Emperor Hirohito

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Emperor Hirohito
Japanese name
Kanji 裕仁

Hirohito (29 April 1901 – 7 January 1989), known in Japan as the Shōwa emperor, was the 124th emperor of Japan in the traditional count of order of succession, who reigned for 62 years from 25 December 1926, until his death, making his reign, the Shōwa era, the longest of any Japanese Emperor. During his reign, he was the symbolic leader of his nation through prosperity (1926–29), the Great Depression (1929–41), victory and defeat in World War II (1941–45), the American Occupation (1945–50), and the rapid recovery of Japan to become an economic superpower (1950–86). He had significant decision-making power only in 1944-45, and made the decision to surrender in August 1945.

The emperor's name

Outside Japan he is usually referred to by his personal name, Hirohito (裕仁), however, the Japanese have a very different practice. During his life, in accordance with Japanese custom, the living Emperor's personal name is never used. He would have been referred to only as "His Majesty the Emperor" (天皇陛下 Tennō Heika), but the title could be shortened to Heika (陛下 "Your Majesty").

After his death, his definitive posthumous name, Shōwa Tennō (昭和天皇 "Shōwa emperor"), was announced on 31 January 1989. The name coincides with the era of Shōwa (昭和 "Enlightened Peace") which was the name attributed to his reign and is the name by which the Emperor is known within Japan.

Early Days

Prince Hirohito was born in the Aoyama Detached Palace, Tokyo on 29 April 1901, the eldest son of Crown Prince Yoshihito, who was later to become Emperor Taishō. He was the grandson of Emperor Meiji, during whose reign the Meiji Restoration had taken place.

He was raised by Count and Countess Kawamura, in accordance with the Japanese custom that imperial princes should be reared in a normal household unaffected by the elaborate ceremonial of the royal palace. The Kawamuras also were given charge of Prince Chichibu, Hirohito's younger brother and Kawamura treated them as he would his own grandchildren, subjecting them to a careful discipline. When Hirohito was five years old he and Chichibu were returned to the palace, where a kindergarten was arranged. At the age of eight Hirohito was sent to the Gakushuin Peers' School, where emphasis was placed on discipline, frugality, and diligence. There he was initiated into military training. He also proved an excellent pupil, showing a strong early interest in marine biology, as well as geography and history. Upon the death in 1912 of his grandfather, Emperor Mutsuhito, Hirohito became heir-apparent to the throne and was commissioned a second lieutenant in both the army and navy.

In 1915, Kimmochi Saionju, the former prime minister of Japan, tutored him whereupon he attended a special institute for the crown prince (Tôgû-gogakumonsho) until 1921. After his graduation in 1914 from the Peers' School, the Crown Prince's Institute was opened for his higher education, which required seven years; five sons of peers were his classmates. Upon his graduation in 1921 he became the first imperial prince ever to tour Europe, March to September 1921, to see how constitutional monarchy worked in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. The public discovered Hirohito had surprisingly democratic qualities, an eager intelligence, and a shy, quiet manner (the last partly ascribed to his self-consciousness and myopic eyesight). The crown prince returned from his tour to find his father failing rapidly in health, and in November 1921 Hirohito was entrusted with the affairs of government as prince regent.

On 26 January 1924, Prince Hirohito married Princess Nagako Kuni, a distant cousin, who was to become the future Empress Kōjun. Together, they had seven children:

  • Princess Shigeko (9 December 1925 – 23 July 1961)
  • Princess Sachiko (10 September 1927 – 8 March 1928)
  • Princess Kazuko (30 September 1929 – 28 May 1989)
  • Princess Atsuko (born 7 March 1931)
  • Crown Prince Akihito (born 23 December 1933)
  • Prince Masahito (born 28 November 1935)
  • Princess Takako (born 3 March 1939)

Although he was only the fifth child born to the royal couple, as the eldest male, Crown Prince Akihito would succeed Emperor Shōwa to become the current Emperor of Japan since January 7, 1989.

Ascent to Power

Prince Hirohito became heir apparent upon the death of his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, on 30 July 1912. At the same time his father became the 123rd Emperor, Taishō Tennō (大正天皇), thus ushering in the Taishō (大正) era. Prince Hirohito was invested as Crown Prince (Kōtaishi 皇太子) on 2 November 1916. He was appointed as Regent of Japan on 29 November 1921, ruling in place of his father, who was suffering from a debilitating mental illness, as a result of childhood meningitis and rumoured lead poisoning.

Reign as Emperor

On 25 December 1926, Crown Prince Hirohito assumed the throne upon the death of his father. The Taishō era ceased immediately, with the deceased Emperor being posthumously renamed Emperor Taishō several days later. Hirohito was formally enthroned in November 1928, by which time the new Shōwa era (昭和 "Enlightened Peace"), had been proclaimed. This became an increasingly ironic term as the increasing military domination of Japan's government led the country into war, first with China and then with the Western powers.

Since his father had been physically and mentally incompetent, power had drained away from the throne. In 1928 to 1931 the young emperor and his close advisers, Makino Nobuaki, Suzuki Kantaro and Nara Taketsugu, were most preoccupied with reasserting the power and prestige of the throne, and establishing the 'imperial will' as distinct from the policy of the government. Hirohito's removal of support for Tanaka Giichi's cabinet in 1929 was key to its downfall. His forthright opposition to the coup attempted by army officers in the 26 February Incident in 1936 did much to facilitate its suppression. In general his role was more symbolic than powerful, but everything was done in his name and he formally signed off his approvals. During Japan's period of "ultranationalism," 1931-45, Hirohito's constitutional obligations kept him from implementing his peace-oriented ideas in the face of almost total opposition from powerful advisers.

World War II

During the invasion of Manchuria (in 1931) and the war against China (1937–45), Japan took over other countries by force. By the late 1930s, Hirohito moved squarely into the camp of the 'renovationist' group who were tending toward an ever-expanding war in China. However, he opposed going to war with the United States in 1941, not out of pacifist tendencies but because he had a realistic concern about a probable Japanese defeat. He pressed for talks with Washington and welcomed the neutrality agreement with Moscow in April 1941 as a means of avoiding a recurrence of dangerous border clashes with the Soviet Union. He strongly opposed joining Germany in its war against the Soviets in June 1941, and helped replace the hawkish foreign minister.[1] Yet because his power was so circumscribed by the decision-making structure of the government, and he had no answer to the American oil embargo, by late summer 1941 he became fatalistic about going to war. He had little role in the replacement of Prime Minister Konoe by the war cabinet of General Hideki Tōjō (1884-1948), who demanded war. Hirohito continued to oppose going to war until the last minute, but pressure from his military bureaucracy forced his hand and Tōjō had his way and the attack was made on Pearl Harbor.[2]

The emperor played an increasingly influential role in the war; in eleven major episodes he was deeply involved in supervising the actual conduct of war operations. Hirohito pressured the High Command to order an early attack on the Philippines in 1941-42, including the fortified Bataan peninsula. He secured the deployment of army air power in the Guadalcanal campaign. Following Japan's withdrawal from Guadalcanal he demanded a new offensive in New Guinea, which was duly carried out but failed badly. Unhappy with the navy's conduct of the war, he criticized its withdrawal from the central Solomon Islands and demanded naval battles against the Americans for the losses they had inflicted in the Aleutians. The battles were disasters. Finally, it was at his insistence that plans were drafted for the recapture of Saipan and, later, for an offensive in the battle of Okinawa.[3]

He became publicly visible trying to maintain military and civilian morale as the islands came under heavy air attack in 1944-45 and food shortages mounted. With the Army and Navy bitterly feuding, he settled disputes over the allocation of resources, and helped plan military offenses.[4]


Hirohito's main adviser was Kido Koichi (1889-1977), who as the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal was the manager who controlled the information flow between the emperor and other officials, thereby helping to overthrow the Tōjō cabinet in 1944 and convincing the emperor to sue for peace. In April 1945 he helped bring in an elderly new prime minister Kantarō Suzuki (1868-1948), who was told to hold the armed services in line while peace initiatives were set in motion. Germany surrendered on May 8 and the imperial palace was burned down during an air raid on 25 May, underscoring the urgency, but Hirohito supported a quixotic effort to have the Soviet Union mediate a peace, unaware that it planned to declare war on Japan. The issue of an American guarantee of Hirohito's continuation as emperor prevented the prompt acceptance of the Allies' Potsdam terms, and led to two atomic bombs and the Soviet declaration of war in early August. The extreme national emergency now made it possible for the emperor to intervene effectively on behalf of surrender; he told foreign minister Tōgō that "since we could no longer continue the struggle, now that a weapon of this devastating power was used against us, we should not let slip the opportunity [for peace] by engaging in attempts to gain more favorable conditions." Hirohito unexpectedly spoke out at a deadlocked conference on August 9, saying "the time has come when we must bear the unbearable....[so I] give my sanction to the proposal to accept the Allied Proclamation." The military continued to stall even as their military position in Manchuria collapsed, The emperor lined up more supporters and on August 14 he forced the government to agree to surrender. His radio broadcast on August 15 calling on all Japanese to surrender was immediately accepted by the people and the military (though a few die hards tried and failed to stop the broadcast, and many senior army officers committed suicide.) Hirohito had ended the war, rescued his throne, and saved the lives of millions of Japanese. The "Greater East Asia War," as the Japanese called it, resulted in 1,675,000 Japanese army deaths, 429,000 navy deaths, and more than 300,000 civilian deaths in Japan, not to mention millions of enemy soldiers and civilians killed.[5]

Asada (1998) microscopically reexamines Japan's decision-making process, focusing closely on the days between the Hiroshima bomb and surrender in August 1945. An increasingly powerful "peace party" saw in the bomb the external pressure that could be used as leverage to counter the army leaders who clamored for the decisive homeland battle, and who were preparing civilians to fight invaders with wooden spears. To such leaders as Kido Koichi, Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori, and Navy Minister Yonai Mitsumasa, the bomb was of major help in their efforts to end the war, but the army remained intransigent. Hirohito sided with Togo: Only his "sacred decision" could enable the badly divided government finally to accept the Potsdam Declaration that called for immediate surrender but left the status of the emperor ambiguous. The shock of the atomic bomb enabled military leaders to accept surrender without loss of face; they thought of it as a scientific rather than a military defeat. Asada concludes that the bomb, rather than Soviet entry into the Pacific War, was the decisive and necessary factor in Japan's surrender.[6]


Even though the Emperor was regarded as divine by many Japanese, in reality he had little power. The Japanese constitution allowed the Emperor only to act on the advice of his ministers and chiefs of staff. However, when a group of officers in the Japanese Army staged a military coup against the political leaders in February 1936, the emperor went against the wishes of his senior advisers, ordering them to suppress the rebellion. As a direct result of his action, the ringleaders were later executed.

With national policy being decided by civilian and an increasing number of military officials, he reluctantly supported the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the second Sino-Japanese war in 1937.

Although he attempted to encourage cooperation with Britain and the USA, the increasing belligerence of his ministers, which had resulted in the Cabinet meeting on 4 September 1941, to discuss the objectives of the Imperial GHQ, seemed to wear him down and he gave his grudging approval for their suggestions. The objectives as mentioned included "a free hand to continue with the conquest of China and Southeast Asia", "no increase in US or British military forces in the region", and "cooperation by the West in the acquisition of goods needed by our Empire."

As the obvious preparations for war continued, the then civilian Prime Minister, Fumimaro Konoe, resigned, having found himself increasingly isolated amongst the military hard-liners. The army and the navy recommended Prince Higashikuni, one of the Emperor's uncles, as a replacement. However, the Emperor rejected this, saying after the war that if a member of the Imperial house were Prime Minister at the time Japan went to war, the Imperial house would carry the responsibility and this he did not want.[7]

Instead, he appointed the hard-line General Hideki Tōjō, who was known for his devotion to the imperial institution and asked him to review of what had already been sanctioned by the Imperial conferences. Based on the feedback from Tōjō, Emperor Shōwa gave his reluctant consent to the war, which culminated in the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the simultaneous invasion of Malaysia.

Despite his lack of enthusiasm over the decision to go to war, he was pleased with the early Japanese military and naval successes that followed and the Emperor frequently appeared in public, dressed in military uniform in order to raise morale.

However, when the promised quick victory over the Allies did not take place and the war machine suffered its first reversals, with the Battle of Midway and the US invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi, Emperor Shōwa became critical of the political leaders, which eventually led to the removal of Tōjō from office on 18 July 1944. After the loss of Okinawa, Emperor Shōwa called on his ministers to seek a negotiated end to the conflict. However, his government refused, claiming that Japan and Germany could still win the war.

By spring 1945, however, Japan's defeat appeared imminent and the Japanese government had become deeply divided between military leaders who favoured continuing the war and civilians who wanted to negotiate for peace. Emperor Shōwa himself favoured peace. Yet it was not until after the atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that Emperor Shōwa insisted that Japan surrender.

Accepting the Terms of Surrender

The Emperor's speech to the nation is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it was the first time ever the average Japanese citizen had heard their Emperor speak and secondly, even though he was accepting the terms of surrender, as set out in the Potsdam Declaration, the word "surrender" is never mentioned in his speech.

The full text of the speech, broadcast on 15 August 1945, follows.[8]

To our good and loyal subjects.

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 our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out 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, nor 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 death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who lost their homes 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 un-sufferable. 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.

American Occupation and new status

The State Department in Washington, not General Douglas MacArthur made the decision to retain Hirohito and the imperial institution; the decision evolved by 1944 out of a wartime assumption that the emperor was not personally guilty but was essential for American plans for postwar Japan.[9] Rather than a flash of inspiration from the supreme commander, American policy toward the emperor represented a confluence of motivations that crystallized in the early days of the occupation.[10] MacArthur agreed with the policy and orchestrated dramatic public displays, as well as real changes, that made it clear a new era had arrived and that militarism and emperor worship had ended.[11]

MacArthur and Hirohito at their first meeting, Sept. 1945. MacArthur asserts himself as the older, informal and dominant leader; Hirohito appears younger, formal, subservient, and very clearly not a god

Hirohito moved rapidly to ensure surrender by all army units, and to demobilize his soldiers, a decision that facilitated the American Occupation and demonstrated his willingness to cooperate. The Americans responded by deciding not to control Japan directly (as they controlled Germany), but to keep the Imperial government in place and operate through it. In an interview with American newspapers, Hirohito said that he was not responsible for Pearl Harbor and did not intend a sneak attack, exactly the right message to help rehabilitate his image in the U.S. Hirohito and MacArthur got along well, which was a signal for all their subordinates to follow suite. The Americans did not give orders; they made suggestions which the Japanese quickly accepted.

Hirohito met with MacArthur in a highly publicized visit on September 27, a few days after his arrival as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). The photograph showed MacArthur to be older, informal and dominant, and Hirohito to be younger, subservient, and very clearly not a god.[12] The Japanese government told newspapers not to publish the humiliating photograph. MacArthur intervened and ended the system of police surveillance and thought control in Japan, allowing for the first time criticism of the emperor. The photograph was published, the government resigned and a new government took over the task of cooperating smoothly with MacArthur's general headquarters, the GHQ. A series of decrees in October, 1945, liberated women, freed the labor unions, democratized education, and broke up the old business monopolies. The military organization was closed down and the Shinto religion was disestablished. Hirohito cooperated with these radical reforms and the transition to a liberalized Japan went smoothly.[13]

The Occupation demanded the emperor make a formal repudiation of the traditional claim that he was an incarnate divinity (arahitogami). On 1 January 1946, he made a formal statement where he explained that the role of the emperor in Japan had changed. He explained that the ties between himself and the Japanese people had always involved "mutual trust and affection.” He went on to say, "These ties do not depend upon mere legends and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine and that the Japanese people are superior to other races." [14]

On January 1, 1946, just ten years after his imperial title had been changed to "Dai Nippon Teikoku Tenno," meaning "Imperial Son of Heaven in Mighty Japan," Hirohito reversed course and disclaimed his divinity in a statement to his people. The Japanese saw it as a turning point in their history. American newspapers hailed him as the leader of reform in Japan—a gross exaggeration that worked well for him and GHQ. Hirohito got across to the Japanese people another message as well: that the monarchy had always been compatible with democracy and the current democratiaation of Japanese society marked a continuation of ideals inscribed in the Five Article 'Charter Oath' of the Meiji Restoration.

After the War

After the war, he sought out popularity among the Japanese people, travelling extensively throughout Japan in order to monitor the progress of post-war reconstruction. After 1946, Hirohito played a minor role in decision-making, However his symbolic role was continued and Hirohito moved the imperial closer to the people. In 1958 this change in attitude was reflected in the choice for to be bride for his son, the Crown Prince. the emperor selected Shōda Michiko, the daughter of the former president and chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company. This broke a 1,500-year tradition requiring future empresses to be from noble families; Hirohito's wife, the empress Nagako, repeatedly lamented Akihito's marriage as a disgrace to the imperial family, but Hirohito's approval was widely hailed in Japan. In 1962 Hirohito published the first of several books on marine biology, a subject in which he did considerable research. In 1971 Hirohito visited Europe, the first visit abroad by a reigning Japanese emperor, and one that showed Europeans had long memories of wartime atrocities. In 1975 Hirohito paid an official state visit to the United States, where the wartime hatreds had dissipated.

Emperor Shōwa's Death

On 22 September 1987, the emperor was diagnosed as suffering from duodenal cancer. Although he appeared to recover well after surgery, he collapsed a year later, on 19 September 1988, and his health subsequently deteriorated, as he suffered from continuous internal bleeding.

On 7 January 1989, at 07h55, the grand steward of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shoichi Fujimori, officially announced the Emperor's death, revealing to a saddened public details about the Emperor's cancer for the first time.

Emperor Shōwa was succeeded by his son, Akihito; his death also bringing to an end the Shōwa era and ushering in the Heisei (平成) era. From January 7 until January 31, the emperor's formal appellation was Taikō Tennō (大行天皇)", meaning "Departed Emperor.” As mentioned, his definitive posthumous name, Shōwa Tennō (昭和天皇), was formally released on 31 January 1989, by Toshiki Kaifu, the then Prime Minister.

Emperor Shôwa's state funeral was held On 24 February 1989, and departed with tradition in that it was not performed strictly according to Shinto ritual. It was also the first to be attended by foreign heads of state.

Today, Japanese public opinion is that Emperor Shôwa contributed greatly towards helping Japan to regain her economic and political stability during the post-war years.

Emperor Shōwa rests in the Imperial mausoleum in Hachiōji, alongside Emperor Taishō, his father.

Image and memory

Following longstanding tradition, on his death everyone in Japan immediately stopped using the name Hirohito and referred to him as the Shōwa Emperor, and his reign as the Shōwa Period. Outside Japan, he is still usually known as Hirohito.

Hirohito was violently hated and loathed outside Japan during the war, and was often depicted as a subhuman monster and head of an evil empire.[15] Brands (2006) examines the shift in American public opinion regarding him after the surrender. In June 1945 three out of four Americans wanted him tried as a war criminal; only 7% thought he should be allowed to stay in power. The media attacked anyone thought to be mildly disposed to Hirohito. MacArthur, however, found Hirohito's compliance with the occupation valuable in bringing democratic government to Japan. Hirohito became "humanized" in the American media; stories about his family began to appear, he was photographed in Western dress, and he renounced imperial divinity. News stories out of occupied Japan were censored or slanted to stress reconciliation rather than vengeance, and by June 1946 Americans were accepting the story of Hirohito as a pawn of Japan's military leaders and at the same time were coming to see the Japanese people as willing to accept American political and cultural influences.[16]

Inside Japan following his death discussions of the emperor's image and his role as a symbol of his times focused largely on the issue of his responsibility for World War II according to Finnish historian Olavi K. Fält. One side of his dual image, that of a constitutional monarch, represented the favorable, democratic connotations that had arisen since the war, while the view that he had been responsible for Japan's involvement in the war represented the postwar critical image that he had acquired. The interpretation of these images and of his symbolic significance is complicated still further by the question of what was meant by "responsibility". The Japan Times explained how the foreign media interpreted this predominantly in legal and constitutional terms, while for many Japanese it was mostly an emotional matter that was quite separate from anything that he as a person might actually have done. It was a question of symbolic authority such as is vested in the head of a family, a company, or a nation. The dichotomous nature of the Shōwa emperor's image, as possibly responsible for the course of events that led Japan into the war and at the same time as a symbol of unity, representing peace and democracy, would seem - in the light of the articles in the press - to have been understood as synonymous with the spirit of the times. In this sense he was a symbol of his age: whatever the symbol of the emperor was, the same could be said of the times in which he reigned. Although there was much discussion of his responsibility for the war, one might still ask whether this was really the most serious problem in practice. Was it not more important to resolve the issue of his responsibility as the head of the nation? As the emperor was felt to be a symbol of his age, should he not have automatically borne responsibility for the war in the eyes of the majority of Japanese people, or even served in an essential sense as the symbol of the whole nation's guilt with respect to the war?

See also

Additional Reading


  • Asada, Sadao. "The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender: a Reconsideration." Pacific Historical Review 1998 67(4): 477-512. Issn: 0030-8684 in Jstor
  • Bix, Herbert P. Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan (2000), 816pp, the highly influential standard scholarly biography excerpt and text search
  • Bix, Herbert P. "Japan's Delayed Surrender: a Reinterpretation." Diplomatic History 1995 19(2): 197-225. Issn: 0145-2096 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Bix, Herbert P. "Inventing the 'Symbol Monarchy' in Japan, 1945-52," Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 319–363 in JSTOR
  • Bix, Herbert. "Emperor Hirohito's War." History Today 1991 41(dec): 12-19. Issn: 0018-2753 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Bix, Herbert. "Emperor Hirohito's war," History Today, (Dec 1991), Vol. 41, Issue 12, in Ebsco
  • Brands, Hal. "The Emperor's New Clothes: American Views of Hirohito after World War II". Historian 2006 68(1): 1-28. Issn: 0018-2370 Fulltext: Ebsco also online edition
  • Brinckmann, Hans, and Ysbrand Rogge. Showa Japan: The Post-War Golden Age and Its Troubled Legacy (2008)
  • Butow, Robert J.C. Tojo and the Coming of the War (1961), 584pp
  • Butow, Robert J.C. Japan's Decision to Surrender (1967), the standard history
  • Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (1999), major scholarly study excerpt and text search
  • Gluck, Carol, and Stephen R. Graubard, eds. Showa: The Japan of Hirohito. (1992) articles by scholars excerpt and text search
  • Kawahara, Toshiaki. Hirohito and His Times: A Japanese Perspective. (1990). 181 pp.
  • Kawamura, Noriko. "Emperor Hirohito and Japan's Decision to Go to War with the United States: Reexamined." Diplomatic History 2007 31(1): 51-79. Issn: 0145-2096 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Large, Stephen S. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography (1997), 250pp; highly regarded scholarly biography; says the emperor tried to steer policy in a liberal direction online edition
  • Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. Showa: An Inside History of Hirohito's Japan. (1985). 330 pp.
  • Ruoff, Kenneth J. The People's Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945-1995. (2001). 331 pp.
  • Sheldon, Charles D. "Japanese Aggression and the Emperor, 1931-1941, from Contemporary Diaries." Modern Asian Studies 1976 10(1): 1-40. Issn: 0026-749x in Jstor
  • Shibusawa, Naoko. America's Geisha Ally: Reimagining the Japanese Enemy. (2006). 397 pp. scholarly study of the astonishing reversal of hatred in 1945 into friendly admiration by the late 1940s
  • Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar Japan. (1998). 294 pp. online edition


  • Bix, Herbert. "Emperor Hirohito's War." History Today (Dec. 1991) 41: 12-19. Issn: 0018-2753 Fulltext: Ebsco discusses new Japanese sources that opened after the emperor's death in 1989
  • Gordon, David M. "The China-Japan War, 1931-1945," The Journal of Military History 70#1 (January 2006) pp. 137–182, historiographical overview in Project Muse
  • Harootunian, Harry. "Hirohito Redux." Critical Asian Studies 2001 33(4): 609-636. Issn: 1467-2715 Fulltext: Ebsco, focused on Bix (2000)
  • Large, Stephen S. "Emperor Hirohito and Early Showa Japan." Nipponica 1991 46(3): 349-368. Issn: 0027-0741 in Jstor

Primary sources in English

  • Honjo, Shigeru. Emperor Hirohito and His Chief Aide-de-Camp: The Honjo Diary, 1933-36. (1983). 263 pp.

Not recommended

  • Bergamini, David. 'Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. (1971) contends that Hirohito led his nation into WW2 and intimidated opponents by conniving in religious frauds, blackmails, and assassinations. This book has very negative reviews from scholars who say Bergamini falsified his evidence. See for the consensus

Japanese books

  • Fujiwara Akira, Shōwa Tennō no Jū-go Nen Sensō (Shōwa Emperor's Fifteen-year War), Aoki Shoten, 1991.
  • Yamada Akira, Daigensui Shōwa Tennō (Shōwa Emperor as Commander in Chief), Shin-Nihon Shuppansha, 1994.


  1. Stephen S. Large, Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan (1992) p. 103-8.
  2. Noriko Kawamura, "Emperor Hirohito and Japan's Decision to Go to War with the United States: Reexamined." Diplomatic History 2007 31(1): 51-79.
  3. Herbert Bix, "Emperor Hirohito's war," History Today, (Dec 1991), Vol. 41, Issue 12
  4. Herbert P. Bix "Japan's Delayed Surrender: a Reinterpretation." Diplomatic History 1995 19(2): 197-225. in Ebsco
  5. Herbert P. Bix, "Japan's Delayed Surrender: a Reinterpretation." Diplomatic History 1995 19(2): 197-225; Stephen S. Large, Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan (1992) pp. 121-30.
  6. Sadao Asada, "The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender: a Reconsideration." Pacific Historical Review 1998 67(4): 477-512. in Jstor
  7. Terasaki Hidenari, Shōwa tennô dokuhakuroku, Bungei Shûnjusha, 1991
  8. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/hirohito.htm
  9. American planning for the postwar world began in 1939. Joseph Ballantine and George H. Blakeslee, directors of the State Department's Far East unit, were influential planners along with historian Hugh Borton and especially Joseph Grew, who had been the US ambassador in Tokyo for ten years.
  10. MacArthur in early 1946 warned Washington that a war crimes indictment of Hirohito "will unquestionably cause a tremendous convulsion among the Japanese people, the repercussions of which cannot be overestimated. He is a symbol which unites all Japanese. Destroy him and the nation will disintegrate." Guerrillas would take to the hills and "a minimum of a million troops would be required . . . for an indefinite number of years" to stop the rebellion. Tōjō was put on trial instead and hung. Quoted in Tetsuya Kataoka, The Price of a Constitution: The Origin of Japan's Postwar Politics (1991) p. 37 online
  11. Hal Brands, "Who Saved the Emperor? The Macarthur Myth and U.S. Policy Toward Hirohito and the Japanese Imperial Institution, 1942-1946." Pacific Historical Review 2006 75(2): 271-305. Issn: 0030-8684 Fulltext: Ebsco
  12. On the photograph see primary source activities
  13. See Herbert P. Bix, "Inventing the 'Symbol Monarchy' in Japan, 1945-52," Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Summer, 1995), pp. 319-363 in JSTOR
  14. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWhirohito.htm
  15. Kiyoko Takeda, The Dual-Image of the Japanese Emperor (1988) examines British, Australian, Canadian and Chinese images of Hirohito.
  16. Hal Brands, "The Emperor's New Clothes: American Views of Hirohito after World War II". Historian 2006 68(1): 1-28.