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Hirohito was the emperor of Japan from 1926 to 1989. His reign encompassed a period of Japanese militarism that resulted in Japan's participation in World War II, the United States' dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the United States' military occupation of Japan following Japan's defeat. After World War II, Hirohito's authority changed, and he was reduced to a ceremonial figure.

Hirohito was born in Tokyo on April 29, 1901, and was educated in Japan. He became emperor on December 25, 1926, at a time when Japanese parliamentary government suggested that democracy and international cooperation would continue to grow. However, forces within the military sought to dominate the government and embark on a course of expansionism within Asia. Though he had private misgivings about the rise of militarism, Hirohito took no action to stop the generals. His advisers were concerned that imperial opposition would lead to the military overthrow of the monarchy.

As the 124th direct descendant of Japan's first emperor, Jimmu, Hirohito was considered sacred and was referred to as Tenno Heika, meaning "son of heaven." Because Hirohito was unwilling to exercise his divine authority against the military, the Japanese army invaded China in 1937 and in 1940 joined in a military alliance with the Axis powers. The alliance led to Japan's participation in World War II and its attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States on December 7, 1941.

The attack on the United States led to severe consequences for Japanese Americans. On February 19, 1942, President franklin d. roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066, forcing the relocation of all 112,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast (including 70,000 U.S. citizens) to detention camps in places such as Jerome, Arkansas, and Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Roosevelt issued the order after U.S. military leaders, worried about a Japanese invasion, argued that national security required such drastic action.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the forced relocation in korematsu v. united states, 323 U.S. 214, 65 S. Ct. 193, 89 L. Ed. 194 (1944). Justice hugo l. black noted that curtailing the rights of a single racial group is constitutionally suspect, but in this case military necessity justified the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. In retrospect historians have characterized the removal and detention as the most drastic invasion of individual Civil Rights by the government in U.S. history.

Hirohito gradually became more open, within the inner circles of government, about his desire to end the war, especially after the United States inflicted numerous military defeats on Japan. But many members of the military wished to fight until the very end. With the United States' dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Hirohito pushed for the surrender of Japan. On August 15 he broadcast Japan's surrender to the Allied forces. He broadcast to the Japanese people additional messages that were credited for the smooth transfer of power from Japan to the U.S. military occupation force, under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur.

Although Hirohito was implicated in Japanese war plans, he was exonerated in the War Crimes trials of 1946–48. He had changed the importance of the monarchy in 1946, when he publicly renounced his divine authority. The 1947 constitution that was written for Japan by MacArthur and his advisers had transformed Hirohito from a sovereign with supreme authority into a "symbol of the state," and placed control of the government in the hands of elected officials. Hirohito had endorsed the change, which reduced the emperor to a ceremonial figure.

Hirohito embraced the ceremonial role. He traveled widely and became more accessible. He also pursued his interest in marine biology. He died on January 7, 1989.

Further readings

Bix, Herbert P. 2000. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. New York, N.Y.: HarperCollins.

Executive Order No. 9066. 1942. Federal Register 7:1407.


Japanese American Evacuation Cases.

References in periodicals archive ?
The film depicts not only Emperor Hirohito, Fellers, and McArthur, but men who stood trial for war crimes: imperial advisor Koichi Kido (played by Masato Ibu), wartime Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoe (Masatoshi Nakamura), and Imperial Army Gen.
Then Japanese Foreign Minister Takeo Fukuda, who accompanied Emperor Hirohito on the trip -- his first abroad as emperor, expressed discomfort at the time, describing the U.
The International Prize for Biology, which will be the 17th to be given this year, was instituted to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the reign of the late Emperor Hirohito, posthumously called Emperor Showa, who had a keen interest in biology and published some work in the field.
The Seagraves aver that the United States forced men such as the seven Class A war criminals lauded by Hirohito - including the notorious Sori-daijin (Prime Minister) Taisho (General) Hideki Tojo - to perjure themselves to rescue Emperor Hirohito from the equal charge of being a sempan (war criminal).
Then 20, he was put to work digging underground battlements for the last stand by Emperor Hirohito, father of the present ruler.
He was named by President Reagan as a United States Representative to the United Nations Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy, and by President Bush to the official United Stated Delegation to the 40th NATO Summit and to the funeral of Emperor Hirohito of Japan.
US General Fellers (Matthew Fox of TV's Lost) has 10 days to find out if Emperor Hirohito is a war criminal.
Reporters from the victorious allies tried to interview then Emperor Hirohito at the Imperial Palace while soldiers visited an imperial villa and demanded a guide to it, declassified Japanese documents showed Thursday.
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QUIZ CHALLENGE: 1 25p; 2 Samuel Plimsoll; 3 The red squirrel; 4 John Alcock and Arthur Brown; 5 Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
That's why Emperor Hirohito, in the spring of 1936, put his brother Prince Chichibu in charge of a secret palace agency that would supervise all looting and make sure the treasure got back to the imperial coffers.