Colonial Japanese rule on occupied territories has been described as harsh as has been their treatment of prisoners of war. In some cases, this was not a fleeting occupation but one lasting years or decades (e.g., Korea, Taiwan, or Manchuria). Surely, not all of the people in these areas agreed with this treatment and there must have been measures to enforce Japanese laws. There are many parallels drawn with their allies in Nazi Germany. Was there a Japanese equivalent of the Gestapo (or Secret Police)? Did they operate in the Japanese home islands or only in colonial territories?

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    The Kenpeitai operated both at home and in the occupied territories.
    – user34317
    Dec 9, 2018 at 6:06

1 Answer 1


Yes, that would be the Kenpeitai. It was a military police corps, founded in 1881. The kenpeitai had jurisdiction everywhere within the Japanese empire and their conquered territories.

Although it was a military police corps, everyone fell under their jurisdiction. Not just the military, civilians as well.

The naval equivalent was the Tokkeitai. Both units acted uniformed and in plain clothes. They were both known for their very harsh and brutal treatment of their victims. Both units were disbanded in august 1945.

The kenpeitai was much larger and under control of the army. The tokkeitai was smaller, under control of the navy, but just as brutal. Both were used by the military governments as an instrument of terror on their own population.

added: I think KeMpeitai, with an m, is correct. However, I don't speak Japanese. That's why I stick with Wikipedia's transcription of the name.

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    It should be Kempeitai or Kempei Tai, not "Kenpeitai", i.e. M instead of N. I can see Wikipedia has it as N, but almost all official documents in English refers to this unit with an M. For instance, Government of Singapore on their experience during Japanese occupation of Malaya and Singapore, 1941-5: link
    – J Asia
    Dec 9, 2018 at 13:55
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    @JAsia it's the issue with Japanese romanization that ん in 憲兵隊 (けんぺいたい) can be read as either M or N...
    – Andrew T.
    Dec 9, 2018 at 14:42
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    @AndrewT. And it's usually transliterated as an 'n' because that's the perdominant pronunciation in most words. Depending on the word though, there's usually one form that's 'correct', though in some cases the actual sound may be somewhere between 'n' and 'm'. Dec 9, 2018 at 16:18
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    Which it is is largely systematic, depending on whether the following consonant is labial. But this is a stupid argument. Both written forms are used and there's no reason to chastize someone for using the form that's not the one you prefer. Dec 9, 2018 at 18:09
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    N is the Hepburn romanisation of ん so I think this is good for consistency with any documents using that.
    – Tom Kelly
    Dec 9, 2018 at 22:22

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