This Friday marks the 80th anniversary of the February 26th Incident, a coup staged by young military officers who hoped to spark a general uprising, but whose revolt was quashed on the orders of Emperor Hirohito.

The plotters were arrested and several were executed. Martial law was declared for three days, but it was all over by Feb. 29, 1936. Many of the 1,400 soldiers who participated in the coup were relatively new recruits and easily manipulated by the ringleaders who resented civilian control of the military, wanted to restore the Emperor to his proper place and purge the polity of corruption and capitalism.

These fanatics were also angry about arms reduction treaties that intruded on the prerogatives of the military — most notably the 1930 London Naval Treaty — and felt that officers sympathetic to their aims were being sidelined and persecuted. In this context, pending budget cuts were literally a call to arms.