Hirohito warned attack on Pearl Harbor would be 'self-destructive'
Official 12,000-page biography reveals emperor's
thinking but fails to settle debate over his role in decisions leading to
Japan's wartime emperor,
Hirohito, congratulated his forces on victories as the country made a brutal
sweep across mainland Asia but warned that an attack on the US would be
"self-destructive", according to a new biography.
official record of Hirohito's thinking during a tumultuous period in Japan's
history, released by the imperial household agency this week, offers a largely
sympathetic view of the monarch, whose 62-year reign spanned his country's
descent into militarism, its wartime defeat and its dramatic postwar economic
alarmed by political leaders' intentions in the runup to the December 1941
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, according to the biography, describing the
prospect of conflict with the US as a "reckless war" that would make
him "deeply sorry for my imperial ancestors".
expressed similar doubts about the "predisposition" of army leaders
who waged war in China in the 1930s, but he celebrated victories by troops who
fought in his name.
Japanese troops invaded the Chinese city of Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1937, slaughtering
tens of thousands of civilians, Hirohito said he was "deeply
satisfied" by the troops' courage in quickly seizing the city. The annals
contain details of how the city was besieged, but make no mention of the
atrocities, Japanese media said.
12,000-page biography of Hirohito, posthumously known as the Showa Emperor
("enlightened peace"), took 24 years to compile at a cost of 230m yen
records, released to selected members of the Japanese media before general
publication, failed to settle the longrunning debate over the extent of
Hirohito's involvement in the decisions that ultimately led to the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's surrender in August 1945.
historians insist that as a revered demi-god and commander in chief of the
imperial forces, he bore responsibility for Japan's actions in the 1930s and
40s. Others insist that, despite his status, key decisions were taken by
Shimbun, a liberal newspaper, said the records simply confirmed the established
narrative of Hirohito's reign. It "hardly contained anything new that
reverses conventional wisdom and history", the paper said in an editorial.
"We must keep asking ourselves why that catastrophic war could not be
avoided. That question is hardly resolved."
commentators speculated that the biography was still incomplete and wondered
how much material had been omitted by the imperial household agency.
subjects had never heard him speak until he announced Japan's defeat in a
four-minute radio address on 15 August 1945. According to the records, the
leader of the US occupation, Gen Douglas MacArthur, is quoted as saying that
Hirohito had told him during their first meeting on 27 September that year that
he accepted "sole responsibility" for Japan's wartime conduct.
informed of the bombing of Hiroshima almost 12 hours after the city was
flattened. Two days later, the records say, he was convinced that it had
"become impossible to continue the war" and hoped the conflict would
end "as swiftly as possible".
for Hirohito to be tried as a war criminal, the US occupation authorities
allowed him to remain on the Chrysanthemum throne to ensure political stability
amid fears of communist influence. He renounced his divinity, but remained a
potent national symbol until his death in 1989.
cite a 2006 newspaper article in which a palace official is quoted in a memo as
saying that Hirohito had been displeased by the earlier decision to enshrine
class-A war criminals at Yasukuni, a shrine in Tokyo that honours Japan's war
dead. The memo, however, is not included in the newly published material, and
no mention is made of Hirohito's own comments on the Yasukuni issue.
report will be published in stages over the next five years, starting in March.