an island nation in the Far East with peculiar customs,
of an island nation that produced fine silk and umbrellas from
oiled paper, that honored a snow-capped mountain as if it were
a god. They drank tea and had the curious custom of slitting
their bellies open. One had heard of smiling, powdered girls
with black hair and colorful silk clothing who strolled under
cherry trees and lived in houses of wood and paper. But one was
not sure if the small and sturdy men of this peculiar people,
some of whom came to Europe to learn eagerly, wore pigtails
and ate rotten eggs back at home, or whether one was confusing
them with the Chinese, since both peoples after all had slitted
Everything about Japan and the Japanese seemed attractive,
a good place to visit on a world tour to enjoy the sights before
European-American civilization put it all under protection to
preserve it from decline, just as had happened to the Hawaiians,
the Papuans, and the other small and dying peoples of the Pacific.
One honestly regretted that so many interesting native customs
were condemned to die out.
That was what our grandfathers knew about Japan. And today?
Today Japanís rising sun waves from the frozen northern sea to
the coast of India. Today the once strongest powers tremble under
the blows of Japanís mighty power. Today the island nation of
a hundred million Japanese leads with unbreakable will the millions
of East Asia who make up a third of the worldís population. Today
a huge kingdom has risen with a powerful heart where just 80
years ago an unknown people lived on their isolated island, satisfied
with themselves and with no need or desire to leave the bounds
of their islands. A powerful center of power has developed where
only 80 years ago the conquerors and economic pioneers of Europe
and America believed there was a colony that could easily be
That is the amazing and unique miracle of Japanís meteoric
rise. The world today looks in amazement. Amazed, astonished,
and also terrified that they had not earlier recognized the mysterious
causes, but also the compelling logic that led to this fabulous
We, the Axis powers, face the same enemies in our struggle
in Europe as our Japanese allies. We understand what drives them
to such accomplishments, for we too are today struggling for
our existence and for our future. Still, the mysterious strength
behind Japanís unique accomplishments is a riddle for most of
Japanís National History
Summary: The chapter provides a brief history
of Japan. It suggests that Japanís island status allowed it to develop
free from foreign interference. On Japanís racial background, the chapter
says: “Scholars today do not agree on the racial origins of the Japanese
people. It is important to know that the present racial composition of
the Japanese people has been fixed since about the time of Christ.”
The samurai are mentioned favorably.
Transition to the Modern Era
Summary: The chapter brings Japanese history
up to the 20th century.
Summary: The chapter concludes its discussion
of Japanese industrialization with this paragraph:
Japanís industrial structure is remarkable. Japanese experts followed
the industrialization of Europe and America carefully. Japan succeeded
in avoiding the atomizing tendencies of European industrialization and
the growth of a rootless proletariat. Despite manifestations of capitalism,
Japanese industrial capitalism never gave rise to class struggle. The
common goal of both workers and owners to build a strong Japanese
fatherland overcame all disputes about wages or other matters.
Military and Political Strength
Summary: The Russo-Japanese War of 1905,
World War I, the war with China.
The Japanese Life Style
Summary: The chapter covers many aspects
of Japanese life, including a favorable treatment of the practice of hara-kari.
The Japanese Soldier
The unique nature of centrally guided energy brought about
the miracle of Japanís rise. Japanís soldiers, however, more
than any other force built the nation.
Throughout Japanís history, the warrior class embodied the
best characteristics and highest virtues of the Japanese people.
The leading military families that exercise political power nourished
this spirit in the elite over the centuries. The active but also
stoic Zen Buddhism perfected and refined the character of the
Japanese warrior and gave it a clear ascetic tone that remains
even today the essential characteristic of the Japanese soldier.
The warrior class was not only an armed instrument in the hands of the
landed nobility or the major military rulers, but also an elite with its
own class ethos. The samurai had to be able to do more than fight. He
had to embody an elevated and noble form of everything Japanese in all
he said and did. He had to stand out both militarily and in social life.The
samurai class had great privileges, but also greater responsibilities.
He owed absolute obedience to the landed nobility or the Shogun. But he
also had deeper and broader obligations. He could not live a comfortable
life on own his own land. His greatest honor was to bear the sword.
The Sword as Symbol
Since ancient times, the Japanese sword has been not only a means of
power, but a symbol for everything that the samurai served. The sword
is the symbol of justice which the samurai was obligated to defend under
all circumstances. The Samurai class had the duty to promote social justice
as well. There are countless legends of swords that recall our myths of
swords in the Niebelungen tales. There are tales of swords that act on
their own, without the necessity of their owners doing anything, of swords
wielded as it were by a ghostly hand that struck down dozens of enemies.
Other swords drew themselves from their sheaths and struck down unjust
and the evil foes. Even today swords are made by the same families that
have forged them for centuries. Sword-making even today in Japan is more
an act of worship than one of craftsmanship. The smith who passes on the
secrets of his father to his sons fasts the day before he begins to forge
a sword and undergoes purifying ceremonies, since the Shinto religion
views physical cleanliness as a prerequisite to spiritual cleanliness.
Clothed in ceremonial white priestly robes, the apprentices hammer the
steel in unison. The master follows carefully the slow development of
the blade, which at exactly the right moment he plunges into cold water.
The holy process results not only in a strong blade; it also reflects
the deep significance of what a Japanese sees in his sword.
One has to have seen the devotion and admiration Japanís soldiers
have before a centuries-old blade. They take a prescribed stance
and hold their breath so as to avoid marring even with their
breath the honored and shining blade that is perfect in every
regard. Then one understands what significance the sword has
for Japanese soldiers. It is not only a respected weapon, but
also a symbol for everything that is the best produced by the
The samurai is pictured and described in every school book and picture
book for small children. He is the model and noblest essence of being
Japanese. The normally restrained Japanese, both men and women, weep in
the theaters and movies when the heroic samurai dies in combat, all the
while showing his passion and stoic attitude. Even in todayís modern and
industrialized Japan, the heroic is esteemed as much as it was centuries
As a result of modernization, the samurai class was scattered throughout
the country and absorbed by the masses. Its members spread their formerly
unique ethos throughout the population and had a profound educational
impact on the whole nation. Japanís new army was a peopleís army with
universal service. The idea that Japanís officer corps today comes exclusively
from the earlier samurai class is false. Japanese officers today come
from the entire people. But it is true that the army has retained the
purest form of the samurai spirit. It displays it clearly to the whole
nation. The “three living bombs” displayed the samurai spirit
in Shanghai in 1931. Three simple soldiers carried concealed bombs to
open a passage for the soldiers who would follow them. The same spirit
filled the tens of thousands who charged into the guns at Port Arthur
in 1904/05 until the corpses filled the ditches and allowed their comrades
to storm over them to capture the enemy fortress. It is the spirit of
the samurai that allowed General Nogi to follow his emperor into death.
It is the same spirit that filled the men in Japanís tiny submarines who,
assured of their own death, snuck into Pearl Harbor and delivered the
decisive blow against the American fleet. It is the spirit that filled
the stoops that stormed British fortress Singapore, that filled those
who fell to prepare the way for Japanís great military triumphs. They
carried with them the ashes of their fallen comrades so that they too
could participate in the triumph. The spirit of the samurai lives today
with the same force that enabled Japanís army, an army of the whole people,
to fight its many recent battles.
The first requirement of the samurai is a readiness to give his life.
Without this willingness even the best weapons are of no avail. First
the spirit, then training wins victory. The spirit must from the beginning
include the willingness to die. That does not mean that the Japanese soldier
seeks death. Rather, in sacrificial death in battle he finds the most
perfect fulfillment of his life. But he wants to achieve a goal through
his death the realization of justice, which is the highest manifestation
of the divine will of the emperor. His first military goal is not his
own death, but rather the realization of that for which he fights.
Death as such holds no terrors for the Japanese warrior. For the Japanese,
death is not an end, but rather a stage in the eternal progression from
ancestors to posterity. It is a door that is not the end, but the beginning.
Death on the battlefield makes one a kind of god, a “Kami,”
who does not dwell far from the living, but rather always and ever joins
with millions of others to hold his protective hand over the Japanese
nation and people. He defends their happiness and growth, and takes a
living role in all the earthly affairs of the entire people. The fallen
become divine, and remain close to the coming generations. They are honored
by them daily and live on in the nation as models and defenders of coming
The Armyís Training and Equipment
Training in the Japanese army puts the hardest demands on
the soldiers. Training is conducted under the blazing sun and
in bitter cold over the harshest terrain. Japan had two essential
military tasks from the beginning of its modernization. It needed
a strong navy to defend the island nation, and a strong army
to defend the bridgeheads on the mainland that it established
at the beginning of its modern history. Not only were two different
types of military training necessary, but also two different
foreign policy goals. The army secured the Japanese islands by
expanding the bridgeheads on the mainland, while the fleet secured
Japan from the south, where vital raw materials needed for Japanís
industry in the Southwest Pacific islands were under the control
of foreign nations, but were near Japanese territory. Great deeds
of heroism were done by Japanís young army in its first battle
against China in 1894/95. The numerically vastly inferior Japanese
army defeated the Imperial Chinese army on every front. It proved
advantageous that many Japanese officers, who before the German-French
War of 1870 had held the French army in high esteem, had learned
something from the best army in the world, the Prussian-German
army. The Sino-Japanese War ended with Japanís complete victory.
But the world hardly noticed. The war was considered an internal
affair of the East Asian nations.
During the years of peace that followed, Japan carefully and
systematically built its military. The fleet was expanded, the
army strengthened. Japan was able to risk the unexpected, and
take on the strongest army that then existed, the Russian, in
Manchuria. The world thought it a foregone conclusion. One laughed
at the little Japanese soldiers and mocked their heroic efforts
as suicidal, as the hari-kari of a nation gone crazy.
But Japan knew what it was doing. It knew that it was protecting
its territory, that it had to defeat the growing Russian threat.
The army and navy fought with identical grim determination. Admiral
Togo had returned from England in 1875, where he had studied
English naval tactics for many years. He won the battle at Tsuchima.
It was a brilliant naval victory, the kind is rare in history.
Togoís naval victory led to a decisive turning point in the Russo-Japanese
war, eliminating Russian sea power in the Pacific for decades.
The historic message “Japanís future depends on your actions
today,” signaled from the mast of the flag ship “Mikasa”,
was the spark that ignited a holy enthusiasm of the crews of
the battleships, cruisers, and torpedo boats to win the battle.
Years of hard training paid off. The Japanese victory was complete. The
tsarís fleet sunk under the blows of the rising sun.
The Japanese naval academy in Etajima looks at first glance
more like an ascetic leadership school than the training ground
of Japanís future naval officers, though every element of modern
naval warfare is taught there. The training at this unique military
school is ascetic, strict and well-rounded. Only 200 of 8000
applications are accepted after the most rigorous examination
not only of their technical and physical abilities, but above
all of their moral character. 44 months of thorough training
follow. A nine-month tour of duty abroad concludes the training.
The English and Americans are known to smile in pity and shake
their heads over the primitive accommodations of even the highest
officers. But Japanese officers are trained to see that as natural.
One accepts the most basic and cramped quarters as a way of increasing
the defenses or the speed of the ship.
Japanís raiders and pirates had roamed the entire Southwestern Pacific,
but from the 17th to the 19th centuries the government prohibited all
naval activity. But the naval spirit never died. It found a glorious resurrection
three hundred years later in the men who built Japanís navy and saw to
it that the island nation was defended by a strong fleet.
The Japanese fleet has not lacked honor since its remarkable
victory in the Russo-Japanese war. Only the best are chosen for
the navy. The most modern technology of naval warfare is used.
Japanís island nature allows for a far more powerful concentration
of naval power. Favorable harbors and proximity to the industrial
strength of the home islands allow for a wide operating radius,
while the English fleet depends on widely separated bases across
the entire world, which results in a dilution of its striking
The Japanese naval leadership recognized these strategic advantages
from the beginning, and built its fleet accordingly. Nonetheless,
the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922 granted Japan a considerably
smaller navy than England or America. As the terms of the agreement
were announced, several Japanese naval officers committed hari-kari
to show the public and the world that they saw the agreement
as a humiliation of the whole Japanese fleet. England and America
smiled at this “theatrical fanaticism” by Japanese
officers. They smiled and felt secure in their numerically superior
fleets, and in the quality of their naval officers, who came
from the leading families of the plutocracy, and who did not
want to give up their accustomed luxury when serving on warships.
What could America and England know of the sacrificial spirit
of Japanís heroes, who suicidally plunged down on enemy fleets
at Pearl Harbor or the Malacca Peninsula? At best they could
only defend themselves, but could do nothing against the released
power of Japanese heroes, for whom life was nothing, the greatness
of their Fatherland and their Emperor everything?
The Japanese army displayed the same heroic spirit. Since
the beginning of Japanís modern armed forces, it has gone from
victory to victory. It never suffered a military defeat, rarely
even a setback.
It is impressive to observe Japanese army cadets, whose training
is as hard as the navyís. Each morning before sunrise, they gather
outside and bow respectfully in the direction of the Imperial
Palace. Then each silently reads the famous declaration of the
Emperor Meiji to his soldiers and sailors. I have seen Japanese
officers on the battlefields of China who, after a bitter night
battle, despite total exhaustion, before sunrise read the holiest
possession of the Japanese soldier, the order of the Emperor
Meiji, in a way that was a cultic expression of a commandment.
Only then did they care for the wounded and the fallen. Only
then did they place the ashes of fallen heroes in wooden caskets
and arrange their shipment back to the distant homeland.
Honoring the Dead
There is no more moving remembrance of the dead than the annual commemoration
in recent years at Tokyoís Yasukuni Shrine for the heroes who fell for
the fatherland. It is a nocturnal ceremony with no lights. Shinto priests
call out the names of the fallen heroes so that they may join the pantheon
of Japanís heroes. It is as if the wings of those who died in the steppes
of Mongolia, or the jungles of the Amur, or the plains of China and the
tropic isles of the South Sea beat over the ranks of admirals and generals
gathered to hear the priests of the national cult as they sing out their
oaths in the spring night.
No one knows Japan who has not seen how the ashes of fallen
heroes are received in harbor cities. Hundreds stand in rows
in solemn silence, members of national associations, veterans,
the national womenís league, and school children. They bow solemnly
as soldiers, usually comrades of the fallen, carry the urns of
ashes as if they were carrying something holy. The urns are delivered
to the family members and brought to their distant villages.
They sit in the trains in silence, holding the urns on their
knees. Each who enters the train takes his hat off and bows deeply
before the heroic spirit of the fallen and burns a small candle
as a sacrifice. This is how the homeland honors its soldiers
who have died on distant battlefields.
Japanís army has been at war for ten years. Since the emperorís soldiers
marched into Manchuria, the flow of ashes of fallen heroes back to the
Japanese islands has continued. For ten years the Emperorís army has been
practicing the hard lessons of its training, and proved its devotion with
hundreds of thousands of sacrifices. The Japanese people know what these
sacrifices mean, for their awareness of their common national fate and
that of the national community has been clear since the earliest times.
The historic order of the Emperor Meiji lays out the moral
conduct of Japanís soldiers. It lays out not only their obligations
to the fatherland, but also the relations between soldiers and
officers, but also to the enemy. This order placed grave responsibilities
on the army. The Japanese army is therefore filled with the will
to sacrifice, but also demands as spiritual leader the same willingness
to sacrifice of the entire nation.
The Emperor Cult
They demand this in the name of the emperor, since the Japanese army
is directly subordinate to the emperor. In international relations that
relate to the military security of the nation, the Japanese military insists
on the deciding word. It took upon itself the responsibility for the Manchurian
campaign, without going through complicated diplomatic negotiations. The
army, directly subordinate to the emperor, sees itself as the executor
of the emperorís sacred will. For the same reason, the army seeks its
holiest task as educating the national spirit. As in no other land on
earth, the army is the nationís educator. The army tirelessly defends
the national interest when weak politicians or industrialists with foreign
connections saw humiliating compromise as the best policy. Many officers
committed hari-kari when treaties or agreements were made that were inconsistent
with the nationís honor. Members of the army do not hesitate to remove
statesmen and important personages who in their eyes stand in the way
of the national interest. They feel themselves as holy executors of the
godly order that encompasses the ancient strength of the Japanese people.
Modern history is rich in such actions, which, however, happen only when
in the eyes of nationalist circles Japanís national honor is at stake.
This fanaticism reached its high point in the rebellion of young officers
in 1936, during which government leaders were killed and parts of the
capital were occupied for days by fanatic Nipponistic troops.
This may to our eyes appear to be mutiny, but it can only be explained
by the spiritual condition of the Japanese, who saw that which was most
holy to them, the greatness and dignity of their nation, at risk. As fighting
samurai, they reached for their weapons to battle injustice.
The emperor cultís strongest supporters are in the Japanese army. In
honoring the emperor, they see the strongest expression of their national
faith, for his ancestry reaches back unbroken to the sun god. The person
of the emperor is the holiest thing not only on earth, but between heaven
and earth. In the eyes of the Japanese, the emperor himself is a god.
These are ideas that are difficult to understand from our Western perspective,
and hard to express in Western language. But the emperor cult, which one
might call the ancestor worship of the entire nation, is not the private
belief of individual Japanese. It is the core of the Japanese community.
Without it, the Japanese would be only an interesting and unusually hard-working
Asian people. The emperor cult not only raises the Japanese far above
the other peoples, but also forms the most unique form of government,
governmental consciousness and religious fanaticism in the entire world.
One can only understand the enormous power that the emperor cult gives
the Japanese people which one has seem it in action in Japanese life.
The materialistic peoples of America and England cannot understand this
form of state religion. They do not comprehend it. They cannot understand
the enormous strength the emperor cult gives the Japanese people. This
strength is spiritual, and can outweigh superior fleets of battleships
and armaments budgets. It cannot be measured in numbers, but it is there,
wonderful and productive.
The relationship of the Japanese people to their emperor is that of the
child to the father, the ancient family relationship of obligation and
obedience. The emperor only rarely exercises actual power. The emperor
incorporates less real power as the authority that stands far above temporary
power. The Japanese owes obedience to his parents, who in turn care for
their children. The family relationship does not end with a single generation,
but continues eternally, just as the emperorís family according to legend
has continued since the beginning of the Japanese islands and will be
as eternal as the Japanese people itself.
This faith finds its outward expression when the Japanese see the revered
person of the emperor, or when the fanatically revered personification
of Japanís greatness and faith travels through the streets of the capital,
or during a review of the most modern tank or air force units. The streets
are scrubbed clean. Reverent silence falls over the capital. The masses
stand respectfully in the side streets. When the emperorís Mercedes drives
past, the masses silently bow such that they cannot see him. It is not
permitted to look upon the person of the emperor. Every Japanese, no matter
how well educated, would see such a thing as an insult to a holy person
and therefore to his own faith in the state.
The modern Japanese see no contradiction between the fact that the emperor
today reviews the most modern weapons, and perhaps tomorrow within the
holy precincts of the emperorís Palace acts as the supreme mediator between
heaven and earth. Following ancient customs, the emperor himself symbolically
sows a rice field while his wife weaves traditional silk. The royal pair
carries out both ancient Japanese practices. The Japanese people honor
not only the royal house, but also the entire people.
The Army as the Peopleís Spiritual School
Just as the samurai saw his moral duty to defend justice against injustice,
the Japanese army sees its task as the education of the people in social
justice, according to the will of the emperor. They fight untiringly against
everything they see as un-Japanese, against the harmful influences of
individualism and capitalism. They fight for social reform and for the
social betterment of the suffering masses. They do so not only because
their own best elements come from the people, but because they see it
as the fulfillment of their highest ethical duty. True to the samurai
tradition, the army sacrifices its own good for that of the community.
They demand that the Japanese people follow their model. The army is the
strongest socializing force in Japan.
Japanís army has always favored the strength of the spirit
over the strength of the material. Only this has allowed Japanís
soldiers to win against overwhelming odds on battlefields everywhere.
The willingness to be finished with life, to view death as not
the end, does not mean that Japanese soldier seeks a heroís death,
though it is esteemed as the fulfillment of a soldierís life.
He keeps his military goal before his eyes when with stoic determination
and fanatic will to victory he storms the enemy position. He
has left everything, home and family, and does not expect to
reaches its pinnacle during war, inspires Japanís soldiers
today. In warplanes, two-man submarines or in storming the bunkers
at Singapore, it gives him the strength to overcome, the willingness
to die and an unshakable will to victory.
East Asia for the East Asians
The previous pages have summarized the unique miracle of Japanís
rise. Foreign policy, the world standing of its country, was
always more important in Japan than momentary domestic issues.
Still, the spread of Japanís international power can be explained
only by the internal political power of the Japanese people.
The private and the economic has always been bound to the governmental
whole. Japanís miracle is the success of the first major planned
economy, which stands in sharp contrast to the confusion and
chaos of Europe and America. Japan has earned its present position
by hard work.
The Emperor Meiji ruled in his time over 30 million Japanese.
74 years later, his grandchild rules over about 100 million.
To them must be added the hundreds of millions of the Asian peoples
who follow Japanís leadership.
The ancient Japanese culture, once built of wood, bamboo, paper, straw,
and silk, is today a civilization built of iron and steel, of factories
and machines. Yet even today Japanís strength rests more on its ancient
culture than on the civilization of the 20th century.
Japan has always been a reservoir and defender of Asian culture.The
old cultures of China, Korea and India no longer have their original
strength, but they have not only been preserved in Japan, but
have remained alive. That too is why Japan claims leadership
of the peoples of Asia today, not only because of its technical
The Asiatic Monroe Doctrine was first formulated in 1934:
“Asia for the Asians.” Today, less than a decade later,
the greater part of this political demand has become reality.
Ever more of Asiaís peoples live in areas ruled by Japan and
are building a common prosperous East Asia. The peoples of East
Asia know, esteem, admire and fear Japan more than the Anglo-Saxons.
They have seen Japanís explosive growth and the weak response
of the Anglo-Saxons with their own eyes. They have seen what
Japan can do. They have seen Manchuria change from a chaotic
No Manís Land to the center of a new Asian order under Japanís
strong hand. They know that Japan is the real power and center
of East Asia, and see in the Land of the Rising Sun not only
the center of a spiritual rebirth of the ancient cultures of
East Asia, but also the center of modern civilization. They increasingly
send their students to Japan.
England and America closed their eyes to the phenomenon that had to lead
to a Japanese explosion: the phenomenon of Japanís steadily growing national
strength. It is not surprising that these cold, calculating nations with
their material outlook could not understand Japanís spiritual values and
strengths. It is incomprehensible that they ignored Japanís growing population,
with its necessary consequences. They even tried to hold back this irresistible
natural process, using means that had to lead to the explosion we are
The Strength of the Axis
National Socialist Germany is in the best position to understand
Japan. We and the other nations of the Axis are fighting for
the same goals that Japan is fighting for in East Asia, and understand
the reasons that forced it to take action. We can also understand
the driving force behind Japanís miraculous rise, for we National
Socialists also put the spirit over the material. The Axis Pact
that ties us to Japan is not a treaty of political convenience
like so many in the past, made only to reach a political goal.
The Berlin-Rome-Tokyo alliance is a world-wide spiritual program
of the young peoples of the world. It is defeating the international
alliance of convenience of Anglo-Saxon imperialist monopolists
and unlimited Bolshevist internationalism. It is showing the
world the way to a better future. In joining the Axis alliance
of the young peoples of the world, Japan is using its power not
only to establish a common sphere of economic prosperity in East
Asia. It is also fighting for a new world order. New and powerful
ideas rooted in the knowledge of the present and the historical
necessities of the future that are fought for with fanatical
devotion have always defeated systems that have outlived their
time and lost their meaning.
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