National fingerprint registry

The 1949-1952 bid to fingerprint all nationals

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 August 2007
Last updated 1 January 2008

National Fingerprint Law 1949-1952 Judicial committee Hearings | 1949-07 20 billion | 1949-08 30 billion, Shimoyama Incident | 1949-09 Tanaka on Shimoyama's prints | 1950-11 Petition delegated | 1950-12 Petition examined | 1951-01 Tanaka gives prints | 1952-12 Petition examined
Occupation law enforcement climate Crime trends | Big four incidents | Ideological warfare | Police reform

National Fingerprinting Law

Between 1949 and 1952, the judicial affairs committees of both houses of the Diet considered introducing a bill for a 国民指紋法 (Kokumin shimon hō) -- or "national fingerprint law" that would have established a register of fingerprints of all nationals.

Such a law is first mentioned in meetings of the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives in 1949 during examinations of ways to improve criminal investigation and crime prevention. Proponents argued that a national registry of fingerprints would facilitate the scientific identification of individuals in civil as well as criminal matters.

At least two individuals, exercising their constitutional rights to petition the government, submitted petitions for a National Fingerprint Law to a diet representative. One such petition was introduced from a Wakayama man in the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives in 1950. Another petition turned up on the agenda of the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Councillors in 1952.


Some proponents of universal fingerprinting envisioned beginning with children matriculating in elementary school. Since all nationals would be fingerprinted, and since the purpose of fingerprinting was to identify individuals, the fingerprint system would probably have been integrated with family registration, which defined the legal status and identity of all nationals.

The idea of universal fingerprinting received cautious support from many law enforcement officials at a time when arrests for property crimes had peaked and incidence rates for offenses like homicide and rape were at an all-time high and climbing. The per capita criminality of Japan, then, was several times what it is today.

Supporters saw the fingerprinting of all nationals as a means of giving police a scientific tool to combat crime. A national fingerprint registry would allow police to identify suspects other than those who had a previous criminal record, whose prints were already on file.

Such a registry would also help police identity victims of any incident -- natural death, accident, suicide, or homicide -- in which a body was found without identification. Supporters specifically cited the Shimoyama Incident as a case in which fingerprints aided police in confirming the identity of the victim's body.


1949-1952 hearings on National Fingerprint Law

The minutes of several meetings of the Judiciary Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1950, and the minutes of one meeting of the Judiciary Affairs Committee of the House of Councillors in 1952, show evidence of interest on the part of some people in Japan to establish a National Fingerprint Law.

There is mention of such a law in 1949. One petition for such a law was made to the House of Representatives in late 1950. Another was made to the House of Councillors in late 1952.

Petitions and appeals

A resident of Wakayama prefecture submitted a petition to establish [enact] a National Fingerprint Law to the House of Representatives in 1950. Such petitions are made in accordance with Article 16 of the 1947 Constitution, which gives every person "the right to peacefully petition" (平穏に請願する権利) the government for virtually any reason, including the "enactment, repeal or amendment of laws, ordinances and regulations" (法律、命令又は規則の制定、廃止又は改正).

Procedurally, a petition (請願 seigan) has to be introduced to the House of Representives or the House of Councillors by a member of the house. An individual (or group of individuals) petitions a member of the house, and the member or the member's secretary prepares the petition for submission to the speaker (leader) of the house.

Petitioners must identify themselves by address and name, and sign their name or affix a seal. If the petition is written in a foreign language, it must be accompanied by a Japanese translation. Aliens residing in Japan may also petition, as Article 16 is not limited to nationals, and there are no age restrictions.

The speaker of the house will publish the petition for circulation among house members and delegate examination of the petition to an appropriate house committee. A member of the committee will introduce the petition to the committee, which will discuss the petition and determine its future.

Alternatively, any national or resident alien may submit an appeal (陳情 chinjō) directly to either house, without a member's mediation. An appeal is mailed to the leader (speaker) of a house. The leader of the house will discretionally direct the appeal to an appropriate committee for examination.

The two houses must deal with their own petitions and appeals independently. They are not allowed to meddle in the processing of each other's petitions or appeals.

A petitioner is permitted to submit only one petition concerning a given issue during a diet session. This rule applies even if the introducing house member is different.

Both petitions and appeals, once accepted by a house, are published as public documents. Both houses post their petitions on-line.

Examples of recent petitions

As of 20 December 2007, during the 168th (extraordinary) session of the Diet (10 September 2007 to 15 January 2008), the Judiciary Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives had been delegated a number of petitions, including these.

Petitions concerning abolishing nationality choice system
New matter no. 13, 26 petitions with 944 signatures

Petitions concerning recognition of multiple nationality of adults
New matter no. 18, 26 petitions with 835 signatures

Petitions concerning recognition of multiple nationality
New matter no. 603, 2 petitions with 225 signatures

Petitions concerning opposition to implementation of Immigration Control Law for fingerprint taking, reworsening [recorrupting] of Immigration Control Law and worsening [corrupting] of Alien Registration law, and radical revisions [of these laws]
New matter no. 939, 1 petition with 100 signatures

Petitions related to multiple nationality issues are perennial -- as will be petitions concerning the start in November 2007 of fingerprinting of aliens entering Japan.

While most petitions are delegated to a committee for "examination" (審査 shinsa), only a few advance to latter stages of action or otherwise have an impact on new legislation. The vast majority receive only the minimum amount of legally required processing before being filed away in the archieves of democratic detritus.

The proposals from various quarters, to create a National Fingerprint Law, are cases in point of an idea that never became a bill, much less a law.

1949-1952 hearings related to National Fingerprint Law
In judicial affairs committees of houses of representatives and councillors

Japanese text

The Japanese texts of the minutes of all of the following Judial Affairs Committee meetings are slightly reformatted versions of texts retrieved from the 国会会議録検索システム (Kokkai Kaigiroku kensaku system) or "National Diet Proceedings search system" database managed by the National Diet Library (国立国会図書館 Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan).

English translation

The translations (and in some instances paraphrases) are mine (William Wetherall). All but the most fragmentary elements of speech -- meaning most phrasing and all technical terms -- have been rendered structurally. That is, the same Japanese forms are represented by the same English forms, regardless of whether this results in English that a native reader might consider awkward.


The following table shows key Japanese terms and the English terms I have used to represent them in structural translations.

(Parentheses) are used to show other English terms are are commonly associated with the Japanese terms in some formal documents, such as the English version of the Japanese constitution.

[Brackets] are used to show truer structural translations.

国民        national (n, adj)
            nation (n), i.e., nationals collectively

指紋        fingerprint
指紋登録    fingerprint registration

法          law
国民指紋法  national fingerprint law

法          method
指紋法      fingerprint method, fingerprinting

国警        国家地方警察
            National Rural Police [NRP]
            [State Rural Police]
            Established 1 March 1948
            Abolished 1 July 1954

警視廳(庁)  Metropolitan Police Board (MPB)
            Prefectural police from 15 January 1874
            Local (23-ward) police from 1 March 1948
            Prefectural police from 1 July 1954
            Metropolitan Police Department since 1954

国鉄    日本国有鉄道
            Japanese National Railways
            [Japan state-owned railways]
            Established 1 June 1949
            Broken up and privatized 1 April 1987

請願        petition
陳情        appeal
制定        establish (enact)
改正        revise (amend)
審査        examine

事件, 件    matter(s) [affair(s), business]
事件        incident (case) [event]

參考人      witness, testifier


July 1949 hearing on scientific investigation of crime
Fingerprinting all nationals would cost about 20 billion yen

[ 衆議院 ] 法務委員会 第34号

5th Session of National Diet
[ House of Representatives ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 34
25 July 1949 (Monday) Convened 1:47 PM


委員長 花村 四郎君
理事 角田 幸吉君
理事 小玉 治行君
理事 田嶋 好文君
理事 高木 松吉君
理事 梨木作次郎君
押谷 富三君
鍛冶 良作君
佐瀬 昌三君
古島 義英君
眞鍋  勝君
猪俣 浩三君
上村  進君


國務大臣 樋貝 詮三君


斎藤 昇君

刑政長官 佐藤 藤佐君
專門員  村  教三君
專門員  小木 貞一君

Attending committee members

Kakuta Kōkichi, board member
Liberal Party, House of Representatives

Attending ministers of states

Higai Senzō (1890-1953), Minister of State
Liberal Party, House of Representatives. Politician, legalist from Yamanashi prefecture. Dr. of Law from Kyoto Imperial University, 1943. Elected to House of Representatives in first postwar election from consituency in Yamanashi prefecture as Japan Liberal Party (日本自由党 Jiyūtō) candidate. At the time of this meeting he was a member of Yoshida Shigeru's third cabinet, as the Director of the Repatriations Agency (賠償庁長官) with the portfolio of State Minister. He held this post -- and was concurrently the Director of the State Police Board [National Rural Police Board] -- from 11 March 1949 (the day the board was established) to about 28 June 1950. Essentially, Higai was responsible for police affairs in the cabinet. The National Rural Police were in the process of setting up criminal science investigation institute. The institute thus established was the forerunner of the National Research Institute of Police Science (科学警察研究所) of the National Police Agency (警察庁), which was created in 1954 when the National Rural Police were abolished.

Persons attending other than committee members

Saitō Noboru (1903-1972), Chief of National Rural Police, National Rural Police Headquarters
Home Affairs bureaucrat, police bureaucrat. Later elected to House of Councilors from Mie prefecture. Saito was the the Superintendent-General of the Metropolitan Police Board from 20 October 1947 to 7 March 1948, when the new Police Law came into effect. Tanaka Eiichi became the S-G of MPB as one of many newly created local Autonomous Body Police forces, while Saito was was appointed Chief of the newly created National Regional Police -- a post he held until 1 July 1954, when the NRP were abolished. Saito's son is LPD House of Councilors member Saitō Jūrō (b1940).

[ 省略 ]



[ Omitted. ]

Business submitted to today's meeting

[ Second of three items on agenda. ]

Matters concerning scientific investigation of crime in [relation to] prosecutorial administration

角田委員   予算のこまかい問題を出してお尋ねすることは、恐縮に存じまするから打切りたいと思いますが、この際樋貝國務大臣に承つておきたいことは、國民指紋法というようなものをつくつて、家庭の國民全体に対して指紋をとる。そうして犯罪捜査、あるいは犯罪防止の用に供する必要があると考えるのでありますが、こういうことについて樋貝國務大臣は何かお考えがありますか、お答えを願いたい。

Committee member Kakuta


Kakuta, concerned about the budget, asks Higai what he thinks about making a National Fingerprint Law and taking the fingerprints of the entire body of nationals of families, and whether this is nececessary to facilitate crime investigation and prevention.

樋貝國務大臣   これもすべて予算の点で、むしろ予算が許されるならばお説のように行きたい、すべての國民から指紋をとれるものならばとつてみたい、そういうことも法律が通ればできることであります。しかし指紋のとり方といたしましても、ただいまのような片手について指紋をとるというようなとり方でなしに、一本々々ですぐ索引ができるというようなとり方もありまするし、現在におけるところの指紋だけでも、これを指一本ずつですぐにそれからひつぱり出せるように組みかえたのでは、たくさん費用もいりますようなわけで、いろいろの方面に國費を使わなければならぬ今日、言いかえれば短かいところのたすきを長いものに使わなければならぬという今日の状態であるために、つい当面の忙しい方面にこれを使いましたようなわけでありますけれども、だんだんと余裕も生じて來ることと考えております。また現在の見通しもそんなようでありますから、いろいろ余裕ができましたら、ただいまお話のようなことは第一着にやりたいと考えております。

Minister of State Higai


Higai replies that if the budget allows, he would like a law that would provide for taking the fingerprints of all nationals. As for how to take fingerprints, there is the method of taking the prints of only one hand as at present, but there is also the method of taking and immediately indexing the prints of each finger, and he would prefer the latter. It is costly to do this at present, to take and arrange the fingerprint of each finger so that they can be quickly retrieved, he says. There are many areas where government funds have had to be used, and sashes for short places have had to be used for long things, but there's more to spare now. So if some can be spared for fingerprinting, he would like to do that.

角田委員   ただいま樋貝國務大臣は多額の費用がかかるということをおつしやつたのであります。國民全般から指紋をとりましても、索引等はきわめて科学的にぞうさなく編集することができるようになつておりますので、これはそう多く心配はないと思うのであますが、國民指紋法を実施して國民全体の指紋をとつておきますると、犯罪の捜査の場合にはきわめて迅速に、きわめて正確に捜査ができると思うのであります。しかしそれは費用がたいへんかかつて困難だとおつしやるのでありますが、一体どのくらいかかるとお考えになつておるのでありますか、この点承りたいと思います。

Committee member Kakuta


Kakuta understands that Higai has said it will cost a large sum. He states with some confidence that even if the government were to take the fingerprints of the entirely of nationals, that because indexing and so forth can now be done very scientifically without much effort, he is not worried that the amount will be so much. And by implementing a National Fingerprint Law and taking the fingerprints of the entire body of nationals, he thinks it will then be possible to investigate crimes extremely quickly, and extremely accurately. But Higai is saying it will be difficult, costing a lot. So he asks how much he thinks it will cost.

斎藤説明員   私は確かな数字は記憶はいたしませんが、相当莫大な費用がいると考えております。最初全部の國民についてとることになりますると、指紋原紙だけでも非常なものがいる。これを整理する職員も必要だし、あとは生れて來る子供に対して指紋をとることだけでありますから、大したことありませんが、私は二百億以上いるだろうと考えております。

Explainer Saito   I don't remember the exact figures, but I am thinking that a rather huge expenditure will be needed. With respect to first taking the fingerprints of all nationals, the fingerprint master cards alone, a great number will be needed. Personnel to organize them will also be needed, and after that, because we'll just be taking prints from children born later, it won't be a big thing, but I am thinking it will be 20 billion or more.


August 1949 hearing on scientific investigation of crime
Fingerprinting 80 million people would cost 30 billion yen
Training 40,000 technicians would take half a year
Controversy over forensic autopsy of Shimoyama Sadanori
Witness Furuhata Tanemoto was the pathologist who performed a forensic autopsy on the body involved in the Shimoyama Incident. He and Tsukamoto Hisaichi, the head of the Identification Section of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, and a couple of MPB ID section specialists, testify about all manner of forensic issues.

Some of their their testimony goes into the evidence that has been collected in the Shimoyama investigation -- including Shimoyama's fingerprints. The discussion of fingerprinting turns to logistic and budgetary considerations.

Komiya Kyosuke, another forensic pathologist, estimates that it would cost 30 billion yen to fingerprint 80 million nationals. The operation would require 40,000 technicians, who would need half a year of training.

[ 衆議院 ] 法務委員会 第35号

5th Session of National Diet
[ House of Representatives ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 35
30 August 1949 (Tuesday) Convened 10:56 AM


委員長 花村 四郎君
理事 角田 幸吉君
理事 小玉 治行君
理事 梨木 作次郎君
理事 吉田  安君
理事 三木 武夫君
鹿野 彦吉君
佐瀬 昌三君
牧野 寛索君
眞鍋  勝君
猪俣 浩三君
林  百郎君
世耕 弘一君


荻野 隆司君

中舘 久平君

古畑 種基君

小宮 喬介君

塚本 久一君

專門員 村  教三君
專門員 小木 貞一君

Attending committee members

Hanamura Shirō (1891-1963), chairperson Liberal Party, House of Representatives. Attorney, politician. Minister of Justice in 1954 and 1955 in 1st and 2nd cabinets of Hatoyama Ichiro.

Kakuta Kōkichi, board member
Liberal Party, House of Representatives

Nashinoki Sakujirō, board member
Communist Party, House of Representatives

Sekō Kōichi (1893-1965), member
Liberal Party, House of Representatives. Educator, politician. Introduced National Fingerprint Law petition in December 1950 meeting (see below).

Persons attending other than committee members

Nakadate Kyūhei, professor, Keio Gijuku Univeristy Department of Medicine, witness

Furuhata Tanemoto (1891-1975), professor, Tokyo Univeristy Department of Medicine, witness
Forensic pathologist from Mie prefecture. Made major contributions to ABO bloodtype research. Once head of National Research Institute of Police Science (科学警察研究所 Kagaku Keisatsu Kenkyujo). Directed autopsy on Shimoyama Sadanori (1901-1949), first president of Japan National Railways (Japan Railway Corporation), as reformed after World War II, when his dismembered body was found by train tracks shortly after midnight of 6 July 1949 (the official date of his death is 6 July). Furuhata concluded, at the time, that Shimoyama was a victim of homicide. However, some other forensic pathologists -- including Nakadate Kyuhei and Komima Kyosuke, who also testified at this hearing -- maintained that Shimoyama was alive when his body was dismembered. In this meeting of the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Furuhata acknowledged that he could not deny the possibility of suicide. The statute of limitations ran out in 1964, the question of homicide or suicide still unanswered.

Komiya Kyōsuke, former professor of Nagoya Medical College, witness

Tsukamoto Hisaichi [Hisakazu], Chief, Indentification Section, Criminal Affairs Division, Metropolitan Police Board, witness

[ 省略 ]



[ Omitted. ]

Business submitted to today's meeting

Matters concerning scientific investigation of crime in [relation to] prosecutorial administration

梨木委員   それから下山総裁の場合に、指紋というものはとられたわけでしよう。

Committee member Nashimoto   And in the case of President [of Japan National Railway] Shimoyama, the things called fingerprints, were probably taken?

古畑參考人   とりました。

Witness Furubatake   [We] took them.

梨木委員   あれは大体下山さんということは、あなたの方では断定されているんですか。それはどういうことですか。

Committee member Nashimoto   That they are generally Mr. Shimoyama's, by you, it was concluded? What do you say about that?

古畑參考人   これは非常にいい御質問だと思うのでありますが、死体を見た場合に、それがだれだれかということをきめます。普通私どもの方ではそこまでやりません。警察からだれそれの死体として持つて來ます。それを最初から信用して取扱つております。だれかわからぬ場合には本人かどうかということをきめなくちやならぬ。つまり特徴を調べなければならぬ。つまりその人の入歯がどういうふうになつているとか、出ツ歯になつているとか、あるいは切れた入れ墨の跡があるとか、あるいは燒痕があるとか、あるいはほくろがどつかにあるとかいうような、その人の持つている特徴を調べる。そのほかに、一番いいのは指紋を調べる。そのほかに、一番いいのは指紋を調べる。本件の場合にも、桑島博士はすぐ指紋をとろうと申しまして、指紋をとつたのでありますが、下山総裁の指紋というのはとられてなかつたようなんですね。だからして、死体の指紋はとりましたけれども、総裁の指紋が残つておりませんから、対照することができない。それで捜査当局の方では、たぶん鑑識課の方でお調べになつたかと思いますが、引出しなんかを調べまして、その中にある指紋のつきそうなものを、その中から指紋を檢出いたしまして、総裁の指紋であろうというようなものを見て、それと照らし合せて見たように思つております。この点は私がやつたのではございませんから、確かでありません。この点から國民の指紋をとつておくということが、こういう問題の場合に非常に必要だ。國民の指紋登録をしなければならぬ。会社なら会社、学校ならば学校で指紋をとつておけば、その人の移動を知る場合には非常に役に立つ。こういうことも委員会として取上げるようにひとつお願いたします。

Witness Furuhata   I think this is a very good question, but in the event where we have looked at a body, [we] determine who it is. Ordinarily we ourselves don't do that far. The police [bring the body to us] as the body of so-and-so. We deal with [the body] trusting that [i.e., the received identity] from the start. In the event that [we] do not know who it is, [we] have to decide whether or not it is the person [the police think it is]. That is [we] have to examine traits. That is [we] examine traits the person has, like what the person's dentures are like, if there are protruding teeth, or if there are scars of a removed tattoo, or if there are burn scars, or if there are moles somewhere. Other than these, what is best, [we] examine fingerprints. Other than these, what is best, [we] examine fingerprints. [This line is repeated in received text.] In the event [case] of the present incident, Dr. [hakase] Kuwashima told us to immediatly take fingerprints [of the body], and we took fingerprints, but it seems that fingerprints of President Shimoyama had not been taken. And so, though [we] took fingerprints of the body, because fingerprints of the president did not remain [exist], [we] are not able to match [the prints we took with known prints]. Then I think [the prints were examined] by the invesitgative authority, probably by the Identification Section, they examined drawers, things in them that fingerprints would likely be on, and extracted finterprints from them, and looked at those that seemed to probably be the fingerprints of the president, and I believe they tried to match [the prints collected from the corpose] with them. As for this point, because [it] is not something I did, [I am] not certain. From this point, taking [and preserving] fingerprints of nationals, is very necessary in the event of such a problem. [We] must do fingerprint registration of nationals. If we take fingerprints at companies if compnaies, schools if schools, then [at] companies, if schools then at schools, [this will be very useful in the event of knowing the movements of those people. of knowing of useful like this. This matter too I would make a request that [you] as a committee take up.

梨木委員   指紋の点はそれでわかりましたが、ほかにからだの特徴をお調べになつて、家族その他がおつしやることを対象としは判定されたようなところがございますか。

Committee member Nashimoto   As for the point of fingerprints, with that I have understood, but . . . [launches into questions about other physical traits that could be used to decide someone's identity.]

[ Omitted long section on forensic investigation, including fingerprinting. ]

花村委員長   何か御質疑はありませんか――角田君。

Committee chair Hanamura   Are there any questions? -- Mr. Kakuta.

角田委員   もし國民指紋法というものでも実施することにして、およそ五千万人くらいの指紋をとるといたしましたならば、あなたの御経驗によると、大ざつぱにどのくらいの予算が必要でありましようか。

Committee member Kakuta   If something called a National Fingerprint Law were implemented, and the fingerprints of some 50 million people were to be taken, according to your experience, roughly how much of a budget would be needed?

塚本參考人   それは私よりも小宮先生の方が研究されております。私まだ鑑識課長としての経驗が浅いのですが……。

Witness Tsukamoto   Dr. Komiya has studied that more than I have. My experience as Identification Section Chief is shallow . . . .

角田委員   もう一点、それじや五千万人の人の指紋をとつて、これを整理して、いろいろな申込みに應ずるといたしましたならば、どのくらいの職員でこれを運営して行くことができましようか。

Committee member Kakuta   One more point, okay, if you were to responde to various requests -- take fingerprints of 50 million people, organize them -- with how many workers could you carry this out?

塚本參考人   今私のところで國警の鑑識課の方へ應援にやつているのですが、最初のとりつぱなしの指紋を分類するのに、成績のいい者で八十枚、馴れない者は一生懸命やつて三十枚分類ができます。

Witness Tsukamoto   Now where I am we [at the Metropolitan Police Indentification Section] are giving assistance to the identification section of the National Police, but to classify fingerprints first taken and nothing else done with them, a person with good achievement could do eighty, an inexperienced working hard could do thirty classifications.

角田委員   一旦整理ができ上つた後に分類して行くには、どれだけの職員があつたらいいものでしようか。

Committee member Kakuta   To classify them after they are once organized, how many workers should there be?

塚本參考人   ちよつとわかりません。

Witness Tsukamoto   I'm don't quite know.

角田委員   委員長、この機会にお許しを得て小宮氏から伺いたいと思います。

Committee member Kakuta   Committee chair, at this time with your permission, I would like to hear from Mr. Komiya.

The above statement is repeated in the received government database version -- possibly an error which resulted in the dropping of a response from committee chair Hanamura Shiro.

小宮參考人   指紋の國民登録についてかつて計算してみたのですが、まず八千万人あるといたしましたならば、大体いつとるか、一ぺんにやるか、何年かかつてとるか、瞬間にやると大体三百億費用がいります。人員は指紋の技術者を大体四万人、それを養成するのに半年かかります。

Witness Komiya   I once attempted to calculate about national registration of fingerprints, and if you assume there are 80 million people -- generally when to take [their prints], to take [them] all at once, to take [them] over several years -- [but] if you do them instantly generally an outlay of 30 billion yen would be needed. As for personnel, generally 40,000 fingerprint technicians, and it would take half a year to train them.

角田委員   四万人というのは……。

Committee member Kakuta   40,000 persons you say . . .

小宮參考人   指紋をとつて分類するのに四万人。ただしろうとがとつた指紋では、指の形をとるだけであとで役に立ちません。

Witness Komiya   40,000 persons to take and classify the fingerprints. Fingerprints that merely an amateur has taken, just taking the form of a finger would later serve no purpose.

世耕委員   下山事件についてのお尋ねでございますが、新聞で報道されるところによりますと、檢察廳の方では他殺説をとつて、警視廳は自殺説をとつているというふうに聞いておるのであります。この点はいかがですか。

Committee member Seko   I would like to inquire about the Shimoyama Incident, and according to where it has been reported in newspapers, [I have heard to the effect that the Public Procuratorial Office [Prosecutor's Office] is taking a homicide view, and the Metropolitan Police Board is taking a suicide view. What about this point?

塚本參考人   そういうことはないと思います。警視廳としましては、眞実発見を目安としてやつておるのでありまして、その説は私どもの方ではどつちともちよつと言えないと思います。

Witness Tsukamoto   I don't think that is the case. Regarding the Metropolital Police Board, [we] make our aim truth discovery, and as for those views I think we cannot say which.

世耕委員   新聞はそうでたらめを書くということはないと思うのであります。ある新聞のごときは、自殺説を固持して今日も報道されている事実があるのです。それには何か根拠がなければならぬと思います。もしこれがかりに自殺であるとするならば、この際そういう眞相を早く発表して、まだ根拠がなければないようなことを國民に與えるということが、一番けつこうなことではないかと思います。その点について特に申し上げたいことは、先ほど古畑教授その他から御説を承つてみましても、科学的捜査の立場から見るというと、自殺説が次第に濃厚のような感があるのであります。もし自殺説、他殺説両説あるとすれば、自殺説の根拠ですみやかに解決し得る何か警視廳の動きがなくちやならぬと思うのであります。卑近な例を申しますと、遺言状を発見したとか、あるいは他の関係において全然自殺ということは否定しなければならぬという結論、これは犯罪捜査の面から秘密にする必要はないと思います。むしろ自殺の出て來たという径路を明らかにして、もつて國民の不安を一掃するということは、この際の警視廳のとるべき態度ではないか。あるいは警視廳ばかりでなく、檢察廳としてもとるべき態度でないかと思います。この点について御見解はいかがですか。

Committee member Seko   That newspapers write nonsense that way I think does not exist. As in a certain newspaper, [the Metropolitan Police Board] holds fast to a suicide view and there is the fact that today too [this] is reported. In that I think there must be some grounds. I would think wouldn't it be best that, if this is provisionally held to be suicide, [then] at this time quickly announce such a truth [real state], and if yet there are no grounds [then] convey to nationals [the nation] that there are none. What I want to say in particular about that point, is that although [I] have tried to understand the views from Professor Furuhata and others earlier, when [I] view [the evidence] from the standpoint of scientific investigation, the suicide view gradually has thicker feeling [about it]. If one is to hold both views, the suicide view and the homicide view, I would think there would have to be some movement of the Metropolitan Police Board that would enable [it] to quickly resolve [the matter] on the grounds of the suicide view. To cite a familar example, [you] discovered a will, or [came to] the conclusion that in another connection the matter of suicide has to be completely denied, I would I think there is no need that [you] keep this secret from the aspect of criminal investigation. Rather, isn't clarifying the route by which the [judgment of] suicide came out, thereby sweeping away the anxiety of nationals [the nation], be th attitude that the Metrolitan Police Board ought to be aking at this time? Or I think not just the Metropolitan Police Board, but the attitude the Public Procuratorial Office [Prosecutor's Office] also should be taking?

塚本參考人   私としましては、捜査課長もおりますし、きようは私も前にお断りした通り、ちよつとお答えいたしかねるのであります。

Witness Tsukamoto   With respect to me, there is also an Investigation Section chief, and today as I declined before, [your question] is one that I am not able to answer.

梨木委員   この下山事件が起りましてから、あなたの方は、捜査当局の方からどういうような協力を求められたのですか。

Committee member Nashimoto   Since this Shimoyama Incident occured, what kind of cooperation has been sought of you from the investigative autority?

塚本參考人   あらゆる面で協力というのではなく、ほとんど一緒になつてやつておるわけです。

Witness Tsukamoto   In all aspects it not that we cooperate, but we do practically everything together.

梨木委員   ほとんど一緒にやつて、法医学的解剖というか、これはあなたの方が直接やられたのではないのですか。

Committee member Nashimoto   [You] do practically everything together, the forensic autopsy is it called, isn't that something you did directly?

塚本參考人   これは東大の方でやつております。

Witness Tsukamoto   It was done at Tokyo University.

梨木委員   あなたの方は立ち会われましたか、その解剖に……。

Committee member Nashimoto   Did your side witness [it]?, the autopsy . . . .

塚本參考人   それは立ち会つております。

Witness Tsukamoto   As for that [we] witness [autopsies].


Committee member Nashimoto   And as for [your] opinion with regards to the results of the autopsy as the Investigation Section at that time, what has it become?

塚本參考人   それは、今まだ私の方は捜査中なんでありますから、それだけにお答えがちよつといたしかねるのであります。

Witness Tsukamoto   As for that, because now still on my side [the incident] is under investigation, for that alone [your question] is one that I am not able to answer.


September 1949 hearings on National Fingerprint Law
Tanaka Eiichi's testimony on Shimoyama Sadanori's fingerprints

[ 衆議院 ] 法務委員会 第36号

5th Session of National Diet
[ House of Representatives ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 36
20 September 1949 (Tuesday) Convened 10:54 AM


委員長 花村 四郎君
理事 角田 幸吉君
理事 田嶋 好文君
理事 中曽根康弘君
理事 梨木作次郎君
理事 三木 武夫君
押谷 富三君
鍛冶 良作君
佐瀬 昌三君
眞鍋  勝君
武藤 嘉一君
猪俣 浩三君
林  百郎君
世耕 弘一君


武藤 文雄君

小倉 謙君

金谷 信孝君

刑政長官 佐藤 藤佐君

佐藤 博君

馬場 義續君

山内 繁雄君

田中 榮一君

坂本 智元君

辻 二郎君

專門員 村  教三君
專門員 小木 貞一君

Attending committee members

Hanamura Shirō (1891-1963), chairperson
Liberal Party, House of Representatives. Attorney, politician. Minister of Justice in 1954 and 1955 in 1st and 2nd cabinets of Hatoyama Ichiro.

Kakuta Kōkichi, board member
Liberal Party, House of Representatives

Persons attending other than committee members

Mutō Fumio, Director, Criminal Matters [Investigation] Department, National Rural Police Headquarters Criminal Matters Division Director

Ogura Ken (1911-1977), Chief, Investigation Section, National Rural Police Headequarters. Police bureaucrat. Superintendent-General of Metropolitan Police Department from 19 September 1958 to about 24 February 1961.

Kaneya Nobutaka, Chief of Police, Tokyo Prefecture Headquarters, National Rural Police

Satō Tōsuke (d1985), Criminal Administration Assistant to the Attorney General. Sato is best known for the fact that the graphic representation of his name is a palindrome. The same graphic representation is also read Sato Fujisa. The Attorney General's Office was the GHQ/SCAP version of what had been, and soon after the Occupation reverted to being, the Ministry of Justice. Sato's post was equivalent to the present Director-General of Criminal Affairs Bureau (刑事局) in the present Ministry of Justice (法務省). Sato was the Prosecutor General (検事総長) of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office (最高検察庁) from 14 July 1950 to 23 July 1957.

Satō Hiroshi, Superintending [Chief] Procurator [Prosecutor], Tokyo High Public Procurator's Office

Baba Yoshitsugu (1902-1977), Deputy Superintending Procurator, Tokyo District Public Procurator's Office. Later Chief Prosecutor (Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office), then Prosecutor General (Supreme Public Prosecutors Office) from 8 January 1964 to 2 November 1967.

Yamauchi Shigeo, Procurator, Tokyo District Public Procurator's Office

Tanaka Eiichi (1901-1980), Superintendant- General, Metropolitan Police Board, witness
Tokyo born, entered Ministry of Home Affairs in 1927 after graduating in political science from Tokyo Imperial University. Became first S-G of MPB as part of restructured police system in 1948. Elected to six successive terms in House of Representatives after leaving S-G post in 1954 when, again, the police system was restructured. Promoted the National Fingerprint Law by staging a press conference in which he gave his own fingerprints (see below).

Sakamoto Tomomoto (c1910-2006), Director, Criminal Investigation Division, Metropolitan Police Board, witness. Chief investigator in Shimoyama incident.

Tsuji Jirō, Chairperson, National Public Safety Commission, witness. Later director of Scientific Studies Institute.

[ 省略 ]



[ Omitted. ]

Business submitted to today's meeting

Matters concerning criminal investigation of crimes concerning the Teigin, Shimoyama, Mitaka, Fukushima [Matsukawa] and other incidents

花村委員長   質疑の通告がありますので、順次これを許します。角田幸吉君。

Committee chairperson Hanamura   As there are notifications of questions, I shall permit them in order. Mr. Kakuta Kokichi.

角田委員   まず最初に田中警視総監にお尋ねを申し上げたいと思うのであります。時間の都合がありますので、きわめて簡單に要点だけをお尋ね申し上げたいと存じます。



Committee member Kakuta

[ Paraphrase ]

Kakuta prefaces two general questions with a query about the use of recent scientific methods in the investigation of the Shimoyama Incident.

The first general question concerns the use of scientific methods of investigation in tracing Shimoyama's movements from the Mitsukoshi department store where he had last been seen, to the place where his dismembered body was found.

The second general question concerns the homicide versus suicide interpretations of the results of the forensic autopsy, and identification issues such as the ears of barley found in Shimoyama's pockets, blood stains and their blood types, fingerprints of the body, and estimates of time elapsed since death.

田中参考人   それでは私からお答え申し上げます。まず下山事件につきまして近代科学をどの程度までに応用したかというお尋ねでございます。この下山事件に関しまして、特に科学的機具あるいは設備を利用したということはございません。従来あり得る設備を利用いたしまして、捜査に従事いたしております。






Witness Tanaka   All right, I will reply. First, the question as to what extent recent science has been applied to the Shimoyama Incident. Concerning this Shimoyama Incident, [we] have not in particular used scientific implements or equipment. [We] have attended to the investigation, using hitherto available equipment.

[ Paraphrase ] Concerning movements at Mitsukoshi, nothing definite has yet been found, either in the form of scientific evidence like a foot print, material evidence like a lighter, or testimonies from eye witnesses as a result of on-foot canvassing by detectives.

[ Paraphrase ] Concerning autopsy of body as to whether there were signs of vital reactions -- Tokyo University Furuhata hakase is the appropriate person to reply. From what Tanaka has heard, he understands there were no vital reactions, but since body autopsies are outside his speciality, saying more would risk making a mistake, so he cannot reply to the question.

[ Paraphrase ] Concerning whether there were ears of barley in Shimoyama's pockets -- ears of barley found, probably from embankment at scene of incident but not yet certain.

After that [I] will speak about the fingerprints of the body. As for this, I think a very good thing became a question, and to confirm that the body is or is not the body of Shimoyama, of course people close to him came, and [we] examined traits regarding parts that remained of the same person, and the Metropolitan Police Board, in the Identification Section, immediately took Mr. Shimoyama's fingerprints. Making Mr. Shimoyama's fingerprints evidence, the result of having conducted various studies of whether there wasn't something that would appear in some possession of Mr. Shimoyama, in a drawer of the [National Railways] presidential office is a bottle of gasoline that goes into lighter. [We] took out this bottle, and examined the fingerprints on this bottle, and fingerprints from an index finger and one other finger from somewhere, two clearly appeared, and they were clearly identical to the fingerprints of Mr. Shimoyama's body. [This] is the reason that the matter of this being Mr. Shimoyama's body was able to be so-called scientifically substantiated. Of course in addition various people close [to him], said that there was no mistake [it] is Mr. Shimoyama.

[ Paraphrase ] Concerning measurement of time that elapsed after death -- I am not not expert, hence I cannot reply to question.


November 1950 Judicial Affairs Committee meeting
Examination of National Fingerprint Law petition delegated to committee

[ 衆議院 ] 法務委員会 第2号

9th Session of National Diet
[ House of Representatives ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 2
30 November 1950 (Thursday) Convened 1:44 PM


[ 省略 ]



[ 省略 ]

[ 省略 ]


[ 省略 ]

29 November

[ Omitted. ]

28 of same month

The examination of [the following petitions]
has been delegated to this committee.

Petition for establishment of National Fingerprint Law
(Sekō Kōichi introduction) (No. 32)

[ Two other petitions omitted ]

Business submitted to today's meeting

[ Agenda omitted. ]

Items shown above the "Business submitted to today's meeting" heading are not on the agenda but are noted for information only.

The National Fingerprint Law petition was formally introduced in December meeting (see below).


December 1950 National Fingerprint Law petition
All nationals beginning with children enrolling in elementary schools

[ 衆議院 ] 法務委員会 第8号

9th Session of National Diet
[ House of Representatives ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 8
7 December 1950 (Thursday) Convened 11:03 AM


委員長 安部 俊吾君
理事 押谷 富三君
理事 田嶋 好文君
理事 猪俣 浩三君
鍛冶 良作君
北川 定務君
佐瀬 昌三君
花村 四郎君
牧野 寛索君
眞鍋  勝君
山口 好一君
大西 正男君
石井 繁丸君
田万 廣文君
上村  進君
世耕 弘一君


法務総裁 大橋 武夫君


警察予備隊本部長官 増原 恵吉君

法務政務次官 高木 松吉君

野木 新一君


議員 田中 不破三君

最高裁判所事務総長 五鬼上 堅磐君

内藤 頼博君

鈴木 忠一君

吉田 豊君

專門員 村  教三君
專門員 小木 貞一君

Attending committee members

Abe Shungo, chariperson
Liberal Party, House of Representatives

Sekō Kōichi (1893-1965), member
Liberal Party, House of Representatives. Educator, politician. Introduced National Fingerprint Law petition in this meeting.

Attending ministers of states

Ōhashi Takei (1904-1981), Attorney General
Liberal Party, House of Representatives
AG from 28 June 1950 during third Yoshida cabinet

Attending government committee members

Takagi Matsukichi, Minister of Justice Parliamentary Vice-minister
Liberal Party, House of Representatives

Persons attending other than committee members

[ 省略 ]


[ 省略 ]



一 国民指紋法制定の請願(世耕弘一君紹介)(第三二号)

[ この請願は、この件に関連する10の請願の中の第一号請願でした。」

[ 省略 ]

[ Omitted. ]

Business submitted to today's meeting

[ Omitted. ]

Matters concerning prosecutorial administration and security within the country related to this


1. Petition for establishment of National Fingerprint Law (introduced by Sekō Kōichi) (No. 32)

[ This petition is the first of ten petitions related to these matters. ]

[ Omitted. ]

安部委員長   休憩前に引続き会議を開きます。



Abe [Shungo] committee chair   Continuing from before the recess the meeting is open.

Next we will examine the petitions.

[ Omitted briefing on procedures. ]

Okay, the first [petition] of the day is the topic for discussion. The first of the day is Petition for Establishment of National Fingerprint Law, No. 31. I request an explanation.

請願者   和歌山県新宮市新宮三十一番地   早川憙次郎

〔Researcher recites petition〕

Petition for Establishment of National Fingerprint Law

Petitioner   Wakayama prefecture, Shingū city, Shingū 31 banchi   Hayakawa Kijirō

紹介議員   世耕弘一君。   本請願の要旨は、人の指紋は、終世不変であり、万人相同じからずという科学的根拠を、指紋による個人識別法は、操作簡易、処理迅速、結果正確、経費また低廉であり、指紋は有力なる証拠となり、刑事上、民事においても裁判の結果に公正を保ち、増加せる諸種の犯罪に対し、すみやかなる検挙に役立つのみならず、指紋法を応用し、確実に犯罪捜査の根拠を科学的に立証し得ることは、一般防犯、特に青少年の防犯に精神的予防の実をあげせしめるものである。かかる理由により、全国民の指紋を強制的に採取し、これを保有して随時活用せしめるため、国民指紋法を制定されるとともに、その施行方法としては、就学期に達した児童の小学校入学時に施行し、全国民への施行はまず全学生より始められたいというのである。

Introducing committee member   Mr. Sekko Koichi.   The gist of this petition -- The fingerprints of a person, as a method of individual differentiation [identification], [having a] scientific basis in that they do not change throughout one's life, and are not homologous in ten-thousand people, operation simple, processing fast, results accurate, cost is low, and fingerprints become powerful evidence, and preserve fairness in the results of judgments, in criminal matters and also in civil matters, with respect to crimes of an increasing variety, not only are they useful in speedy apprehension, but applying fingerprinting [methods], the ability to with certainty scientifically establish foundation for criminal investigation, general crime prevention, is something that will cause to raise the fruit of spiritual prophylaxis in general crime prevention, especially crive prevention of juveniles. For these reasons, in order to compulsorily [coercively, mandatorily] take the fingerprints of all nationals, and to preserve and occassionally [as needed] utilize these, along with estblishing a National Fingerprint Law, as a method of its enforcement, it would be enforced when entering elementary school for children who reach the time to engage in studies, the enforcement toward all nationals would be desireous to be started from all students.

安部委員長 関係当局の御意見を聴取いたします。

Abe committee chair   Let us hear opinions from relevant authorities.

高木政府委員   この請願の趣旨はまことにもつともであると考えられまするが、指紋を個人識別法として取上げ、従来のように刑事政策的な面ばかりでなく、その他のすべての場合にもあわせて活用できるようにするために、広く一般国民を対象とするためには、戸籍などと同じように取扱う必要もあると考えられ、その実施の方法等については、さらに慎重に研究し、その上で関係の各方面とも協議し、将来における立法上の措置等、趣旨のあるところは十分尊重して行きたいと思いまするから、さよう御了承願います。

Takagi government committee member   The summary of this petition is truly reasonable, but taking up fingerprints as a method of individual differentiation, in order to make it possible to utilize [fingerprints] in sync with, not only as hitherto in criminal matters policy aspects, but also in all other events [situations], in order to broadly make general nationals its object, it is thought that there will also be a need to treat [fingerprinting] the same as family registration and the like, and with respect to methods of its implementation and so forth, [it must be] studied more carefully [prudently], and in addition [we must] consult with all quarters of relevance [all concerned parties], because [we] wish to procede with sufficient care [prudence], with respect to statutory measures and so forth in the future, and where [pointed it is found] in the summary, [we] thus ask [everyone's] understanding.


Tokyo police chief first to give fingerprints

Tanaka Eiichi (left), Superintendent-General,
Tokyo Metropolitan Police Board, fingerprint
taking number one. MPB Identification Section
implements fingerprinting of all prefectural
residents for crime investigation and crime-
prevention material. (10 January 1946,
MPB Superintendent-General's office)

Picture scanned and caption translated from
Takahara 1975, page 199 (see Sources below)

In 1950 and 1951, a number of police organizations throughout Japan promoted fingerprinting. The most significant publicity was this photograph, run in Mainichi Shinbun on 10 January 1951 and in other newspapers, showing Tokyo Metropolitan Police Board Superintendent-General Tanaka Eiichi (田中榮一 1901-1980) allowing his fingerprints to be taken.

The movement to introduce universal fingerprinting in Japan failed. Proposals for a law that would have required all nationals to be fingerprinted never became a bill.

However, from 1950 to 1960, fingerprints were taken from those who passed the national civil service exam, and when getting a driver license. (Tanaka 1985, page 26).

Tanaka served as MPB's Superintendent-General from 7 March 1948 to 29 June 1954 -- the only S-G during the period MPB was a local autonomous police force, its jurisdiction limited to the 23 wards of Tokyo prefecture. After his retirement from the police, Tanaka serviced in a number of government posts, including Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs (外務政務次官).


Tanaka (1985 pages 25-26, 1991 pages 80-81) summarizes the move to enact a national fingerprint law in the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives.

Tanaka also cites the Mainichi photograph published in Takahara 1975, but he dates it 10 January 1950. I have not checked issues of the newspaper to determine which year is correct -- 1950 or 1951. Given the movements in the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, 1951 is more likely.

Takahara 1975

高原富保 (編集長) Takahara Tomiyasu (chief editor)
一億人の昭和史 ⑤ 占領から講和へ 昭和21年〜27年
Ichiokunin no Shōwa shi: 5. Senryō kara kōwa e (Shōwa 21 nen - 27 nen)
[Shōwa history of 100 million people: 5. From Occupation to reconciliation (1946-1952)]
東京:毎日新聞社 Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha
第一巻、第四号、通巻第四号 Volume 1, Number 4, Issue 4
昭和五十年十一月一日 1 November 1975

Tanaka 1985

田中宏 Tanaka Hiroshi
世界でも得意な%本の制度 Sekai demo "tokui-na" Nihon no seido
[Peculiar-in-the-world (fingerprinting) system of Japan]
Pages 24-35
民族差別と闘う関東交流集会実行委員会 (編)
[Kanto liaison rally action committee to fight racioethnic discrimintion (editor)]
Shimon ōnatsu kyohisha e no "kyōhakujō" o yomu
[Reading "threat letters" to fingerprinting refusers]
東京:明石書店、1985 (第1刷;第4刷 1986 )
Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, 1985 (4th printing; 1st printing 1985)
120 pages, papercover

Tanaka 1991

田中宏 Tanaka Hiroshi
Zainichi gaikokujin: Hō no kabe, kokoro no mizo
[Aliens in Japan: Walls of the law, ditches of the heart]
Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1991
228 pages, softcover (新書)
[1995 new edition (新版), 252 pages]


December 1952 National Fingerprint Law hearings
Petition examined in House of Councillors Judicial Affairs Committee

[ 参議院 ] 法務委員会 第7号

15th Session of National Diet
[ House of Councillors ] Judicial Affairs Committee No. 7
22 December 1952 (Monday) Convened 2 PM


Persons attending as to left [as follows]

委員長 岡部 常君

Committee chairperson, Mr. Okabe Tsune

理事 [committee board members]

長谷山 行毅君
鬼丸 義齊君

委員 [committee members]

郡 祐一君
中山 福藏君
齋 武雄君

政府委員 [government members]

法務政務次官 押谷 富三君
法務大臣官房調査課長 位野木 益雄君
法務省保護局長 齋藤 三郎君
法務省人権擁護局長 戸田 正直君

事務局側 [Administation office side]

Permanent [standing] committee member specialists

常任委員会専門員 西村 高兄君
常任委員会専門員 堀 眞道君

説明員 [Explainers]

Supreme Court Chief Justice representatives

最高裁判所長官代理者(事務総長)五鬼上 堅磐君
最高裁判所長官代理者(事務総局総務局第一課長)桑原 正憲君
最高裁判所長官代理者(事務総局人事局長)鈴木 忠一君
最高裁判所長官代理者(事務総局人事局給与課長)守田 直君


Business submitted to today's meeting

Petition concerning establishment of National Fingerprint Law (No. 1071)

No trace of National Fingerprint Law petition in minutes

Two years after the National Fingerprint Law petition is introduced in the Judicial Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, it appears on the agenda of the counterpart committee of the House of Councillors.

The received minutes of this meeting are brief because the stenographer was ordered to stop recording while the petitions and claims were being examined. Recording is resumed when the government's views are heard.

However, there is no mention the National Fingerprint Law petition, which appears to die with this meeting.

First break in transcript

委員長(岡部常君) それでは質疑を終りまして、次に請願、陳情の審査に入ります。速記を止めて。

Committee chairperson (Mr. Okabe Tsune)   All right, [we] end the questions, and next [we] will enter the examination of petitions and appeals. Stop recording.


〔 recording stops 〕

委員長(岡部常君) 速記を始めて。只今専門員より説明がございました戦犯者関係の請願、陳情につきまして、政府の所見を聴取いたします。

Committee chairperson (Mr. Okabe Tsune)   Start recording. Concerning the petitions and appeals related to war criminals about which just now there were explanations from specialist members, [we] will hear the views of the government.

Second break in transcript

委員長(岡部常君) ちよつと速記を止めて。

Committee chairman (Mr. Okabe Tsune)   Okay, stop the recording.


Recording halts at 2:40 PM
Recording begins at 3:40 PM

委員長(岡部常君) 速記を始めて。

Committee chairman (Mr. Okabe Tsune)   Start recording.
[The meeting] today is hereby adjourned.


Adjournment 3:41 PM


Climate of law enforcement during the Occupation

The movement to fingerprint all nationals makes sense in light of the social issues that emerged during the military occupation from 1945 to 1952.

The occupation, dominated by the United States, was a complex operation that began with a maximum of ambition on the part of American reformists and ended with a minimum of damage to the institutions of social organization that continue to make Japan the legally well-organized country it had become by the end of the 19th century.

With the exception of ending imperialism and introducing a new variety of democracy and more egalitarian principles into the mainstream of life -- which were not, in the first place, American ideas -- the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers pretty much left the running of the country, and the determination of its future, to its own nationals.

Japan was a huge country, with a huge population that swelled by millions of repatriates from territories outside the prefectures that had become part of Japan or been occupied by Japan over the course of half a century, including the brief but very violent Pacific War. The victors had no choice but to rely upon established institutions to faciliate reconstruction as leaders of Japan and the Allied Powers negotiated a peace settlement.

From a law enforcement point of view, the most important of these institutions was the police. SCAP imposed many changes on the justice system, and on police organization, between 2 September 1945 and 28 April 1952, when Japan's sovereignty was suspended. Many of these changes were experimental in the sense that they were undertaken with the awareness that adjustments would have to be made if they failed to work.

The reorganization of police, implemented in 1948 on the basis of recommendations by American experts, didn't work. In 1954 the police were again reorganized, this time along lines that made more sense in terms of the prefectural organization of Japan's municipal polities.


Occupation crime trends

Overall arrests sharply fell in the prefectures after the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. There were fewer than 1,000 homicides in 1945, down from nearly 2,500 in 1936. By 1950, police made nearly 2,900 homicide arrests.

Overall arrests peaked in 1948 and 1949. However, the peak reflects mostly the rise and fall of cases of theft and other property crimes related to economic conditions, such as inflation and unemployment, during the first years of the Allied Occupation.

Though property crimes fell almost as rapidly as they they had risen, homicides continued to rise -- from 1,938 in 1947 to 2,495 in 1948, 2,716 in 1949, and 2,892 in 1950 -- compared with 2,491 in 1936 and 919 in 1945. Rapes, also, continued to rise, from 863 in 1947 to 3,558 in 1950 -- compared with 1,548 in 1936 and 650 in 1945.

There are numerous issues with these figures. Incidence rates of many offenses drop in times of war for a number of reasons. Patriotism moves the general population to support the war effort, partly by improving their moral behavior. Younger males, who commit most crimes, are mobilized for military service.

Attitudes toward reporting and investigating crimes may change during a war. Such attitudes would certainly change under the new police system establishing during the Allied Occupation.

Nonetheless, the perception that crime was increasing in the late 1940s was a social fact that could not be politically ignored. Adding to the pressure to improve police efficiency was the fact that -- whereas arrests were made in about 97 percent of crimes reported in the mid 1930s, the arrest rate fell to a low of 50 percent in 1947, after which it edged up to 67 percent in 1950.

The political pressure to improve arrest rates favored the incorporation of state-of-the-art police science. Crime investigators sought the impletmentation of any investigative tool -- the more scientific the better -- that promised to facilitate or otherwise give them an edge in the solution of crimes.

One such method was fingerprinting. Though prison wardens and police investigators had registries of the fingerprints of convicts and people who had been investigated in connection with a crime, what the police wanted now was a registry of fingerprints for every Japanese national.


Fig four incidents

The crime wave in the late 1940s -- as real as it was perceived -- included several very sensational incidents within a period of months. An entire meeting of the House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee, convened on 20 September 1949, was devoted to the following four incidents, by name, among others.

Note that the last three of the four cases occured within six weeks of each other, involve employees of the Japanese National Railways, and appear to be related to labor disputes. Foul play was clearly behind the Matsukawa Incident, most likely behind the Mitaka Incident, and possibly behind the Shimoyama Incident.

Teigin Incident (帝銀事件)
p>26 January 1948   Twelve people die among sixteen poisoned in the course of a robbery at the Shiinamachi branch of the Teikoku Bank in Toyoshima ward of Tokyo. Hirasawa Sadamichi (平沢貞通 1892-1987), the accused and convicted, died in a prison hospital. He recanted a confession, and Endo Makoto (遠藤誠 1930-2002), one of his attorneys, continued to plea his innocence until his own death. His alleged guilt continues to be a matter of controvesy and a foil for allegations that it was the work of former members of Unit 731 of biological agent and vivisection research fame -- if not MacArthur's GHQ.

Shimoyama Incident (下山事件)
6 July 1949   The dismembered body of Shimoyama Sadanori (下山定則 1901-1949), who had just become the first president of Japanese National Railways (日本国有鉄道), was found on the tracks of the Joban line between Kitasenju and Ayase stations in Adachi ward in Tokyo shortly after midnight on the night of 5 July 1949 and the following morning. Since Shimoyama's identity was partly confirmed by fingerprints, police forensic experts cited the case as a reason Japan needed a national fingerprint registry. The forensic pathologist who autopsied the remains said homicide, but when challenged by some peers who argued suicide, he conceded that he could not rule out suicide. The case was never solved. Its statute of limitations ran out in 1964. The newly established railway corporation was plagued by union problems, and one of Shimoyama's jobs was to trim down its workforce.

Mitaka Incident (三鷹事件)

15 July 1949   A crewless runaway train left six dead and twenty injured at Mitaka station on the Chuo line in Tokyo prefecture. Ten people, all members of the National Railways Union (国鉄労働組), were indicted. The only one who was not also a member of the Communist Part, Takeuchi Keisuke (竹内景助 1921-1967), was convicted. Sentenced to life by the district court he appealed, but drew a death sentence from the high court, which the supreme court confirmed on final appeal. He died in prison, still protesting his innocence.

Fukushima Incident (福島事件)

17 August 1949   Shortly after three in the morning, in what is now more commonly called the Matsukawa Incident (松川事件), a Ueno-bound train from Aomori derails on a curve a few hundred meters from Kanayagawa heading toward Matsukawa on the Tohoku trunk line in Fukushima prefecture, killing the three crewmen in the steam locomotive. The track had been tampered with. Twenty people, railway union members, some linked with the Communist Party, are indicted. All are found guilty by the district court, which sentences five to death, five to life, and ten to shorter terms. They appeal all the way to the supreme court, which kicks the case back to the high court. The high court had ruled that seventeen of the twenty were guilty, but now, in 1961, exonerates everyone. In 1963, the supreme court rejects an appeal by the prosecutor, leaving the case unsolved.


Ideological warfare

Proponents of universal fingerprinting publicly stressed the usefulness of fingerprints in identification related to criminal investigation. The most sensational crimes, however, were not property crimes or domestic murders, but crimes that seemed to involve subversive, particularly communist elements.

A less spoken rationale for introducing a national fingerprint registry was control of subservise activities. Authorities attributed an increase in violent acts by members of labor unions, in response to layoffs in the deteriorating postwar economy, to a spread in radicalism inspired by communist revolutions in China and other countries.

The perception of deteriorating security was real. The years that spanned the postwar Occupation of Japan, from 1945 to 1952, were as turbulent and destructive for China and Korea as the periods they were partly or entirely ruled by Japan.

1945 -- Political prisoners released

Within two months after Japan's surrender on 2 September 1945, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) had freed and restored the electoral rights of hundreds of political detainees and prisoners, and ordered Japanese police to cease their surveillance of thousands of other suspected subversives.

Those freed from detention, imprisonment, and surveillance included Japanese and Korean communists and socialists, and Korean nationalists. By the end of the year, the communist party had been revivied and a socialist party had been formed. And Koreans in the prefectures, who were still Japanese nationals, had begun to organize themselves in new and old, diverse and divisive ways.

1946 -- Beginning of serious legal reform

By mid 1946, the People's Liberation Army was advancing in China. Communist movements were gaining momentum on the Korean peninsula, not only where they were welcome in the Soviet-occupied sector north of the 38th parallel but also in the US-occupied southern sector. Some Koreans, in what remained of "Japan" after SCAP redefined the country, became involved in the political intrigue.

In Japan, the first May Day celebrations in a decade were orderly, dampened a bit by rain. But there were premonitions of proletarian unrest throughout the country.

By the end of the year, a new constitution had been promulgated, and there were laws to deal with labor relations and distribution of farm land.

1947 -- Labor standards and new Constitution

1947 saw the enforcement of a labor standards act, and from 3 May a constitution that favored individual rights and decentralization of power. May Day and other labor-related demonstrations had become more aggressive. SCAP, despite its initial gestures on behalf of political detainees, was beginning to sympathize with Japanese authorities who wanted more power to control subversive activities.

War broke out between communist claimants to Vietnam and France, which was trying to regain control of the country -- a French coloney when occupied by Japan in 1940.1948 -- Watershed for advancing communism

1948 witnessed the creation of local police forces in most municipalities, and the conviction and execution of Class A war criminals at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

The US-occuped sector of the Korean peninsula south of the 38th parallel became the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the fall of 1948, and a month later the Soviet-occupied northern sector became the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) -- a communist government. The family registers of the vast majority of the the roughly 600,000 thousand Koreans in the prefectures -- still Japanese though treated as aliens for alien registration and migration purposes -- were in ROK, but as many as half supported DPRK.

1949 -- Shift from social to economic reform

1949 was both a good year and bad year for proletarianists. The Japanese National Railway Law (日本国有鉄道法) -- Law No. 256 of 20 December 1948 -- came into force from 1 June. The law revamped the Japanese Government Raiways, which had been run by various ministries, into a public corporation.

The law authorized collective bargaining between railway employees and the management. It also made the management accountable for JNR's operations, which were plagued by huge deficits, and a bloated workforce that constituted Japan's largest and arguably most radical labor union.

Japan was facing a serious depression and budgets were tight. Not only had employees of destroyed factories and other facilities lost their jobs, but there were no jobs for the millions of soldiers and civilians who had been repatriated to the prefectures from China, Korea, and Southeast Asian countries which Japan had invaded and occupied.

Even civil servants were losing their jobs as public agencies were abolished or heavily reduced in the process of revamping the government. Shimoyama Sadanori, appointed the first president of JNR on 1 June, was expected to cut over one-hundred-thousand jobs within weeks, and more would have to go.

Had he lived to the end of August, he would have heard that the Soviet Union had tested its first atomic bomb. Had he lived to the start of October, he would have heard that the Communist Party in China had founded the People's Republic of China, while the People's Liberation Army was driving the remnants of the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan.

1950 -- Korean War and Red Purge

In February 1950, Joseph McCarthy had made his speech about the need to combat communism and publicized his black list of alleged communists in and publicized his black list of over two-hundred State Department officials he claimed were members of the Communist Party. By March the term "McCarthyism" had been coined.

In May the Japanese Communist Party purged its own members. Many companies and organizations purged their

The Korean War -- which pitched communist states against non-communist states -- broke out in June.

By July, MacArthur was authorizing Japanese government to suspend publication of Akahata [Redflag], the organ of the Japanese Communist Party. The Red Purge, which had actually begun in 1948 when agitators found themselves the first to be laid off in labor cutbacks, now became a political priority. By the end of the year, many companies and organizations had fired known communists and sympathizers from their ranks -- simply for being communists.

1951 -- War-stimulated economic, peace treaty signed

By 1951, thanks largely to procurements for support of the war in Korea, Japan's economy had begun to recover and even thrive. That fall, a peace treaty was signed in San Francisco, signally the end to the Occupation the following year.

1952 -- Independence and Bloody May Day

The San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect from 28 April 1952. A couple of weeks earlier, a bill for the Subversive Activities Prevention Law (破壊活動防止法) had been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The first May Day of post-Occupation Japan -- held only three days after Japan regained its sovereignty -- is known as "Bloody May Day" (血のメーデー).

A few hundred thousand people took to the streets of Tokyo alone to celebrate the return of sovereignty to Japan on the first May Day after the end of the occupation. A few thousand decided to challenge the SCAP-backed 1951 ban, still in effect, on the use of the Imperial Palace Plaza for May Day activities.

Radicals called it "People's Plaza" -- a public space reclaimed from imperial rule that first postwar May Day in 1950. It was right across the street from the Daiichi Seimei building -- still occupied, but soon to be vacated, by its most famous tenant, the remnants of SCAP's General Headquarters. Allied personnel witnessed the riot from the roof of the building.

Two of the demonstrators were killed, and more than seven-hundred people were injured. Of the over one-thousand arrested, 261 were indicted. Most were charged with rioting under Article 106 of the Penal Code.

Hearings began in 1953, with six judges sitting on the Tokyo District Court bench -- twice the usual complement. Seventeen years later, the court found 93 guilty and 110 not guilty. A few others were found guilty in other related decisions.

One hundred of the guilty appealed to the Tokyo High Court, which in 1972 dismissed all Article 106 charges. The court thus found 84 not guilty, but the 16 others were ruled guilty of violent acts under other charges. There were no further appeals.

A slightly modified version of the subversive activities prevention bill passed a divided Diet, and was promulgated and came into force on 21 July 1952.


Police reform

Some people habitually speak of "the police" as a monolith this term, in one langauge or another, implies. Some people also associate the "the police" of imperial Japan, if not of Japan today, with darkness.

Police in Japan past and present, however, have been a complex institution that defies singularization. And, for the most part, they have been a helpful and otherwise constructive force in Japanese society.

Not all elements of Japan's imperial police system were benign, however, and other postwar changes in law enforcement also called for some fundamental changes in the organization and supervision of the police.

Pre-occupation police

When Japan formally surrendered in September 1945, its general police force was under the Police Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Adminstration of police in the interior -- though national, metropolitian, and prefectural -- was centralized under the imperial government.

Most units of the general police were concerned with orginary police duties from traffic control to helping old ladies and busting bicycle thieves. One unit, though, was entrusted with safeguarding the state from anti-imperial ideology and thought.

There were also military police, which operated mostly within the imperial army and navy, and in regions under military control. The best known of these were the army Kenpeitei.

Occupation police from 1945-1948

On 4 October 1945, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers abolished the Special Higher Police (特別高等警察), the censorship arm of the national police. Most other units of the national police, however, were allowed to continue their usual mission of maintaining law and order, with American military police in localities where Occupation forces were deployed.

Many reforms were made within the national police. Most began with the Metropolitan Police Board in Tokyo.

In March 1946, police uniforms were changed. The wearing of sabres (サーベル), as seen in many early postwar photographs of Japanese police, even when working with side-armed American MPs, was abolished. The same month, the Metropolitan Police Board began recruiting women. By July, MPB was training its police in the use of billyclubs (警棒), and soon all patrolmen were sporting white night sticks.

During this period, MacArthur invited two American police experts to Japan to recommend reforms. Lewis J. Valentine, former New York police commissioner, studied at metropolitan policing, and Oscar G. Olander, commissioner of the Michigan State Police, looked at rural policing. Their reports led to the reforms implemented two years later.

A 28 March 1946 Universal newsreel included this report on Valentine's visit (my transcription).

Valentine in Tokyo

-- Albert Grobe --

In Tokyo, General MacArthur welcomes a distinguished visitor from New York.

Former Police Commissioner, Lewis J. Valentine, assumes a new role -- that of streamling and modernizing Japan's police set up.

His first official act is to inspect the traffic problem.

Later he'll give crime busting the benefits of his New York tecknique.

He'll put the "nip" into Nippon.

Valentine's report of the Metropolitan Police Planning Commission, issued on 9 June, recommended the establishment of autonomous police forces under local civilian control.

The following year, Dial Press, in New York, published Night stick: The autobiography of Lewis J. Valentine.

The first major reforms of Japan's police system were implemented by the Police Law (警察法) promulgated on 17 December 1947 (Law No. 196). Another law, promulgated the same day, disbanded the the Home Affairs Ministry, and hence the Police Bureau, effective 31 December 1947.

The new Police Law, enforced from 1 March 1948, established two kinds of police: the National Rural Police (国家地方警察) to deal with policing in small communities, and the Local Autonomous Police (自治体警察), to be set up in larger cities, towns, and villages.

As its Japanese name implies, the National Rural Police, or simply National Police (國警), were actually a "State Police" and are sometimes referred to as such in English literature. The Local Autonomous Police, as their Japanese name implies, were the police of "autonomous bodies" -- meaning city, town, and village entities -- hence sometimes called "Municipal Police" (市町村警察).

The National Rural Police were supervised by the National Public Safety Commission (国家公安委員会) -- literally "state public security committee" -- which was overseen by the Cabinet. The National Rural Police Headquarters was headed by a Director-General and included a General Affairs Division, Police Affairs Division, Criminal Investigation Division, and a Police College. Each prefecture also had Public Safety Commission. The prefectures were grouped into six Police Regions, and each region had a headquarters, under a director, and police school.

The Local Autonomous Police were supervised by the Local Public Safety Commission of their respective city, town, or village (市町村公安委員会). Certain matters, such as oaths, education and training, and uniforms and other formanlities, were subject to some degree of regulation by the National Public Security Commission. Otherwise, a municipal police force was entirely subject to the control of its own public security commission, under the direction of a city mayor or town or village headman.

Until the new law came into effect, the Metropolitan Police Board, established in 1874, had overseen policing throughout Tokyo prefecture (東京府), including Tokyo city (東京市). MPB continued to be in charge of policing in the greater Tokyo area in 1943 when the entity of Tokyo city -- which then consisted of 35 wards -- was abolished and Tokyo prefecture was redesignated as a capital prefecture (東京都).

In 1947, Tokyo's 35 wards were reduced to 22 wards, then one of these wards was split into two, hence the 23 wards of the present-day metropolis of Tokyo. Under the new Police Law, such wards were to take collective responsibility for policing within the wards -- meaning that the 23 wards would have a single local autonomous police force. Accordingly, MPB's prefectural juridstiction was reduced to the municipal jurisdiction of what had once been called the city of Tokyo.

As such, MPB became a local autonomous police organization within the larger prefectural entity that included other muninicpal police as well as National Rural Police. However, MPB continued to headed by a Superintendent-General appointed by the national government.

A local autonomous police force could request assistance of national police. But there were no command channels between national and municipal police forces. Jurisdictions were jurisdictions.

The Police Law of 1947, implemented from 1948, also provided for criminal statistics and criminal identification. Chiefs of Police of municipal (市町村 shichoson) police, through Chiefs of Police of prefectural (都道府県 todōfuken) police, were to submit to the Director-General of the Headquarters of the National Rural Police their reports of criminal statistics and criminal identification reports (evidence, photographs, fingerprints, physical descritpion and criminal characteristics of suspects and arrested individuals).

Facilities for criminal identification were established in both the headquarters of the National Rural Police, and in the headquarters of the prefectural National Rural Police.

Post-occupation police system

The new system did not quite work, for a number reasons. Mainly, though, was the fact that many munipalities were simply not prepared to organize, finance, and oversee their own police.

In 1950, the Police Law was revised to permit municipalities with populations of 5,000 or more to consign their policing needs to the National Rural Police. By 1953 there were fewer than 150 local police forces, down from about 1,600 at the start of the local police system in 1948.

In 1954, the Police Law was again revised -- this time heavily -- by a law promulgated on 8 June 1954. Enforced from 1 July 1954, the new law merged National Rural Police forces and what remained of Local Autonomous Police forces into Prefectural Police (都道府県警察), and created a National Police Agency (警察庁) to coordinate prefectural police at a national level. NPA -- not a police force but an administrative organ -- is overseen by the National Public Safety Commission (国家公安委員会), which is under the prime minister's cabinet.

The 1954 law subsumed all local police into prefectural police, except city police of Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Kobe. These, too, were subsumed under prefectural police in 1955.

The Metropolitan Police Board of the 23-ward area of Tokyo prefecture became the Metropolitan Police Department for -- again -- the entire prefecture. Whereas the chief of a prefectural police headquarters was to be appointed by the National Public Safety Commission with the approval of the respective prefectural prefectural public safety commission, under the prefectural governor, MPD's Superintendent-General would continue to be appointed by the National Public Safety Commission with the approval of the prime minister of the cabinet. Administratively, however, MPD is overseen by the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission, and the S-G reports to the governor of Tokyo.

During all these changes, the Imperial Palace Police (皇宮警察) experienced a sort of musical chairs. It was moved from the Home Affairs Ministry to the Imperial House Agency, then in 1947 it became the Imperial Police Department (皇宮警察部) of MPB. From 1948 it became the Imperial Police Office (皇宮警察府) of the National Rural Police Headquarters (国家地方警察本部). From January 1949 it became an external organ of the National Rural Police called Imperial Guard Headquarters (皇宮警察本部). Since 1 July 1954 it has been attached to the Metropolitan Police Department.