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Hirohito (1901–89)

Subject History

Place Eastern Asia » Japan

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Emperor of Japan (1926–89), who took the reign name Showa (Enlightened Peace). The son of Crown Prince Yoshihito (1874–1926), who became the Taisho Emperor (1912–26), Hirohito was the first member of the Japanese imperial family who was allowed to travel abroad. In 1921 he visited the USA and Europe and shortly after his return he became regent, as his father was declared insane. Austere, hardworking and frugal, he ended the long tradition by which the empress's ladies-in-waiting served as the emperor's concubines. Although he was the key figure in the emperor system, his divinity placed him above party politics. He was a silent presence at all cabinet meetings but followed the convention by which it was the emperor's duty to accept his ministers’ advice when that was unanimous, so that he could be a focus of national unity. As he played a passive role, it is difficult to assess what his opinions and influence were. There were at least two occasions when he effectively expressed his personal views, as his ministers were not agreed on what action to take. He insisted on the suppression of the February Rising (1936) and he took the decision to surrender in 1945. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki an imperial conference was called. Civilian ministers wanted to end the war at any price but three out of four military advisers wished to continue fighting, if the Allies would ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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