From Free net encyclopedia
He was born in Fukuoka Prefecture and graduated with law degree from Tokyo Imperial University. He entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to become a career diplomat, and served as ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1932 before becoming foreign minister in 1933, the same year of Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations. In 1936, following the February 26 Incident, the emperor Hirohito named Hirota prime minister. At that point, several world powers (most notably the Soviets) were beginning to distrust Japan's intentions and domestic security concerns had been brought to a boiling point.
Hirota's government, with the blessing of the emperor, signed its first treaty with Germany. However, his term lasted for slightly less than a year: early in 1937, Hirohito named a new prime minister, General Hayashi, who lasted only four months. The emperor then named Prince Konoe Fumimaro as prime minister. Having been foreign minister under Hayashi, Hirota held this position until his retirement in 1938.
Hirota's second tenure as foreign minister would eventually lead to his death. Late in 1937, Japanese forces marched into Nanjing, and set off a chain of events now known as the Nanjing Massacre. While Hirota was not in charge of the army units that invaded Nanjing, he was party to information about the massacre, and informed the Japanese embassy in Washington of the extensive carnage in the city (the telegram has often been misquoted as the admission by a high ranking Japanese official of the "three hundred thousand Chinese civilians slaughtered" but in fact is a mistaken attribution of a telegram from Timperley of Manchester Guardian in China which Japanese censors seized.)
The military caught wind of Hirota's dislike for the Chinese campaign, and forced him to retire in 1938. In 1945, however, Hirota came back onto the diplomatic scene by leading Japanese peace negotiations with the Soviet Union. At the time, Japan and the USSR were still under a non-aggression pact, even though the other Allied Powers had all declared war on Japan. Hirota attempted to persuade Josef Stalin's government to stay out of the war, but he ultimately failed: the Soviets entered the war between the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Following Japan's surrender, Hirota was named a Class A war criminal and was brought before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. He offered no defense. He was found guilty, sentenced to hang, and executed at Sugamo Prison.