Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei (Military Ministers to be Officers on Active-duty Rule) (軍部大臣現役武官制)

Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei (Military Ministers to be Officers on Active-duty Rule) is a regulation to limit the appointing authority of Military Ministers (Minister of War and the Navy) to only active military officers. Due to the fact that the authority is limited to only active military officers, military officers including Yobieki (reserve duty), Kobieki (one of military service that came after Geneki and Yobieki), and Taieki (retired) do not have appointing authority. The rule is the antithesis of civil regulation.


Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei is a regulation to limit Military Ministers' appointing authority to only active Taisho (general) and Chusho (lieutenant general), and limit this authority to military officers such as Taisho and Chusho in accordance with 'Gunbu Daijin Bukan sei (Military Ministers to be Officers)' to narrow down the candidates. Geneki (active officer) refers to an individual in regular military service engaged in normal military affairs, and their administration is under the supreme command of the Emperor that the Cabinet cannot affect. Therefore, by employing Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei, it was, in fact, necessary for the formation of a Cabinet to obtain the consent of the military and through the employment of this regulation the military was able to prevent the formation of any Cabinet. Even if a Cabinet was formed, in case that a conflict between the Cabinet and the military occurred, the military legally owned the power to dissolve any Cabinet by forcing a Military Minister to resign and not designating a replacement. This is how the political intervention of the military became possible and defined the military's political superiority.

In the early Meiji period, candidates for the appointing authority of Hyobukyo (Minister for Military Affairs), which was the Military Minister at that time, were limited only to ranks 'higher than Shosho (major general)'. Afterwards, the same restriction was repeatedly aborted and revived; however, Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei was redefined by Prime Minister Aritomo YAMAGATA in 1900. This is considered a measure that the domain cliques, whose authority was derived from the military, took to retain their influence over the political parties that were expanding their power at that time. However, due to the global stabilization and maturity of the party government after the Russo-Japanese War, the domain cliques and the military lost their influence and the system was revised to regulate the military minister's appointing authority to only 'active-duty' in 1913. When the military influence came back in full force in 1936, Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei was revived and continued until the Military Minister's role became extinct after the end of the World War II in 1945.

On the other hand, in many countries other than Japan especially in Western Europe, there were examples of civil officers who were appointed to the position of Military Minister even after the World War II, and the Civilian Control philosophy which claims the superiority of military affairs over politics was established.


It is believed that Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei was originated from the Hyobusho's Shikinryo (law which stipulates duties of the Ministry of Military) in July, 1871: 'one minister with a rank higher than Shosho,' defined the eligibility of Hyobukyo as having to be higher than the Shosho rank. After that, according to each ministry regulation (imperial edict Vol.2, 1886), publically announced in February 27, 1886, with regards to 'officers in the Department of War and the Department of the Navy' lower than the Suke (vice minister) rank, 'military officers are eligible to be appointed this position' and it was determined that military officers would be installed in principal (Army regulations, article 2; Navy regulations, article 2; General regulations, article 25); however, there were no rules about the ministers.

In March 27, 1890, the Army and the Navy regulations were revised and the rule to install military officers as 'personnel' in principal was crossed off. It was ruled that 'Shokan' will be placed as a minister (appendix) according to the Department of War regulations, however, there was no specification in the Department of the Navy regulations (see appendix). In July 2, 1891, the Department of War regulation was revised: the rule that a minister and Suke will be installed as 'Shokan' was crossed off. This also removed the rule for both the Department of War and the Navy that only a military officer could be installed as a minister. However, even in this era, there is no evidence that anyone but active generals became Military Ministers.

The Foundation

In 1900, the second Yamagata Cabinet revised the Department of War regulation and the Department of the Navy regulation, and determined that a 'minister (lieutenant general)' and 'a candidate appointed as War Minister and the Secretary shall be an active general' (appended table, appendix). This action was taken by the domain cliques whose authority originated in the military, to go against the cut-back of military expenditures of the assembly and the political party which then had power. Since then, even if an imperial command was given, the military would only elect a ministerial candidate from active military officers in order to form a Cabinet and they could not retain a Cabinet unless electing another candidate after a Military Minister resigned. Retaining a Cabinet without the military's consent became difficult with this regulation.

During the second Kinmochi SAIONJI Cabinet, because of the national financial reconstruction and the administration by reduced budget, Prime Minister Kinomochi SAIONJI refused the Army's 'two division expansion' demand (two divisions' expansion issue). In response to this, War Minister Yusaku UEHARA acted as iaku-joso (to make comments on military affairs to the Emperor with full responsibility of the results) and resigned. The Army did not elect a replacement, and in accordance with the Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei; therefore, the second Kinomochi SAIONJI lacked the Minister of War and the Cabinet as a whole was dissolved. As a result, termination of a Cabinet by the military was legally granted. This political change was called 'the Strike of the Army' and then triggered the Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei to attract attention in national politics.


In June 13, 1913, with the first Yamamoto Cabinet, the Department of War and the Department of the Navy were revised; the rule to limit the Military Ministers' appointing authority to only active officers was crossed off (appended table, appendix). This amendment abolished Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei although Gunbu Daijin Bukan sei remained. This, at the time, was influenced by a major civic movement, the Constitution Protection Movement, when Prime Minister Gombei YAMAMOTO and War Minister Yasutsuna KIGOSHI pushed through the disagreements among the military and the domain clique including Arimoto YAMADATA and Taro KATSURA. As a result, Kigoshi who earned his high reputation through Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War from the public was transferred to reserve duty retaining the title of Chujo (lieutenant general) before his retirement.

In an actuality, there was no example of a Military Minister being elected from Shokan from Yobieki, Kobieki, and Taieki; a candidate once returned to active duty and was elected as a minister. Due to the fact that the range of the appointing authority was expanded to Yobieki, Kobieki, and Taieki, the range of ministerial candidates was automatically expanded as well; this alleviated possible issues during the formation of a Cabinet. For Keigo KIYOURA, however, who was given an imperial command after taking over the first Yamamoto Cabinet, it proved impossible to gain consensus in regards to the Navy expansion (construction costs for fleet 88) and to obtain the Navy's ministerial candidates; therefore, he gave up on forming a Cabinet (Manko Cabinet). According to Shotoku ITO (military critic), even if Yobieki was accepted by the system, Kiyoura probably would not have known who might be appropriate or available, and besides he did not have any consultants to discuss with; therefore, he gave up on forming a Cabinet (moreover, the fact that Kiyoura was a close adviser of Arimoto YAMAGATA, who was an advocate for Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei, played a part).


In 1936, during the Hirota Cabinet, the regulation 'a candidate that a minister and a Suke (vice minister) appoint shall be an active general' was implemented as the Department of War and the Navy regulation (appended table, appendix) and Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei was revived.
The reason behind this system's revival was 'not to replace the suspected Yobieki military officers of the involvement in the Feburary 26th Incident (suspects for the incident's involvement, Sadao ARAKI and Jinzaburo MAZAKI, were then transferred to Yobieki after the incident) to the military minister.'
The Hirota Cabinet, which revived this system, had a conflict due to the Harakiri Mondo (the Harakiri questionaires) with the Minister of War over Gunbu Daijin Geneki Bukan sei which he formulated himself, and was driven to resign instead of commanding the assembly to dismiss.

Afterwards, when Kazushige UGAKI (Yobieki Army General) was named by the Emperor to be a candidate for Prime Minister, he could not obtain a candidate for the Minister of War from within the Army and driven into a situation in which he had to give up forming the Cabinet in 1937. The single resignation of War Minister Shunroku HATA in 1940 caused the Yonai Cabinet to fail and spurred Japanese militarism to further intensify.
Also, it is said that Kuniaki KOISO (commander of Korean Army (Japanese Army) at that time) who was given an offer to join the Cabinet by Ugaki who held an imperial command, answered, 'Even if I accept it, I will probably receive a telegram addressed 'Yobieki Transfer' from the upper stratum of the Army, and that's it.'

Thus, not every active officer was eligible to be a Minister of War even though it was called the active military officer system; it was impossible for candidates who did not meet 'the military consensus.'
In the case of the Army, a new War Minister was only recommended with the agreement of the Army's three Kami (three director generals) (War Minister, the Chief of the General Staff, and the Educational Commissioner). Shichihei YAMAMOTO, Naoki KOMURO, and Taichi SAKAIYA analyzed the matter that 'the top Army executives of the emperor refuses or dismisses a prime minister who the Emperor designates' as a subject of social criticism.

In 1944, when the Tojo Cabinet dissolved, there was a move by Hideki TOJO to remain as the Minister of War for the replacement Koiso Cabinet (Tojo was the Prime Minister and the War Minister). At that time, Hirota who was then Jushin (chief retainer) told Koiso, 'An agreement has been made between Mr. Terauchi (Hisaichi TERAUCHI who was the Minister of War during revival of Geneki Bukan sei) and me, as for the personnel affairs, we've accepted to designate a new Prime Minister regardless of the consent of three Kami' and it is said that this incident was one of the reasons for Koiso preventing Tojo from remaining as the Minister of War. However, the authenticity of this story is doubtful for two reasons: the first, except this time the actual operation totally contradicted Hirota's remarks, the second was that the other party, Terauchi, was a Southern troop commander in the field abroad at that time and Koiso would not point out 'the story is wrong' even if he thought so.

Besides this, there was no example of a Cabinet being held up by issues of the Navy Minister's personnel affairs during the Showa period. There were a couple of matters when the Tojo Cabinet was formed; the first, Hideki TOJO refused Soemu TOYODA whom the navy selected as a candidate for the Minister of the Navy; the second, deputy minister of the Navy, Yorio SAWAMOTO proceeded with the plan that 'it's going to be a war with Tojo so we shall not select a candidate (to crash the Tojo Cabinet by not selecting),' however, as Shigetaro SHIMADA was selected with the judgment of Navy Minister Koshiro OIKAWA and others, the Tojo Cabinet was finally formed.

Disappearance and After

With the Potsdam Declaration in August, 1945, the Japanese army was disassembled. In December of the same year, the Department of War was abolished and became the Department of Veterans Affairs I, the Department of the Navy was abolished and became the Department of Veterans Affairs II; the Military Ministers was reorganized and dismantled.

The Constitution of Japan, implemented in 1947, stipulated the following:
Army-Navy-Air Force, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.' (Japanese Constitution, article 9)
The Prime Minister and other Ministers of State must be civilians.' (Japanese Constitution, article 66)
Because there was no military, there was no military officer nor Military Minister; even if a military officer existed, he could not gain a position as a Minister of State. However, due to the change in international situations, the National Police Reserve, which had equal equipment as the Army, was formed and the National Police Army Head Quarters was created to manage its administration. The chief of this National Police Reserve Head Quarters was not a Minister of State but a Minister of State who managed the National Police Reserve was created instead.

The Japan Self-Defense Forces grew out of the National Police Reserve in 1954 after it was reorganized as a Peace Preservation Corps. The administration of the Japan Self-Defense Forces was managed by the Defense Agency (later Ministry of Defense) and of the Chief Defense Agency (later Secretary of State for Defense) was managed by the Minister of State. Internationally, the Chief Defense Agency (Minister of Defense) was recognized as a Military Minister and the Japan Self-Defense Forces were recognized as a military, and a Self-Defense Official was recognized as a military officer. However, whether or not an active Self-Defense Official concurrently serves as a Secretary of State for Defense, it is understood that appointment of a career military man or a Self-Defense official to a Secretary of State for Defense itself is not illegal (For instance, Yasuhiro NAKASONE (lieutenant colonel) who graduated from the Naval Paymasters' School, Raizo MATSUNO (major), Ganri YAMASHITA (lieutenant), and Gen NAKATANI who was in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (First Lieutenant) were appointed to Chief Secretary of State for Defense). There was a conspiracy to appoint Kichisaburo NOMURA, who was the Navy General at that time, to a Chief Secretary of State for Defense; however, it was ceased due to a civilian regulation point of view.

Also, even if a candidate was a Self-Defense Official (the so-called uniform team), a civilian (civil officer), the internal Defense Counselor, or secretary (the so-called sebiro (business suit) team), it is understood that it is prohibited to be appointed concurrently as the Secretary of State for Defense and any other Minister of State. This is because personnel of the Ministry of Defense, including the uniform team and the sebiro team, are considered as a part of Self-Defense Forces (Self-Defense Forces Act Chapter 2, Article 5), and the Self-Defense Forces are restricted by the political acts (in the same Act; Chapter 61, the same implementation orders; Article 86).

[Original Japanese]