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Asaka Yasuhiko, Prince Asakanomiya (朝香宮) of Japan, was born in Kyoto on October 2, 1887. He married Princess Faminomiya, the third daughter of Emperor Meiji, on May 6, 1909, making him an uncle by marriage to the future emperor Hirohito. The couple had four children, and then Prince Asaka sailed to France to study (what else?) war.

In 1930, while Japanese soldiers were being sent to Manchuria to put down the Kuomintang, Asaka became a major general and began teaching at the Military Staff College. In 1933, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of the First Imperial Guards, giving him an even more influential position over the emperor. Asaka pressed Hirohito to replace Prime Minister Okada Keisuke with Hirota Koki in March of 1936, following the February 26 Incident.

Following the full-scale Japanese invasion of China in 1937, Asaka transferred into the Shanghai Expeditionary Force led by the elderly General Matsui Iwane. He became the commander of one of the SEF's main divisions, and led that division toward the city of Nanking in November. Matsui initially led the charge into Nanking, but Asaka temporarily took over late in November due to Matsui's ill health.

Under Asaka's command, the Japanese soldiers in Nanking were ordered to "kill all captives." The resulting Rape of Nanking went down as one of the bloodiest massacres in the Second World War. By the time Matsui made it to Nanking, in mid-December, the killings and rapes had already progressed beyond belief.

In 1938, with vast parts of Nanking burned, looted, and in ruins, both Asaka and Matsui were recalled to Japan. Matsui went into virtual retirement, but Asaka remained on the emperor's Supreme War Council until the end of the war in 1945. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East did not prosecute him: Douglas MacArthur had decided to grant immunity to the Imperial family.

After the war, Asaka was demoted to the status of a commoner (along with members of the other miyake families): his palatial residence in Shirokanedai was taken over by the government, and now houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. Asaka became a Roman Catholic in 1951, and spent most of his time playing golf. He died in Atami on April 13, 1981, survived by a grandson, Asaka Tomohiko, and a daughter, Asaka Kiyoko.

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