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The 6 Most Famous Japanese Generals You Should Know About!

Most Famous Japanese Generals

Here are some of the most famous Japanese generals that have down in history and you should definitely know about! 

Not many people remember that Japan was a superpower during the first two world wars and the Imperial Army of Japan was quite an invincible army with several cadets who were determined to protect their country against any threats. 

The reason why the Imperial Army of Japan was one of the most powerful and feared forces during the world wars was due to the generals in the army who were strategic and diplomatic which ultimately aided Japan in being a fierce nation. 

Therefore, we’ve brought you some of the famous army generals in Japan who were renowned among the Japanese people.

Moreover, it’s also worth mentioning that some generals are revered as war criminals by the West, nevertheless, they were still popular among the Japanese and around the whole world as well. So keep reading to find out more about the famous Japanese generals.

Famous Japanese Generals

Tomoyuki Yamashita

Tomoyuki Yamashita or Tomobumi Yamashita was one of the renowned army generals in the Imperial Japanese Army. Yamashita was born in 1885 to a doctor in a small village in the Kochi Prefecture. 

As Yamashita grew up he joined military schools and by 1905, Yamashita graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Fast forward to 1908 Yamashita was promoted to lieutenant when he battled against the German Empire during World War I.

Yamashita was a skilled army officer hence he was able to move to Germany and become a military attache assistant in Berlin between 1919 to 1922. 

And by 1922, Yamashita was promoted to major in the army and also served at Military Affairs Bureau. 

Yamashita’s career in the Imperial Japanese Army didn’t seem to stop ending because he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1925. 

However, this was a tough year for Yamashita because he faced opposition from other segments of the army including political factions as well. 

In 1940, Yamashita was sent on a mission to Europe where he met Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. 

By the end of the Second World War, Yamashita was convicted of war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during his reign, and hence he was executed by hanging by America Military Tribunal. 

  • Date of Birth – 8th November 1885
  • Periods Served – 1905 -1945
  • Death – 23rd February 1946

Hideki Tojo 

Hideki Tojo was a famous figure in the history of Japan who was a politician, an army general in the Imperial Japanese Army, and also the Prime Minister of Japan during World War II. 

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Hideki was born to Hidenori Tojo who was a lieutenant general in the Imperial Japanese Army. Hideki was from a very respectful family as his father was from the samurai caste and his mother was the daughter of a Buddhist monk.

Tojo was stubborn as a boy who was fond of getting into brawls with other kids. He wasn’t clever at studying but was extremely hard working which helped him to join the Army Cadet School in 1899. 

Tojo had an impressive career in the army as he graduated from the school in 1902. He also served as the Japanese military attache in Germany between 1919 to 1922. 

In 1934, Hideki was promoted to major general and wanted Japan to become a totalitarian state and he wanted to retaliate against The US, Britain, and France. 

He became the Prime Minister of Japan in February 1944 and his rule ended in July 1944. 

As Japan surrendered a year later, Tojo was convicted of the army committing war crimes during his rule. And by December 1948, Tojo was sentenced to death by hanging.

  • Date of Birth – 30th December 1884
  • Periods Served – 1944
  • Death – 23rd December 1948

Tadamichi Kuribayashi 

Tadamichi Kuribayashi was born in the Nagano Prefecture to a small samurai family, he studied at Nagano High School and graduated in 1911. 

As a teenager, Tadamichi was keener in poetry, writing, and journalism. However, due to his teachers’ persuasion, he decided to join The Imperial Japanese Army Academy. 

Little did he know that during his time in the army he would be a renowned army general in Japanese history.

He graduated from the Army Academy in 1914 and was an expert in the cavalry field. After graduating from the Army War College he got married and traveled to The US in 1928 as deputy military attache where he learned about the importance of industrialism. 

He also studied at Harvard University and learned driving. When Japan was at war with America, Tadamichi knew that America was a powerful force.

Tadamichi participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima as the leader and led his men during the battle successfully. 

It’s believed that Tadamichi died in combat as an ordinary soldier by taking off all of his badges. Ultimately, his body wasn’t identified by anyone from his family or the army. 

Unlike most Japanese army generals mentioned here, Tadamichi wasn’t convicted of any war crimes as he was killed in action.

  • Date of Birth – 7th July 1981
  • Periods Served – 1911 – 1945
  • Death – 26th March 1945

Isoroku Yamamoto 

Another important figure in Imperial Japan during the Second World War. Isoroku Yamamoto was born in 1884 in Nagaoka to Sadayoshi Takano and he was then named Isoroku Takano. 

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Later in 1916, Isoroku was adopted by the Yamamoto family hence he derived the family name, Yamamoto. In 1904, Isoroku graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and was ranked 11th in his class. 

After joining the Naval Staff College in 1914, he became the lieutenant commander two years later and was promoted to commander in 1919.

Isoroku’s allegiance to the Imperial Japanese Navy had made him become an enemy of the Army as he only wanted the Navy to use the fleet for gunboat diplomacy. 

Isoroku also studied at Harvard University between 1919 to 1921 and he learned the English language and the American practices there. 

During his period as Captain in 1923, Isoroku traveled all across America and London.

Isoroku was against the Tripartite Act with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy as well as the invasion of China and didn’t want to wage war against America as well. This made him a target for several people in the Imperial Japanese Army. 

Although Japan and America were at peace during 1941, Isoroku was one of the masterminds behind the Pearl Harbor attack and thus he became a target for the Americans. As a result, Isoroku was killed in his plane by The US Air Force. 

  • Date of Birth – 4th April 1884
  • Periods Served – 1904 – 1943
  • Death – 18th April 1943

Kuniaki Koiso

Kuniaki Koiso was a significant figure in the Imperial Japanese Army and also in the political fields of Japan. Kuniaki was born in March 1880 to a chief inspector of police in Tochigi Prefecture. 

He graduated from Yamagata Middle School and was an officer candidate in 1898.  By 1900, Kuniaki graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and attended the Army Staff College.

In 1901, Kuniaki was the second lieutenant and was promoted to lieutenant in 1903. He graduated from Army Staff College in 1910. By 1922. Kuniaki was promoted to colonel and traveled to Europe as a military attache. 

He also became the lieutenant-general in 1931. Kuniaki was not only involved in the military but also in politics as well. He served in the Cabinet as Minister of Colonial Affairs and was also appointed the Governor of Korea in May 1942.

During his governance in Korea, Kuniaki earned the nickname “The Tiger of Korea” due to his looks. He also increased the influence of Koreans within the administration and also encouraged Koreans to improve their businesses. 

Kuniaki also became the Prime Minister of Imperial Japan in 1944 but he resigned after a year due to his inability to make peace between the Allies and the Japanese military. 

After Japan’s surrender during the Second World War, Kuniaki was convicted of war crimes and was tried for life imprisonment. 

  • Date of Birth – 22nd March 1880
  • Periods Served – 1900 – 1939
  • Death – 3rd November 1950

Iwane Matsui

Iwane Matsui was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army who was also the expeditionary force commander who was sent to China. Iwane was born in July 1878 to a samurai named Takekuni Matsui in Nagoya. 

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Since Iwane’s family had undergone intense debts, he joined the Army. By 1896, Iwane was accepted into the Army Academy and graduated in 1897.

Iwane joined the Army War College in 1901 and he was sent to Manchuria when the Russo-Japanese war broke out. 

He later graduated from the Army War College as the topper. He was promoted to major general in 1923 and he’s also known as the “China Expert” due to his interest in Chinese civilization. 

He also participated in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War and as Japan surrendered after World War II, Iwane was convicted of war crimes and was executed.

  • Date of Birth – 27th July 1878
  • Periods Served – 1897 – 1938
  • Death – 23rd December 1948

Famous Japanese Generals: FAQs

Who was the greatest Japanese general?

One of the greatest Japanese generals in the history of Japan was Tomoyuki Yamashita who served in the Imperial Japanese Army between 1905 to 1945. He started as an ordinary army cadet and then became the lieutenant colonel in 1925. In 1940, Tomoyuki was sent to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and he met with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He was tried for war crimes and executed in 1946.

Who were the Japanese generals in WW2?

During the period of WW2, Japan was one of the superpowers that were quite feared by several nations. The Imperial Japanese Army was a formidable force that was controlled by some of the strategist generals in the history of Japan. Some of the Japanese generals who were popular during WW2 are:
Tomoyuki Yamashita
Tojo Hideki
Iwane Matsui
Kuniaki Koiso
Isoroku Yamamoto
Tadamichi Kuriyabashi

Who was the last general of Japan?

The last general of Japan was Hideki Tojo who served as the Prime Minister of Imperial Japan in 1944. Hideki became the major general of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1934 and stepped into politics in 1944. He was convicted of war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during his regime and was executed by the Allies in 1948.

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