“The Sightseer” (est. Sept 1940)
by William “Bill” Crawford (1913-1982)
19 x 22 in., ink and crayon on Glarco Illustration Board
Born in Japan, but raised and educated in the United States, Yōsuke Matsuoka returned to Japan at 22 to care for his ailing mother. Without the right local connections to get into a Law School, he pursued Foreign Service as a bureaucrat. He ended up leading the 1933 Japanese delegation to the League of Nations, where he gained considerable attention by announcing Japan’s withdrawal from the League.
After a failed attempt to form a political party modeled on the Italian National Fascists, he stayed within the increasingly aggressive and militant government of Japan, advocating for alliance with Italy and Germany. On November 1, 1936, after the official treaty between Italy and Germany, Mussolini had declared that all other European countries would rotate on the Rome-Berlin Axis. Japan entered into a non-communist pact with Germany that same month.
In 1940, Matsuoka was a primary architect of the Tripartite Pact (a/k/a the Berlin Pact), which was signed on September 27, and complemented the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, which we now know set of the terms for dividing up Europe. The first three terms of the pact speak to a particular point of view “to help restore peace to the world.” (as reported in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung).
ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.
ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.
ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting
Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.
Let’s call this cartoon a response to Japan being seen ask climbing aboard the Axis (September 1940), but because of the strong association with its definition as a European structure, Japan was not going to be directly involved in the European conflict and all the heavy lifting was still up to Italy and Germany (and we know who the boss is).
Matsuoka’s views were also not completely aligned with his European counterparts. On December 31, 1940, Matsuoka told a group of Jewish businessmen that he was “the man responsible for the alliance with Adolf Hitler, but nowhere have I promised that we would carry out his anti-Semitic policies in Japan. This is not simply my personal opinion, it is the opinion of Japan, and I have no compunction about announcing it to the world.”