The May 15 Incident (1932): Inukai & Chaplin

Hi I’m Tak Watanabe, and I’m new here. (Thanks Konrad for the invite!) I’ll post a self-introduction soon, but in the mean time I wanted to post something up that I thought might interest the historians here.

Over at Mutant Frog Travelogue, Adamu has directed our attention to a humorous piece of historical fact he culled from the ever resourceful Wikipedia. While the May 15 Incident (五・一五事件, occured in 1932) is famous for the assasination of Inukai Tsuyoshi, the Prime Minister at that time, I had no idea that it also involved a plot to assasinate Charlie Chaplin. Quite a find there, Adamu!

Here is a photo of Inukai Tsuyoshi, taken from the wonderful image depository of portraits of famous Japanese historical figures, housed at the National Diet Library webpage. [I had linked the same photo from the Chinese wikipedia entry on him, but it was mysteriously taken down].

The incident is noted as a precursor to the more famous February 26 Incident in 1936, during which the Emperor had to end up ordering the suppression of the coup led by a cadre of young military officers. Yet before quelling the revolt these officers had been able to rub out key cabinet members, thereby effectively consolidating military power in Japan.

Anway, going back to the May 15 Incident, it should be noted that Inukai was regarded as someone who had been wary of the military, especially after the Manchurian Incident in 1931. According to my trusty Concise Dictionary of Modern Japanese History, compiled by Janet Hunter, he was against the hanbatsu bloc (the Saccho clique) and became a defender of constitutionalism.

I was always under the impression that Inukai’s famous last words of diplomacy, before his death by the hands of the military officers, were something like “Let’s talk and come to an agreement” (「話せば分かる」). Yet according to the Japanese wikipedia entry on the Incident, it is just a myth concocted after the fact.

He is, along with some other noted historical figures, buried at the Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo.


  1. Thanks again Konrad for welcoming me.

    I totally forgot that many Froggies here are writing about sports and martial arts. A bizarre connection between high politics and spectator sports!

  2. I’d be happier with this information if I could figure out WHY Chaplin would be a target. If the assassination plan was to kill everyone in the house, then Chaplin would indeed have been killed, but if he was a specific target, then it should be for a reason. I wish Wiki were better about sources….

    Anyway, welcome aboard!

  3. Thanks Jonathan and Konrad, I am looking forward to learning more about you two and the other blogges on this site.

    I wonder if he was a target because of his leftist politics or because he was simply a culural icon? Hmm…where would we be able to find out about this?

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