A member of the royal family, Higashikuni was promoted to major general and was a staff officer in Tokyo before being given the command of the 5th Infantry Brigade in August 1934. In 1937 he was named as chief of military aviation.
Higashikuni took part in the invasion of China in 1938 and was promoted to full general in August 1939. He then became Commander in Chief of the Home Defence Headquarters. He was considered as a replacement for Fumimaro Kondoye as prime minister in October 1941 but was eventually rejected because of the tradition in Japan of not having the royal family involved in politics. Instead, the more ant-Western Hideki Tojo was appointed.
In August 1945, Higashikuni was appointed the head of the surrender government. He held office for only 50 days and resigned in protest when General Douglas MacArthur announced he intended to introduce his own political reforms.
In 1950 Higashikuni created a new religious order but was immediately banned by the occupying authorities. Naruhiko Higashikuni died on 26th January, 1990.