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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The memorandum confirms the theories of some historians that the reason Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously in Japan as Emperor Showa, refrained from visiting the shrine in his later years was because of its honoring the World War II-related war criminals.
Asked about Emperor Hirohito's criticism of Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka and other Class-A war criminals from World War II enshrined at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, as reportedly cited in her husband's memorandum, she said the emperor repeatedly made such remarks to her husband before he died.
Both visits were deemed a success at the time, although there was some controversy over restoring Emperor Hirohito to the Order of the Garter, which had been stripped from him during World War II.
The draft speech, estimated to have been written around autumn of 1948, shows Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, may have been planning to admit his responsibility for the war and apologize to the Japanese people.
Emperor Hirohito was once worshipped as a living demigod and served as Japan's commander-in-chief during its march across Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
He succeeded his father, Emperor Hirohito, who presided over Japan's 20th Century, a period of war, and who passed away in 1989.
Although his position is ceremonial and he has no political power, Akihito has spent much of his reign spreading awareness of Japan's actions during World War Two under the rule of his father, Emperor Hirohito. He has expressed regret over Japan's military actions in both China and the Korean peninsula, and has also visited several Pacific battlefields to honour the dead, actions that have brought him into conflict with right-wing groups at home.
Emperor Akihito was born in Tokyo on December 23, 1933 as the first son of the late Emperor Hirohito (Showa).
1946 - Emperor Hirohito proclaims new Japanese constitution.
The Rhetoric of Emperor Hirohito: Continuity and Rupture in Japan's Drama of Modernity.
A Paisley war hero who came face to face with Emperor Hirohito in a prisoner-of-war death camp blasted plans to send Prince Philip to the Japanese ruler's funeral in spring 1989.
In 1971, just 26 years after the end of WWII, when Emperor Hirohito of Japan visited London, he came into Victoria where I was working at the time and a crowd of us went out to join others who were standing seven or eight deep along the pavements.