Nihon no ichiban nagai hi (Japan's Longest Day) (1967)




Director:  Kihachi Okamoto.

Starring:  Toshir Mifune (War Minister Anami), S Yamamura (Navy Minister), Chishu Ryu (Prime Minister), Seiji Miyaguchi (Foreign Minister), Takashi Shimura (Information Chief), Toshio Kurosawa (Maj. Hatanaka), Shogo Shimada (Imperial Cmdr. Mori), Susumu Fujita (Col. Haga), Rokko Toura (Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Matsumoto), Yfnosuke It (Maj. Gen. Nonaka), Daisuke Kat (Yabe of NHK), Etsushi Takahashi (Cmdr. Ida), Jun Tazaki (Col. Kosono), Takao Inoue (Cmdr. Takeshita), Nobuo Nakamura (Lord Kido).

the military tries to overthrow the Emperor's civilian government after Nagasaki


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

The Allies announce the Potsdam Declaration setting forth the conditions for peace with Japan. 

July 26, 1945.  The message about the Potsdam Declaration is intercepted by the Japanese.  Department of Foreign Affairs.  Foreign Minister Togo discusses the message with a subordinate.  He says that the armed forces, particularly the army, won't accept it. 

July 27.  The cabinet meets.  They decide to take a "wait and see" attitude.  Minister of War General Anami tells his subordinates that no official decision has been announced.  The newspapers downplay the Potsdam Declaration and most Japanese ignore it.  The Japanese have around 272,000 troops on the front lines and the military quickly learns about Potsdam.  They are deeply concerned about the future.  The Minister of War speaks with Prime Minister Suzuki. and tells him that the decision not to reject the Potsdam Declaration is undermining troop morale. 

At a press conference the prime minister answers the news reporter's questions.  They realize that the government has deliberately taken a stance of wait and see and now the editorials mention the Potsdam Declaration.  The prime minister used the term "mokusatsu" which means "wise silence".  But the Allies came to translate it as rejection. 

August 6.  The atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima killing 200,000 almost at once. 

August 8.  The USSR enters the war against Japan. 

August 9.  Leaders of the war effort meet.  The prime minister says that it has "become impossible to continue fighting", but that he wants to hear the opinion of the others at the meeting.  While the meeting dragged on, a second atomic bomb was dropped, this one on Nagasaki. 

A second meeting takes place.  The Minister of War declares that four conditions have to be met before the Japanese can accept peace with the Allies or else the Japanese will continue fighting.  The Minister of the Navy, however, asks him:  "With what resources?" 

Flashback.  On December 8, 1941 the Japanese people were informed about the declaration of war against the United States and Great Britain.  For the first seven months the war went well.  The turning point was the Japanese loss at the Battle of Midway.  American B-29 bombers attacked 92 Japanese cities.  In the war Japan suffered 3.6 million military casualties and 1.47 million civilian casualties.  Toward the end of the war most Japanese were on the verge of starvation. 

Back to the end of the war.  After three hours, the attendees at the second meeting fail to reach a decision.  So they decide to let the Japanese Emperor decide what to do.  The emperor tells the war effort leaders that he wants a "swift end to the war". 

August 10.  A message is sent to the Allies that Japan will accept the Potsdam Declaration. 

August 12.  The Allies let the Japanese know that their emperor will be subject to an Allied military commander.  This makes many in the Japanese military extremely upset and many talk about seppuku (ritual suicide).  The Minister of War takes the stance that the military should fight to the last man. 

The leaders of the war effort go back to the emperor for confirmation of his wishes.  Some of the military grab Foreign Minister Togo to express their concerns.  One of them suggests that the Japanese could field 20 million Kamikaze fighters. 

August 13.  The Minister of War asks for a delay of two days in the decision process, but the Prime Minister refuses.  The Prime Minister is worried about the USSR forces over-running Japanese military positions in China. 

August 14.  A second Imperial Council meeting is held.  The emperor rises from his chair.  Thus begins Japan's Longest Day.  The emperor declares that he wants to end the long suffering of his people.  Many of the attendees at the meeting start to cry.

The Minister of War returns to his office.  He is surrounded by a great number of military officers who want to know what the emperor said.  They are devastated when they learn that the emperor wants to bring an end to the war.  The Minister of War tells them that he will not disobey the orders of the emperor. 

The press is informed of the emperor's wishes and many of them start crying. 

Many of the military officers start talking among each other and consider the idea of asking the Minister of War to resign.  They want the military to take over the government.  For this they will need the support of the Imperial Guard.  At the Atsugi Air Base commander Colonel Kozono says that he and his men will fight on regardless of the emperor's wishes.  There is talk of preparing 2.3 million troops to fight the Allies on Japanese soil.  In addition, some 10,000 Kamikaze planes will be employed in the struggle.  The Yokohama Guard of high-school students is told to prepare to march on Tokyo. 

The emperor wants to speak to the Japanese people.  (This had never been done before.  The Japanese thought their emperor was a god.)  The decision is made to use a recording of the emperor's voice to broadcast the emperor's wishes.  Meanwhile, the rebellious military officers are making plans to storm the palace and take over the government. 

Eastern District Army Headquarters.  Major Hatanaka tries to get support for the coup, but is thrown out immediately.  Then he tries to get the approval of Lt. Colonel Ida, but this is also a failure. 

The re-drafting of the emperor's speech seems to take for ever.  There are differences of opinion about the wording of certain phrases.  The Minister of War and the Minister of the Navy have a heated argument over one particular phrase.  At around 6 p.m. they finish the wording, but since it is already late, the decision is to broadcast the emperor's speech the next day at 12 noon. 

An Allied fleet is off the Boso Peninsula.  A Japanese airplane squadron at Kodama prepares to go on the attack.

The emperor makes five revisions in the new draft of the speech. 

The prime minister is informed that there is unrest in the Imperial Guard but he dismisses the notion saying that "They have pledged themselves to protect His Majesty."  It is now 9 p.m.  The military plotters feel they must strike this night before the Emperor has time to read his message to the Japanese people.  Kuroda of the flight school will take a squadron and fly over the palace.  Major Hatanaka again approaches Lt. Col. Ida for his assistance.  This time the man agrees to talk to the Commander of the Imperial Guard to try to convince him to support the plot. 

At 11 p.m. the telegrams of surrender are sent out to the Allied nations.  The cabinet members, their business done, fall into a great despondency.  The emperor begins the recording of his speech to the people. 

The coup is planned for 2 a.m.   The plotters try to convince the commander of the Imperial Guard.  When they cannot they kill him along with another man.  At 2 a.m. acting on forged orders, the order is given for the Imperial Guard regiment immediately to occupy the palace and secure it.  Takeshita, brother-in-law of the Minister of War, tries to convince the minister to support the rebellion.  The rebels start cutting communication lines.  They capture the Bureau Chief of the Japanese Broadcasting Bureau and try to find out from him where the emperor's recording is hidden. 

News of the rebellion gets out and the first tentative attempt to stop it are made.  Lt. Co. Ida returns and tells the rebel officers that the Eastern Army will not join the rebellion.  He tells the other officers to abandon the coup.   But the rebel officers continue the coup.  They send soldiers over to the palace to find the emperor's recording.

Officers from the Eastern Army arrive and are shocked to see the commander of the Imperial Guard dead.  Ida shows up at the Minister of War's residence, but now the minister already knows about the coup and the killing of the commander of the Imperial Guard.  The Yokohama Guard arrives in Tokyo; first target, the prime minister of Japan. 

The soldiers go into the quarters of the emperor in search of the record.  The Yokohama Guard arrives and they start firing their weapons.  The prime minister is elsewhere.  So off they go to Murayama. 

The soldiers can't find the record.  So Major Hatanaka goes to the Tokyo Broadcast Bureau to get out a message that the Japanese people must fight a war of total resistance.  The commander of the Eastern Army arrives and stops any other soldiers of the Imperial Guard from helping the rebels.  He also has one of the rebel officers arrested.  The commander himself then takes charge of the Imperial Guard.   

The Yokohama Guard arrives at the prime minister's residence, but he is not there either.  Everyone left after receiving a phone call about the rampaging high-school unit.  So they burn the house down instead.  Their next target is the Privy Council President Hiranuma Ki-ichiro. 

The Minister of War kills himself.  The commander of the Eastern Army speaks to Major Hatanaka on the phone and tells him that he is obsessed. 

Privy Council meeting at the palace at 11 a.m.  There will be a mass resignation of the cabinet. 

The coup plotters start to commit suicide. 

The Emperor's message is broadcast. 

August 15, the end of the Pacific War.  Some 10 million men (1/4 of all Japanese men) fought in the war.  There were 2 million military deaths and 1 million civilian deaths.  One of five households lost a parent.  Another 15 million had their homes or property destroyed.   


Pretty good movie.  But there were way too many characters and at times the movie dragged a bit.  At times it seems that the movie gives names and job titles for almost everyone appearing on the screen.  And you have to pay attention because you don't know if the named person is going to be an important character in the story and is going to be reappearing.  It's hard to keep everyone straight.  As I have said many times about the Japanese during the war:  they were a bunch of messed up people.  These fascist samurai cowboys were crazy, as well as being extremely cruel.  In the movie, one often sees this fanaticism of the Japanese, a fanaticism that ultimately led to their downfall. Thank goodness the war taught Japan a lesson and they are now a peaceful people. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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