Prince Higashikuninomiya Naruhiko, usually referred to as "Higashikuni Naruhiko," was born in Kyoto, Japan on December 3, 1887, a member of the Imperial family as a descendant of the Fushimi miyake family. He was crowned a prince in 1907, and married Princess Yasunomiya Toshiko, the youngest daughter of Emperor Meiji, in 1915. Together, they had four children, the eldest of which, Prince Morihiro, married Princess Shigeko (Hirohito's eldest daughter).

Despite the fact that he was royalty, Naruhiko was not close enough to the Emperor's family to warrant keeping holed up in the Imperial Palace, and so he ended up commissioning in the Imperial Japanese Army. He spent seven years in Europe as an officer in military intelligence, and then returned to Tokyo to become a staff officer, rising to the rank of major general.

In 1934, Naruhiko received his first command, a brigade of infantry, and in 1938 led his troops into China. In 1939, he returned to Japan, was promoted to full general, and became commander of the Home Defense Headquarters for the duration of the war.

There was talk about promoting Naruhiko to prime minister after the ousting of Konoe Fumimaro, but the common opinion at the time was that the imperial family should remain removed from politics, so Tojo Hideki was promoted instead. Four years later, after Japan's surrender to the United States, sitting premier Suzuki Kantaro was removed and Naruhiko became the first postwar prime minister of Japan.

He lasted for all of fifty-four days in this post: his coming downfall first became apparent when he remarked to arriving occupation forces that if America would forget Pearl Harbor, Japan would forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At any rate, SCAP Douglas MacArthur, in charge of the Allied occupation of Japan, wanted to introduce reforms that Naruhiko was vehemently against. In protest, Naruhiko resigned and was replaced by Shidehara Kijuro. His term as premier was the shortest in Japanese history.

Naruhiko lived the rest of his life fairly peacefully. After experimenting with a short-lived new religion movement, he became chairman of the International Martial Arts Federation, a post he held for decades. He died in Tokyo on January 26, 1990, the longest-lived of Japan's premiers at 102.

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