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Okhawa Shumei

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During their one-year stay in Tokyo, in 1916-17, the Richards shared a house with Dr. Shumei Okhawa and his wife. and they became very good friends.

Interviewed by Srinivas Iyengar in 1957 in Okhawas’ residence in Nakatsu, Professor Okhawa recalled his close contact with the Richards: “We lived together for a year. We sat together in meditation every night for an hour. I practised Zen and they practiced yoga.”

Dr. Shumei Okhawa (6.12.1888, Yamagata Prefecture – 24.12.1957, Tokyo). In 1911, he graduated from Tokyo Imperial University, , where he had studied Vedic literature and classical Indian philosophy. After graduation Okawa resided in Tokyo and worked as a translator for the Japanese Imperial Army. He had a sound knowledge of German, French, English, Sanskrit and Pali. In the summer of 1913 he read a copy of Sir Henry Cotton’s New India or Indian in transition (1886 revised 1905) which dealt with the contemporary political situation.

In 1918, Okawa joined the South Manchurian Railway Company. He then earned his doctorate at Tokyo University and taught the history of colonialism at Takushoku University. One of the courses that he gave was on the History of the British Colonies. Among his books was a monograph on the Soul of Japan. At the beginning of the First World War, he had given help and asylum to Indian revolutionaries like Rash Behari Bose. This was to make Dr.Okhawa a persona non grata with the British.

In the first half of the 1930s, Okawa established connections with likeminded military officers and became involved in plans for a coup d’état. In 1932, Okawa was arrested for his involvement in the May 15 Incident, the assassination of Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. In October 1935, he was sentenced to five years in prison, but he was released as a part of general amnesty after serving less than two years.

Following his release, Okawa published numerous works on the history of Japan and on western colonialism and expansionism in Asia. He advocated the necessity for Asian nations to cooperate and adopt common policies against the west. During World War II, Okawa argued for “Asia for the Asians” and called on all Asian peoples to join Japan in the “Great Asian War” against the Allied powers.

Following World War II, the Allied powers viewed Okawa’s “Asia for Asians” policy as the foundation for Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere that had led to the Pacific war. He was arrested as a Class A war criminal but was declared unfit to stand trial by reason of insanity. Okawa recovered in two years and continued to publish and promote his ideology until his death in Tokyo on 24 December 1957.

 

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