Capt. Koji Muranaka bowed before the main altar at the Jikishin Dojo (Direct Mind Training Center) in the Koishikawa section of Tokyo. Before him stood a large tablet dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess and progenitor of the imperial family. The wall to the left of the altar contained three rows of photographs depicting the nation’s leading patriots. To its right stood an alcove containing a flower arrangement, a pair of samurai swords, and a scroll bearing the command “Enemy Countries Surrender!”1 The earlymorning sun shone through the many windows on Muranaka’s left, casting light on the large room’s tatami floor.
Now thirty-one years old, Muranaka had a nondescript yet pleasant face—high cheekbones, a firm jaw, a small nose, and a slightly receding hairline. Without his uniform, he would have blended in with Tokyo’s thousands of salarymen. His father, after all, was a successful businessman in Hokkaido. But Koji had chosen a different, more violent, path.
Muranaka was a rising officer in the Imperial Army. He had attended a military school in Sendai before being accepted to the Thirty-Seventh Class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in the Ichigaya section of Tokyo. Exceptionally bright, articulate, and fluent in German, he graduated in 1925 and became a full lieutenant in 1928 with the Twenty-Sixth Infantry and a captain in 1934. In 1932 Muranaka was admitted to the elite Army War College, the springboard to higher command. But his destiny would change when he met Mitsugi Nishida.2
Although the son of a sculptor of Buddhist images, Nishida had been pushed toward the military as a child. Born in 1901 he attended the Hiroshima Regional Army Cadet School and the Central Army