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Gekokoju, literally the "lower overthrew the upper", is Japanese belief, probably arising in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, but becoming a prominent when junior officers pressed for radical nationalist reform in the 1920s and 1930s. It states that obedience to superiors was less important than obedience to principles, above all, that of national polity or kokutai.[1] It can also be translated as "insubordination", but as a means of redressing social injustice, which arose in the fifteenth century when provincial lords disobeyed the shogun and the shogun disobeyed the emperor. [2]

It could justify assassinations and overthrows of government. Gekokoju was practiced both by middle and senior officers against the government, as in the Manchurian Incident, and by junior officers, as in the February 26, 1936 Incident.


  1. Tetsuo Najita & H.D. Harootunian, Japan's Revolt against the West, in Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Modern Japanese thought, Cambridge University Press, pp. 208-209
  2. John Toland (1970), Chapter 1: Gekokoju, The Rising Sun: the Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1935, vol. Volume 1, Random House, p. 5