Emperor Hirohito was the Emperor of Japan during World War II. His role in the Empire was profound, as he oversaw post-war reconstruction efforts and was paramount to reestablishing relationships torn apart by war. He lived from 1901-1989 and served as the longest ruling Emperor of Japan.
Hirohito was the eldest son of Yoshihito and was born in the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo. Like Imperial Japanese custom dictated, Hirohito was not raised by his family but by a retired member of the military and an imperial servant. His education included a rigorous curriculum of military and religious studies, as well as subjects such as physics and arithmetic. Emperor Hirohito was the first member of the royal Japanese family to embark on a tour abroad. He and his entourage traveled for 6 months to Western Europe.
After the death of Hirohito’s father in 1926, he officially ascended the throne after surviving an assassination attempt. He marries princess Nagako and had seven children. Hirohito ended the practice of Japanese concubines. In the late 1920s, Japan was experiencing an economic decline, rising militarism, and an upsurge in pro-democratic ideologies. In 1929, Hirohito dismissed the Japanese Prime Minister; the next 2 successors to the position were shot and killed. After these deaths, most Prime Ministers came from military backgrounds rather than political parties, which ceased to exist altogether in 1940.
Japan in World War II
Japan’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Italy was officiated in 1940 with the signing of the tripartite pact. On December 7th, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The United States declared war on Japan the next day.
With their official involvement on World War II, Japan occupied several territories in the Pacific including the Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, Singapore and the Philippines. After the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, Emperor Hirohito made a radio broadcast on August 15th officially surrendering.
After the War
Japan’s postwar constitution preserved the monarchy, but turned the emperor from a ruler to a mere symbol of the state. All of the political power was transferred to elected representatives. Hirohito was not indicted as a war criminal (as were many), for the fear by the United States that their occupation of Japan would become chaos. In the years after the war, Hirohito toured Japan overseeing reconstruction efforts.
According to recently declassified documents, Hirohito felt deep remorse and regret for Japan’s role in World War II. These remarks were made to Mr. Kobayashi at the royal residence in Tokyo. Following closely in his fathers footsteps, Emperor Akihito – his son – has expressed deep remorse for the Japanese roles during wartime.