Showing posts with label Ken Inukai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ken Inukai. Show all posts

Thursday, May 29, 2014

World Tour Revisited: The Chaplin brothers in Japan, May-June 1932

Charlie crammed as much as possible into his three-week stay in Japan. In addition to attending kabuki shows, sumo matches, and tea ceremonies, he played tennis, gorged on tempura (his favorite Japanese meal), and even visited a prison--something he liked to do on his travels.

As much as he enjoyed his visit (he would return in 1936 and 1961) he was disappointed by the westernization of the country:
Should you ask me offhand my opinion of Japan, I should say it is a nation of inconsistancies. A simple illustration is a man attired in a kimono wearing a derby hat, also the adoption of western dress at the cost of their own silk industry. 1
Little is known about what Syd thought of the place. Months later, in a letter to his friend R.J. Minney, he wrote: "I enjoyed the trip immensely. I always wanted to visit the Orient, so I am glad I got it out of my system. Of course, I haven't seen the half of it, dearie, I shall still look forward to seeing India, the interior of China, Indochina, etc., but the Orient should be taken in small doses and one should hold the nose while taking it." He claimed, though, that he was glad to get home, having developed gout on the trip from too much rich food. 2

Below are a few photos from the brothers' visit:

Chaplin visits Prime Minister Makoto Saito at his residence (note the torn couch). Saito was the successor to Tsuyoshi Inukai who was assassinated on Chaplin's second day in Japan while he was at a sumo match with his son, Ken:

A tea party, possibly at the home of Mrs. Horikoshi which Chaplin describes in "A Comedian Sees The World": "this charming lady has a school which she supports herself for the daughters of her friends where she teaches the gentle art of the tea ceremony." Syd is standing at right in the second photo.

Tennis at the Fujiya Hotel in Hakone:

Charlie tries on a Samurai Warrior's headgear. Syd is on the right.

Chaplin's autographed sketch of Mt. Fuji, May 29th, 1932:

Lastly, at the Hanacho restaurant. Ken Inukai, son of the assassinated prime minister, is seated between Charlie and Kono in the first photo and is posing between Charlie and Syd in the other photos. The last photo is signed by Sydney.

Coming up on June 2nd: the brothers go their separate ways. Syd returns to Nice and Charlie to Los Angeles.


1Charles Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part 5," Jan. 1934
2Lisa K. Stein, Syd Chaplin: A Biography, McFarland, 2011

Thursday, May 15, 2014

World Tour Revisited: The Prime Minister of Japan is assassinated while Chaplin attends a sumo match with his son, May 15th, 1932

The morning after their arrival in Tokyo, Syd excitedly came into Charlie's room and told him that his "bags had been searched and all of his papers disturbed." Charlie accused him of being overly suspicious but there had been other strange occurrences as well, namely the behavior of Charlie's secretary Toraichi Kono. During their drive to the hotel the evening before, their car stopped in front of the Emperor's Palace. Kono looked around nervously and then asked Charlie to get out and bow. "Is this customary?" Charlie asked. "Yes," Kono replied. "You don't have to bow, just step out of the car." Charlie did what he asked but thought the request was strange since there was no one around and if it were customary the public would have known and a crowd would have been there, if only a small one.1

After the incident with Sydney's luggage, a government agent was assigned to look after them. Sydney insisted that they were being watched and felt that Kono was hiding something. Charlie had to admit that his secretary was looking "more worried and harassed every hour."2

Meanwhile, Charlie's plans for his first day in Tokyo were to attend a sumo match with Ken Inukai, the son of the Prime Minister, Tsuyoshi Inukai. The following day, Chaplin was to meet and have dinner with the Prime Minister.

As they entered the stadium, Charlie was greeted with a tremendous ovation. Sumo wrestling "is amusing to watch," wrote Charlie, "and if you don't understand the technique, the whole procedure looks comic. Nevertheless the effect is hypnotic and thrilling."3

Syd, Charlie, and Kono pose with sumo wrestlers.
Charlie and Syd intently watch the wrestling matches.

Unbeknownst to the crowd, as well as Chaplin and his entourage, something terrible had happened earlier that day:
As we were leaving a courier rushed into our box and told us the awful news--that the prime minister, Mr. Tsuyoshi Inukai had been assassinated in his home. This was a dreadful shock to everyone and put a damper on the whole nation.
The Prime Minister's son told us later that were were responsible for saving his life because the tragedy occurred while he was at the wrestling arena making arrangements for our tickets. Had he been home, the assassins would have murdered him with his father. 4
Inukai, one of Japan's foremost liberals, had only been in office since December 1931.

Chaplin describes the murder in "A Comedian Sees The World":
The tragedy is well-known--how the murderers, dressed as soldiers, shot and killed several guards, then broke into the prime minister's sitting room and with the points of their guns confronted the old gentleman and his family; how he led them to another room, remarking that if they intended to kill him to spare his wife and children the scene of such violence. The heroic courage of the Prime Minister was worthy of his exalted position. Not one word passed the assassins' lips as they were led by the august gentlemen down a long corridor into the little room where he calmly told them to state their grievances. Without a word, however, these murderers cruelly poured fire into their defenseless victim and left.
Chaplin accompanied Ken Inukai back to his home and saw the room in which a couple of hours before his father had been murdered. "The stain of a large pool of blood was still wet on the matting. A battery of cameramen and reporters were there, but they had the decency not to take photographs. They nevertheless prevailed upon me to make a statement. I could only say that it was a shocking tragedy for the family and for the country." 5

The prime minister , second from left, and his family, January 1932.
Ken Inukai is standing, his wife is to his right, their children are seated with
the premier and his wife, far left. 

The killers were members of a paramilitary, right-wing society called the "Black Dragon" and it was they, Chaplin believed, who had insisted that he bow to the emperor's palace. It was discovered later that Chaplin was also part of their original assassination plot.

At the assassins' 1933 trial, Lieutenant Seishi Koga, the leader, testified that there were plans to bomb the Prime Minister's residence during a reception for Chaplin, the reception was cancelled however. The assassins hoped that the death of Chaplin would throw Japan and the U.S. into war "which was needed to rehabilitate the Japanese spirit." 6

Thirty years later in his autobiography, Chaplin wrote: “I can imagine the assassins having carried out their plan, then discovering that I was not an American but an Englishman—'Oh, so sorry!'”

Coming up in the next installment of WTR: Chaplin attends a kabuki performance.


1Chaplin, My Autobiography, 1964
3Chaplin, "A Comedian Sees The World, Part V," 1934
5Chaplin, My Autobiography
6Washington Post, July 26, 1933

Additional sources:
Gerith Von Ulm, Charlie Chaplin: King Of Tragedy, 1940