Episode 428 – The Highest Bidder

Today, we’re looking at a rather unusual scandal from early 20th century Japan, and what it shows us about the power of the democratic impulse in Japan even before the country could be called a democracy. Plus, political maneuvering and corruption galore! What’s not to love?


Mitchell, Richard H. Political Bribery in Japan.

Schencking, J. Charles, “Interservice Rivalry and Politics in Post-war Japan” in The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective, Vol 1.

Schnecking, J. Charles. “Bureaucratic Politics, Military Budgets, and Japan’s Southern Advance: The Imperial Navy’s Seizure of German Micronesia in the First World War.” War in History 5, No 3 (July, 1998).


Yamamoto Gonnohyoe (the one with the lined coat) visiting Dalny, a captured Russian port, during the Russo-Japanese War.
Procurement of the IJN Kongo was a central part of the Siemens scandal, though the ship itself was built by the British firm Vickers.
A crowd outside the Siemens office in Yokohama. On the right is the wife of Andrew Pooley, a Reuters correspondent who, it emerged, had known about the scandal in late 1913 but agreed to bury the info.
Yamamoto Gonnohyoe during his time in politics.

This video describes the events of the scandal in Japanese and has some still image of the protests (as well as some political cartoons from the era). But it’s Japanese only, unfortunately!