Hirohito (1901-1989), the Emperor of Japan. Son of Yoshihito (posthumously named Emperor Taisho). Hirohito became regent in 1921, married Princess Nagako Kuni in 1924. Their son and heir to the throne Akihito was born in 1933.

In 1926, Hirohito succeeded his father, and reigned as sovereign, sending Japan to war in China and the Pacific. In 1945, after attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito had little choice but to announce Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allies. Hirohito was allowed to retain the throne, but his role was changed from imperial sovereign to democratic symbol. The constitution of 1946 made him "symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." Hirohito assumed this position until his death in 1989.

After World War II, many war victims hoped that Hirohito would express apologies for Japanese misbehavior during World War II, but this never occurred. Even after Hirohito's death, it remains debated how Japan should come to terms with this part of their history.

Hirohito was posthumously named Emperor Showa, after his former reign.


August 14, 1945

New York Times.


After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart.

Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone-the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people-the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with death otherwise and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who have lost their home and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.

We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unavoidable and suffering what is unsufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.

Hirohito is probably the individual most responsible for the transformation of Japan into what it is today.

He strove to become a leader in the image of his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, and he was surrounded by people who wanted him to be the leader that his father, Emperor Taisho, was incapable of being. He was educated to believe himself to be a god and incapable of any wrongdoing, and he sometimes ruled the country in an almost reckless manner. Hirohito was also presented in propaganda to be an emperor with an interest in the commoner and a regent who was in touch with the plight of the Japanese people, when in reality, he was hopelessly out of touch with society. He ruled indirectly through what appeared on the surface to be a real government, using the massive influence of the monarchy, and was possibly responsible, or at least aware and consenting of Japanese military activities in Asia during the first half of the 20th century, including the declaration of war on the United States. He also was the main factor in delaying Japan's surrender in 1945.

After World War II, the American government's main interest in Japan was as a democratic state to counter powers on the Asian continent which was rapidly turning red. So they kept the war-time emperor in power, conveniently ignoring any war crimes he may have been responsible for. Pinning the blame on a small group of insane military men, and thus allowing the Japanese population to avoid blaming the emperor and themselves, the American government aimed to create a country that would serve as a projection of American ideals into Asia. They forget to publicize any evidence they might have had, that the Emperor whom they were propping up might have been the biggest reason for the war, in the interests of stability.

Read the excellent Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix. It is eye opening and will destroy any images of a feeble, innocent emperor.

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