The outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941 was not inevitable. The war could in fact have been averted. One of the primary factors that stood in the way of averting the war, however, was the passive power struggle that unfolded within Japan's bureaucracy — namely, the prime minister's office, the navy, the army and the Imperial Household Department.

The term "passive power struggle" describes the politics of government ministries in Kasumigaseki who sought to evade responsibility for any matter that did not serve to confer political advantage or expand the authority of each ministry — or that could prove troublesome for themselves.

Bureaucrats avoid conspicuous involvement in such affairs. They do not volunteer to take them on, nor do they seek to intercede in them even when necessary.