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  5. The Ideal Future for Japanese Think Tanks: Lessons from the Manchurian Railway Investigation Department

2011 Vol.2
The Ideal Future for Japanese Think Tanks: Lessons from the Manchurian Railway Investigation Department


The purpose of this paper is to trace the activities of an investigation department created in a prewar period by the South Manchurian Railway Company. The investigation department in question was the Manchurian Railway Investigation Department (MRID). After its inception, MRID actively engaged in investigative activities, backed by the company’s first president Shinpei Goto. Although MRID subsequently became less active as the international situation eased, this situation was entirely changed by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The birth of a socialist state, the Soviet Union, gave rise to the need to investigate the regime, which was in conflict with capitalism, and this brought MRID back into the spotlight. MRID published a number of investigative reports on the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s. During the period from the Manchurian Incident in 1931 through the “birth” of Manchukuo, MRID created an economic investigation unit and made proposals for the country’s national economic policies. MRID expanded its scale and proposed and executed comprehensive investigations during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which started in 1937, and the Pacific War, which began in 1941. However, as wartime control was rapidly strengthened from 1942, MRID, which had been deeply involved with national policies, increasingly became at odds with national policy makers, was robbed of its freedom, and, in 1942, became a target in a major suppression campaign by the Kanto Military Police. Thereafter, MRID never again engaged in largescale investigative activities and was closed as the war ended in 1945. Although a private organization, MRID was one of a handful of investigative agencies that were deeply involved with national policies while conducting their own activities. Today, Japan is facing economic stagnation after experiencing a post-war high growth period. As domestic and international conditions become uncertain, it seems that the importance of private investigative organizations like MRID will increase.