chapter  5
From Washington to London: The Years 1922–29
Pages 26

As the Washington Conference drew to a close Katō Kanji had begun to feel distinctly unwell. He had complained of severe head pains and was eventually permitted to return home in advance of the main party. In fact, he merely preceded them by some four days and after all the real work had been completed. Not surprisingly the tremendous political and linguistic pressures had taken their toll on the health of some members of the Japanese delegation. Katō Tomosaburō stated, on his return ‘I felt I was going to die in Washington’ and their were reports of him vomiting blood.1 It has been suggested that Katō Kanji may have reasons other than ill health for returning early, namely distaste for the Washington settlement.2 It is true that in Japan, there is a tendency, perhaps more marked than elsewhere, for people to have ‘political’ or ‘diplomatic’ maladies. At Washington, Plenipotentiary Shidehara became very ill with gastro-enteritis. It happened at a crucial point in the negotiations over the ratio issue and one irreverent reporter diagnosed the illness as ‘congestion of the cables’!3 In Katō Kanji’s case, one cannot conclusively refute the suggestion that he was avoiding a situation (the signing of the treaties) he found unpleasant or unacceptable. However certain evidence tends to cast doubt on this hypothesis. First, at this time, Katō was not as opposed to the Treaties as has hitherto been supposed or at least was not as opposed at this time before the full implications hit naval planners. Second, on his arrival home Katō was in a position to speak first to the home press and publicly praised the conference’s achievements. Third, he was present for all the key decisions in Washington and sailed for home when only ceremonial matters remained. Finally, Katō’s diary clearly showed that he was in considerable pain and confined to bed for most of the Pacific crossing to Japan. Katō Kanji arrived at Yokohama on 2 March 1922, and one newspaper reported:

Vice-Admiral Katō, although suffering intensely from a carbuncle on his neck and expressing a desire to go immediately to the hospital

cordially greeted naval officers and newspaper men who met him on the ship.4