Timeline of pre-war Japan
- 1926: Emperor Taisho dies (December 25).
- 1927: Tanaka Giichi becomes prime minister (April 20).
- 1928: Hirohito, the Emperor Shōwa, is formally installed as emperor (November 10).
- 1929: Hamaguchi Osachi becomes prime minister (July 2).
- 1930: Hamaguchi is wounded in an assassination attempt (November 14).
- 1931: Hamaguchi dies and Wakatsuki Reijiro becomes prime minister (April 14). The Sino-Japanese War starts with the Mukden Incident (September 18). Inukai Tsuyoshi becomes prime minister (December 13) and increases funding for the military in China.
- 1932: After an attack on Japanese monks in Shanghai (January 18), Japanese forces shell the city (January 29). Manchukuo is established with Henry Pu Yi as emperor (February 29). Inukai is assassinated during a coup attempt and Saito Makoto becomes prime minister (May 15). Japan is censured by the League of Nations (December 7).
- 1933: Japan leaves the League of Nations (March 27).
- 1934: Okada Keisuke becomes prime minister (July 8). Japan withdraws from the Washington Naval Treaty (December 29).
- 1936: Coup attempt, the February 26 Incident, crushed by Hirohito. Hirota Koki becomes prime minister (March 9). Japan signs its first pact with Germany (November 25) and occupies Tsingtao (December 3). Mengchiang established in Inner Mongolia.
- 1937: Hayashi Senjuro becomes prime minister (February 2). Prince Konoe Fumimaro becomes prime minister (June 4). Battle of Lugou Bridge (July 7). Japan captures Beijing (July 31). Japanese troops occupy Nanjing (December 13), beginning the Nanjing massacre.
- 1938: Battle of Taierzhuang (March 24). Canton falls to Japanese forces (October 21).
- 1939: Hiranuma Kiichiro becomes prime minister (January 5). Abe Nobuyuki becomes prime minister (August 30).
- 1940: Yonai Mitsumasa becomes prime minister (January 16). Konoe becomes prime minister for a second term (July 22). Hundred Regiments Offensive (August-September). Japan occupies French Indochina in the wake of the fall of Paris to the Germans, and signs the Tripartite Pact (September 27).
- 1941: General Tojo Hideki becomes prime minister (October 18). Japanese naval forces attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (December 7) (see Attack on Pearl Harbor), prompting the United States to declare war on Japan (December 8). Japan conquers Hong Kong (December 25).
- 1942: Singapore surrenders to Japan (February 15). Japan bombs Australia (February 19). Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (April 18). Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4 - 8). Sanko sakusen implemented in North China. American forces in the Philippines surrender (May 8). Japan defeated at the Battle of Midway (June 6).
- 1943: U.S. victory in Battle of Guadalcanal (February 9). Japan defeated at Battle of Tarawa (November 23).
- 1944: Tojo resigns and Koiso Kuniaki becomes prime minister (July 22).
- 1945: U.S. bombers begin firebombing of major Japanese cities. Japan defeated at Battle of Iwo Jima (March 26). Admiral Suzuki Kantaro becomes prime minister (April 7). Manila massacre. Japan defeated at Battle of Okinawa (June 21). U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) Japan surrenders (2 September): Allied occupation begins.
The Emperor and the Imperial stallion Shirayuki
Hirohito , also known as Emperor Shōwa (Shōwa tennō, (April 29, 1901 – January 7, 1989) was the 124th )emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to exclusively by his posthumous name Emperor Shōwa. The word Shōwa is the name of the era that corresponded with the Emperor's reign, and was made the Emperor's own name upon his death.
At the start of his reign, Japan was still a fairly rural country with a limited industrial base. He was the supreme ruler during Japan's militarization and involvement in World War II.
After the World War II, his followers were prosecuted for war crimes, but he was not prosecuted. During the postwar period, he became the “symbol” of the new state.
Born in the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo, Prince Hirohito was the first son of Crown Prince Yoshihito (the future Emperor Taishō) and Crown Princess Sadako (the future Empress Teimei). His childhood title was Prince Michi (迪宮, Michi no miya ). He became heir apparent upon the death of his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, on July 30, 1912. He was formally proclaimed as Crown Prince and heir apparent in November 2, 1916; but an investiture ceremony was not strictly necessary to confirm this status as heir to the throne.
Prince Hirohito attended the YMCA of Gakushuin Peers' School from 1908 to 1914 and then a special institute for the crown prince (Tōgū-gogakumonsho) from 1914 to 1921.
In 1921, Prince Hirohito took a six month tour of Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, becoming the first Japanese crown prince to travel abroad. After his return to Japan, he became Regent of Japan on November 29, 1921, in place of his ailing father who was affected by a mental illness.
During Prince Hirohito's regency, a number of important events occurred:
In the Four-Power Treaty on Insular Possessions signed on December 13, 1921, Japan, the United States, Britain and France agreed to recognize the status quo in the Pacific, and Japan and Britain agreed to terminate formally the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The Washington Naval Treaty was signed on February 6, 1922. Japan completed withdrawal of troops from the Siberian Intervention on August 28, 1922. The Great Kantō earthquake devastated Tokyo on September 1, 1923. The General Election Law was passed on May 5, 1925, giving all men above age 25 the right to vote.
Marriage and issue
The daughters who lived to adulthood left the imperial family as a result of the American reforms of the Japanese imperial household in October 1947 (in the case of Princess Higashikuni) or under the terms of the Imperial Household Law at the moment of their subsequent marriages (in the cases of Princesses Kazuko, Atsuko, and Takako).
On December 25, 1926, Hirohito assumed the throne upon the death of his father Yoshihito; and the Crown Prince was said to have received the succession (senso). The Taishō era ceased at once and a new era, the Shōwa era (Enlightened Peace), was proclaimed. The deceased Emperor was posthumously renamed Emperor Taishō a few days later. Following Japanese custom, the new Emperor was never referred to by his given name, but rather was referred to simply as "His Majesty the Emperor" (天皇陛下, tennō heika ), which may be shortened to "His Majesty" (陛下, heika ). In writing, the Emperor was also referred to formally as "The Reigning Emperor" (今上天皇, kinjō tennō ).
In November 1928, the Emperor's ascension was confirmed in ceremonies (sokui) which are conventionally identified as "enthronement" and "coronation" (Shōwa no tairei-shiki); but this formal event would have been more accurately described as a public confirmation that his Imperial Majesty possesses the Japanese Imperial Regalia, also called the Three Sacred Treasures, which have been handed down through centuries.
The first part of Hirohito's reign as sovereign took place against a background of financial crisis and increasing military power within the government, through both legal and extralegal means. The Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy had held veto power over the formation of cabinets since 1900, and between 1921 and 1944 there were no fewer than 64 incidents of political violence.
Another notable case was the assassination of moderate Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in 1932, which marked the end of civilian control of the military. This was followed by an attempted military coup in February 1936, the February 26 incident, mounted by junior Army officers of the Kōdōha faction who had the sympathy of many high-ranking officers including Prince Chichibu (Yasuhito) one of the Emperor's brothers. This revolt was occasioned by a loss of ground by the militarist faction in Diet elections. The coup resulted in the murder of a number of high government and Army officials.
When Chief Aide-de-camp Shigeru Honjō informed him of the revolt, the Emperor immediately ordered that it be put down and referred to the officers as "rebels" (bōto). Shortly thereafter, he ordered Army Minister Yoshiyuki Kawashima to suppress the rebellion within the hour, and he asked reports from Honjō every thirty minutes. The next day, when told by Honjō that little progress was being made by the high command in quashing the rebels, the Emperor told him "I Myself, will lead the Konoe Division and subdue them." The rebellion was suppressed following his orders on February 29.
Sino-Japanese War and World War II
Entering World War II
Prior to World War II, Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and the rest of China in 1937 (the Second Sino-Japanese War). Primary sources reveal that Emperor Shōwa never really had any objection to the invasion of China in 1937, which was recommended to him by his chiefs of staff and prime minister Fumimaro Konoe. His main concern seems to have been the possibility of an attack by the Soviets in the north. His questions to his chief of staff, Prince Kan'in, and minister of the army, Hajime Sugiyama, were mostly about the time it could take to crush the Chinese resistance.
According to Akira Fujiwara, the Emperor personally ratified the proposal by the Japanese Army to remove the constraints of international law on the treatment of Chinese prisoners on August 5. Moreover, the works of Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno show that the Emperor authorized, by specific orders (rinsanmei), the use of chemical weapons against the Chinese. During the invasion of Wuhan, from August to October 1938, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions, despite the resolution adopted by the League of Nations on May 14 condemning the use of toxic gas by the Japanese Army.
During World War II, ostensibly under Emperor Hirohito's leadership, Japan formed alliances with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, forming the Axis Powers. In July 1939, the Emperor quarreled with one of his brothers, Prince Chichibu, who was visiting him three times a week to support the treaty, and reprimanded the army minister Seishiro Itagaki. However, after the success of the Wehrmacht in Europe, the Emperor consented to the alliance.
On September 4, 1941, the Japanese Cabinet met to consider war plans prepared by Imperial General Headquarters, and decided that:
|“||Our Empire, for the purpose of self-defense and self-preservation, will complete preparations for war ... [and is] ... resolved to go to war with the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands if necessary. Our Empire will concurrently take all possible diplomatic measures vis-à-vis the United States and Great Britain, and thereby endeavor to obtain our objectives ... In the event that there is no prospect of our demands being met by the first ten days of October through the diplomatic negotiations mentioned above, we will immediately decide to commence hostilities against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.||”|
The "objectives" to be obtained were clearly defined: a free hand to continue with the conquest of China and Southeast Asia, no increase in US or British military forces in the region, and cooperation by the West "in the acquisition of goods needed by our Empire."
On September 5, Prime Minister Konoe informally submitted a draft of the decision to the Emperor, just one day in advance of the Imperial Conference at which it would be formally implemented. On this evening, Emperor Shōwa had a meeting with the chief of staff of the army, Sugiyama, chief of staff of the navy, Osami Nagano, and Prime Minister Konoe. The Emperor questioned Sugiyama about the chances of success of an open war with the Occident. As Sugiyama answered positively, the Emperor scolded him:
|“||—At the time of the China incident, the army told me that we could make Chiang surrender after three months but you still can't beat him even today! Sugiyama, you were minister at the time.
—China is a vast area with many ways in and ways out, and we met unexpectedly big difficulties.
—You say the interior of China is huge; isn't the Pacific Ocean even bigger than China? Didn't I caution you each time about those matters? Sugiyama, are you lying to me?
Chief of Naval General Staff Admiral Nagano, a former Navy Minister and vastly experienced, later told a trusted colleague, "I have never seen the Emperor reprimand us in such a manner, his face turning red and raising his voice."
According to the traditional view, Emperor Shōwa was deeply concerned by the decision to place "war preparations first and diplomatic negotiations second," and he announced his intention to break with tradition. At the Imperial Conference on the following day, the Emperor directly questioned the chiefs of the Army and Navy general staffs, which was quite an unprecedented action.
Nevertheless, all speakers at the Imperial Conference were united in favor of war rather than diplomacy. Baron Yoshimichi Hara, President of the Imperial Council and the Emperor's representative, then questioned them closely, producing replies to the effect that war would only be considered as a last resort from some, and silence from others.
At this point, the Emperor astonished all present by addressing the conference personally, and in breaking the tradition of Imperial silence left his advisors "struck with awe." (Prime Minister Konoe's description of the event.) Emperor Shōwa stressed the need for peaceful resolution of international problems, expressed regret at his ministers' failure to respond to Baron Hara's probings, and recited a poem written by his grandfather, Emperor Meiji which, he said, he had read "over and over again":
|“||Across the four seas, all are brothers.
In such a world why do the waves rage, the winds roar?
Recovering from their shock, the ministers hastened to express their profound wish to explore all possible peaceful avenues. The Emperor's presentation was in line with his practical role as leader of the Shinto religion.
At this time, Army Imperial Headquarters was continually communicating with the Imperial household in detail about the military situation. On October 8, Sugiyama signed a 47-page report to the Emperor (sōjōan) outlining in minute detail plans for the advance in Southeast Asia. During the third week of October, Sugiyama gave the Emperor a 51-page document, "Materials in Reply to the Throne," about the operational outlook for the war.
As war preparations continued, Prime Minister Konoe found himself more and more isolated and gave his demission on October 16. He justified himself to his chief cabinet secretary, Kenji Tomita :
|“||Of course His Majesty is a pacifist, and there is no doubt he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war was a mistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: You were worried about it yesterday, but you do not have to worry so much. Thus, gradually, he began to lead toward war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more toward. In short, I felt the Emperor was telling me: my prime minister does not understand military matters, I know much more. In short, the Emperor had absorbed the view of the army and navy high commands.||”|
The army and the navy recommended the candidacy of Prince Higashikuni, one of the Emperor's uncles. According to the Shōwa "Monologue," written after the war, the Emperor then said that if the war were to begin while a member of the imperial house was prime minister, the imperial house would have to carry the responsibility and he was opposed to this.
Instead, the Emperor chose the hard-line General Hideki Tōjō, who was known for his devotion to the imperial institution, and asked him to make a policy review of what had been sanctioned by the imperial conferences. On November 2, Tōjō, Sugiyama and Nagano reported to the Emperor that the review of eleven points had been in vain. Emperor Shōwa gave his consent to the war and then asked: "Are you going to provide justification for the war?"
On November 3, Nagano explained in detail the Pearl Harbor attack plan to the Emperor. On November 5, Emperor Shōwa approved in imperial conference the operations plan for a war against the Occident and had many meetings with the military and Tōjō until the end of the month. On December 1, an imperial conference sanctioned the "War against the United States, United Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Netherlands." On December 8 (December 7 in Hawaii) 1941, in simultaneous attacks, Japanese forces struck at the US Fleet in Pearl Harbor and began the invasion of Malaysia.
With the nation fully committed to the war, Emperor Shōwa took a keen interest in military progress and sought to boost morale. According to Akira Yamada and Akira Fujiwara, the Emperor made major interventions in some military operations. For example, he pressed Sugiyama four times, on January 13 and 21 and February 9 and 26, to increase troop strength and launch an attack on Bataan. On February 9, March 19 and May 29, the Emperor ordered the Army Chief of staff to examine the possibilities for an attack on Chungking, which led to Operation Gogo.
As the tide of war gradually began to turn (around late 1942 and early 1943), some people argue that the flow of information to the palace gradually began to bear less and less relation to reality, while others suggest that the Emperor worked closely with Prime Minister Tōjō, continued to be well and accurately briefed by the military, and knew Japan's military position precisely right up to the point of surrender. The chief of staff of the General Affairs section of the Prime Minister's office, Shuichi Inada, remarked to Tōjō's private secretary, Sadao Akamatsu:
|“||There has never been a cabinet in which the prime minister, and all the ministers, reported so often to the throne. In order to effect the essence of genuine direct imperial rule and to relieve the concerns of the Emperor, the ministers reported to the throne matters within the scope of their responsibilities as per the prime minister's directives... In times of intense activities, typed drafts were presented to the Emperor with corrections in red. First draft, second draft, final draft and so forth, came as deliberations progressed one after the other and were sanctioned accordingly by the Emperor.||”|
In the first six months of war, all the major engagements had been victories. As the tide turned in the summer of 1942 with the battle of Midway and the landing of the American forces on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in August, the Emperor recognized the potential danger and pushed the navy and the army for greater efforts. In September 1942, Emperor Hirohito signed the Imperial Rescript condemning to death American Fliers: Lieutenants Dean E. Hallmark and William G. Farrow and Corporal Harold A. Spatz and commuting to life sentences: Lieutenants Robert J. Meder, Chase Nielsen, Robert L. Hite and George Barr and Corporal Jacob DeShazer. When informed in August 1943 by Sugiyama that the American advance through the Solomon Islands could not be stopped, the Emperor asked his chief of staff to consider other places to attack : "When and where on are you ever going to put up a good fight? And when are you ever going to fight a decisive battle?" On August 24, the Emperor reprimanded Nagano and on September 11, he ordered Sugiyama to work with the Navy to implement better military preparation and give adequate supply to soldiers fighting in Rabaul.
Throughout the following years, the sequence of drawn and then decisively lost engagements was reported to the public as a series of great victories. Only gradually did it become apparent to the people in the home islands that the situation was very grim. U.S. air raids on the cities of Japan starting in 1944 made a mockery of the unending tales of victory. Later that year, with the downfall of Hideki Tōjō's government, two other prime ministers were appointed to continue the war effort, Kuniaki Koiso and Kantaro Suzuki— each with the formal approval of the Emperor. Both were unsuccessful and Japan was nearing defeat.
Civilian deaths and suicides
As the tide of war turned against the Japanese, Hirohito personally found the threat of defection of Japanese civilians disturbing because there was a risk that live civilians would be surprised by generous U.S. treatment. Native Japanese sympathizers would hand the Americans a powerful propaganda weapon to subvert the "fighting spirit" of Japan in radio broadcasts. At the end of June 1944 during the Battle of Saipan, Hirohito sent out the first imperial order encouraging all Japanese civilians to commit suicide rather than be captured or taken prisoner.
The Imperial order authorized Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito, the commander of Saipan, to promise civilians who died there an equal spiritual status in the afterlife with those of soldiers perishing in combat. General Tojo intercepted the order on 30 June and delayed its sending, but it was issued anyway the next day. By the time the Marines advanced on the north tip of the island, from 8 July–12, most of the damage had been done. Over 10,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide in the last days of the battle to take the offered privileged place in the afterlife, some jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff".
Last days of the war
In early 1945, in the wake of the loss of Leyte, Emperor Shōwa began a series of individual meetings with senior government officials to consider the progress of the war. All but ex-Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe advised continuing the war. Konoe feared a communist revolution even more than defeat in war and urged a negotiated surrender. In February 1945, during the first private audience with the Emperor which he had been allowed in three years, Konoe advised Hirohito to begin negotiations to end World War II. According to Grand Chamberlain Hisanori Fujita, the Emperor, still looking for a tennozan (a great victory) in order to provide a stronger bargaining position, firmly rejected Konoe's recommendation.
With each passing week a great victory became less likely. In April the Soviet Union issued notice that it would not renew its neutrality agreement. Japan's ally Germany surrendered in early May 1945. In June, the cabinet reassessed the war strategy, only to decide more firmly than ever on a fight to the last man. This strategy was officially affirmed at a brief Imperial Council meeting, at which, as was normal, the Emperor did not speak.
The following day, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kōichi Kido prepared a draft document which summarized the hopeless military situation and proposed a negotiated settlement. According to some commentators,[who?] the Emperor privately approved of it and authorized Kido to circulate it discreetly amongst less hawkish cabinet members; others suggest that the Emperor was indecisive, and that the delay cost many tens of thousands of Japanese and Allied lives. Extremists in Japan were also calling for a death-before-dishonor mass suicide, modeled on the "47 Ronin" incident. By mid-June 1945, the cabinet had agreed to approach the Soviet Union to act as a mediator for a negotiated surrender, but not before Japan's bargaining position had been improved by repulse of the anticipated Allied invasion of mainland Japan.
On June 22, the Emperor met his ministers, saying "I desire that concrete plans to end the war, unhampered by existing policy, be speedily studied and that efforts be made to implement them." The attempt to negotiate a peace via the Soviet Union came to nothing. There was always the threat that extremists would carry out a coup or foment other violence. On July 26, 1945, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration demanding unconditional surrender. The Japanese government council, the Big Six, considered that option and recommended to the Emperor that it be accepted only if one to four conditions were agreed, including a guarantee of the Emperor's continued position in Japanese society. The Emperor decided not to surrender.
On August 9, 1945, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet declaration of war, Emperor Shōwa told Kido to "quickly control the situation" because "the Soviet Union has declared war and today began hostilities against us." On August 10, the cabinet drafted an "Imperial Rescript ending the War" following the Emperor's indications that the declaration did not compromise any demand which prejudiced the prerogatives of His Majesty as a Sovereign Ruler.
On August 12, 1945, the Emperor informed the imperial family of his decision to surrender. One of his uncles, Prince Asaka, asked whether the war would be continued if the kokutai (national polity) could not be preserved. The Emperor simply replied "of course." On August 14, the Suzuki government notified the Allies that it had accepted the Potsdam Declaration. On August 15, a recording of the Emperor's surrender speech was broadcast over the radio (the first time the Emperor was heard on the radio by the Japanese people) signifying the unconditional surrender of Japan's military forces (known as Gyokuon-hōsō).
Objecting to the surrender, die-hard army fanatics attempted a coup d'état by conducting a full military assault and takeover of the Imperial Palace. The physical recording of the surrender speech was hidden and preserved overnight, and the coup was quickly crushed on the Emperor's order.
The surrender speech noted that "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage" and ordered the Japanese to "endure the unendurable" in surrender. It was the first time the public had heard the Emperor's voice. The speech, using formal, archaic Japanese was not readily understood by many commoners. According to historian Richard Storry in A History of Modern Japan, the Emperor typically used "a form of language familiar only to the well-educated" and to the more traditional samurai families.
Issue of the Emperor's responsibility for war crimes
Many historians see Emperor Shōwa as responsible for the atrocities committed by the imperial forces in the Second Sino-Japanese War and in World War II and feel that he, some members of the imperial family such as his brother Prince Chichibu, his cousins Prince Takeda and Prince Fushimi, and his uncles Prince Kan'in, Prince Asaka, and Prince Higashikuni, should have been tried for war crimes. Because of this perception of responsibility for war crimes and lack of accountability, many inhabitants of countries conquered by Japan, as well as others in nations that fought Japan, retain a hostile attitude towards the Japanese imperial family.
The issue of Hirohito's responsibility for war crimes is a debate regarding how much real control the Emperor had over the Japanese military during the two wars. Officially, the imperial constitution, adopted under Emperor Meiji, gave full power to the Emperor. Article 4 prescribed that, "The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution," while, according to article 6, "The Emperor gives sanction to laws and orders them to be promulgated and executed," and article 11, "The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and the Navy." The Emperor was thus the leader of the Imperial General Headquarters.
In 1971, David Bergamini showed how primary sources, such as the "Sugiyama memo" and the diaries of Kido and Konoe, describe in detail the informal meetings Emperor Shōwa had with his chiefs of staff and ministers. Bergamini concluded that the Emperor was kept informed of all main military operations and that he frequently questioned his senior staff and asked for changes.
Historians such as Herbert Bix, Akira Fujiwara, Peter Wetzler, and Akira Yamada assert that the post-war view focusing on imperial conferences misses the importance of numerous "behind the chrysanthemum curtain" meetings where the real decisions were made between the Emperor, his chiefs of staff, and the cabinet. Historians such as Fujiwara and Wetzler, based on the primary sources and the monumental work of Shirō Hara, have produced evidence suggesting that the Emperor worked through intermediaries to exercise a great deal of control over the military and was neither bellicose nor a pacifist, but an opportunist who governed in a pluralistic decision-making process. American historian Herbert Bix argues that Emperor Shōwa might have been the prime mover of most of the events of the two wars.
The view promoted by both the Japanese Imperial Palace and the American occupation forces immediately after World War II had Emperor Shōwa as a powerless figurehead behaving strictly according to protocol, while remaining at a distance from the decision-making processes. This view was endorsed by Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita in a speech on the day of Hirohito's death, in which Takeshita asserted that the war had broken out against [Hirohito's] wishes. Takeshita's statement provoked outrage in nations in East Asia and Commonwealth nations such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. For Fujiwara, however, "the thesis that the Emperor, as an organ of responsibility, could not reverse cabinet decision, is a myth fabricated after the war."
In Japan, debate over the Emperor's responsibility was taboo while he was still alive. After his death, however, debate began to surface over the extent of his involvement and thus his culpability.
In the years immediately after Hirohito's death, the debate in Japan was fierce. Susan Chira reported that, "Scholars who have spoken out against the late Emperor have received threatening phone calls from Japan's extremist right wing." One example of actual violence occurred in 1990 when the mayor of Nagasaki, Hitoshi Motoshima, was shot and critically wounded by a member of the ultranationalist group, Seikijuku; Motoshima managed to recover from the attack. In 1989, Motoshima had broken what was characterized as "one of [Japan's] most sensitive taboos" by asserting that Emperor Hirohito bore some responsibility for World War II.
Kentaro Awaya argues that post-war Japanese public opinion supporting protection of the Emperor was influenced by US propaganda promoting the view that the Emperor together with the Japanese people had been fooled by the military.
As the Emperor chose his uncle Prince Higashikuni as prime minister to assist the occupation, there were attempts by numerous leaders to have him put on trial for alleged war crimes. Many members of the imperial family, such as Princes Chichibu, Takamatsu and Higashikuni, pressured the Emperor to abdicate so that one of the Princes could serve as regent until Crown Prince Akihito came of age. On February 27, 1946, the emperor's youngest brother, Prince Mikasa (Takahito), even stood up in the privy council and indirectly urged the emperor to step down and accept responsibility for Japan's defeat. According to Minister of Welfare Ashida's diary, "Everyone seemed to ponder Mikasa's words. Never have I seen His Majesty's face so pale."
U.S. General Douglas MacArthur insisted that Emperor Shōwa retain the throne. MacArthur saw the emperor as a symbol of the continuity and cohesion of the Japanese people. Many historians criticize the decision to exonerate the Emperor and all members of the imperial family who were implicated in the war, such as Prince Chichibu, Prince Asaka, Prince Higashikuni and Prince Hiroyasu Fushimi, from criminal prosecutions.
Before the war crime trials actually convened, the SCAP, the IPS, and Japanese officials worked behind the scenes not only to prevent the Imperial family from being indicted, but also to slant the testimony of the defendants to ensure that no one implicated the emperor. High officials in court circles and the Japanese government collaborated with Allied GHQ in compiling lists of prospective war criminals, while the individuals arrested as Class A suspects and incarcerated in Sugamo prison solemnly vowed to protect their sovereign against any possible taint of war responsibility. Thus, "months before the Tokyo tribunal commenced, MacArthur's highest subordinates were working to attribute ultimate responsibility for Pearl Harbor to Hideki Tōjō" by allowing "the major criminal suspects to coordinate their stories so that the Emperor would be spared from indictment." According to John Dower, "This successful campaign to absolve the Emperor of war responsibility knew no bounds. Hirohito was not merely presented as being innocent of any formal acts that might make him culpable to indictment as a war criminal, he was turned into an almost saintly figure who did not even bear moral responsibility for the war." According to Bix, "MacArthur's truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war."
Toward the end of the occupation, Hirohito let it be known to SCAP that he was prepared to apologize formally to U.S. Gen. MacArthur for Japan's actions during World War II – including an apology for the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
According to Patrick Lennox Tierney, on the day the Emperor came to offer this apology, MacArthur refused to admit him or acknowledge him. Tierney was an eye witness because his office was on the fifth floor of the Dai-Ichi Insurance Building in Tokyo, the same floor where MacArthur's suite was situated. Many years later, Tierney made an effort to explain his understanding of the significance of what he had personally witnessed: "Apology is a very important thing in Japan." A pivotal moment passed. Issues which might have been addressed were allowed to remain open, with consequences which have unfolded across decades.
The Emperor was not put on trial, but he was forced to explicitly reject (in the Ningen-sengen (人間宣言)) the State Shinto claim that the Emperor of Japan was an arahitogami, i.e., an incarnate divinity. This was motivated by the fact that, according to the Japanese constitution of 1889, the Emperor had a divine power over his country, which was derived from the shinto belief that the Japanese Imperial Family was the offspring of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Hirohito was however persistent in the idea that the emperor of Japan should be considered a descendant of the gods. In December 1945 he told his vice-grand chamberlain Michio Kinoshita: "It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the emperor is a descendant of the gods." In any case, the "renunciation of divinity" was noted more by foreigners than by Japanese, and seems to have been intended for the consumption of the former.
Although the Emperor supposedly had repudiated claims to divine status, his public position was deliberately left vague, partly because General MacArthur thought him likely to be a useful partner to get the Japanese to accept the occupation, and partly due to behind-the-scenes maneuverings by Shigeru Yoshida to thwart attempts to cast him as a European-style monarch.
While Emperor Shōwa was usually seen abroad as a head of state, there is still a broad dispute about whether he became a common citizen or retained special status related to his religious offices and participations in Shinto and Buddhist calendar rituals. Many scholars claim that today's tennō (usually translated Emperor of Japan in English) is not an emperor.
For the rest of his life, Emperor Shōwa was an active figure in Japanese life, and performed many of the duties commonly associated with a constitutional head of state. The emperor and his family maintained a strong public presence, often holding public walkabouts, and making public appearances on special events and ceremonies.
Emperor Shōwa also played an important role in rebuilding Japan's diplomatic image, traveling abroad to meet with many foreign leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II (1971) and President Gerald Ford (1975).
The emperor was deeply interested in and well-informed about marine biology, and the Imperial Palace contained a laboratory from which the emperor published several papers in the field under his personal name "Hirohito." His contributions included the description of several dozen species of Hydrozoa new to science.
Emperor Shōwa maintained an official boycott of the Yasukuni Shrine after it was revealed to him that Class-A war criminals had secretly been enshrined after its post-war rededication. This boycott lasted from 1978 until the time of his death. This boycott has been maintained by his son Akihito, who has also refused to attend Yasukuni.
On July 20, 2006, Nihon Keizai Shimbun published a front page article about discovery of a memorandum detailing the reason that the Emperor stopped visiting Yasukuni. The memorandum, kept by former chief of Imperial Household Agency Tomohiko Tomita, confirms for the first time that the enshrinement of 14 Class A War Criminals in Yasukuni was the reason for the boycott. Tomita recorded in detail the contents of his conversations with the emperor in his diaries and notebooks. According to the memorandum, in 1988, the emperor expressed his strong displeasure at the decision made by Yasukuni Shrine to include Class-A war criminals in the list of war dead honored there by saying, "At some point, Class-A criminals became enshrined, including Matsuoka and Shiratori. I heard Tsukuba acted cautiously." Tsukuba is believed to refer to Fujimaro Tsukuba, the former chief Yasukuni priest at the time, who decided not to enshrine the war criminals despite having received in 1966 the list of war dead compiled by the government. "What's on the mind of Matsudaira's son, who is the current head priest?" "Matsudaira had a strong wish for peace, but the child didn't know the parent's heart. That's why I have not visited the shrine since. This is my heart." Matsudaira is believed to refer to Yoshitami Matsudaira, who was the grand steward of the Imperial Household immediately after the end of World War II. His son, Nagayoshi, succeeded Fujimaro Tsukuba as the chief priest of Yasukuni and decided to enshrine the war criminals in 1978. Nagayoshi Matsudaira died in 2006, which some commentators have speculated is the reason for release of the memo.
For journalist Masanori Yamaguchi, who analyzed the "memo" and comments made by the emperor in his first-ever press conference in 1975, the emperor's evasive and opaque attitude about his own responsibility for the war and the fact he said that the bombing of Hiroshima "could not be helped", could mean that the emperor was afraid that the enshrinement of the war criminals at Yasukuni would reignite the debate over his own responsibility for the war.
Hirohito met some American celebrities over the post-war years. In 1959, he sat in the same room for a viewing of the classic film Ben Hur with the film's star, Charlton Heston.
Death and state funeral
On September 22, 1987, the Emperor underwent surgery on his pancreas after having digestive problems for several months. The doctors discovered that he had duodenal cancer. The emperor appeared to be making a full recovery for several months after the surgery. About a year later, however, on September 19, 1988, he collapsed in his palace, and his health worsened over the next several months as he suffered from continuous internal bleeding. On January 7, 1989, at 7:55 AM, the grand steward of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shoichi Fujimori, officially announced the death of Emperor Hirohito, and revealed details about his cancer for the first time. The emperor was succeeded by his son, Akihito.
The emperor's death ended the Shōwa era. On the same day a new era began: the Heisei era. From January 7 until January 31, the emperor's formal appellation was "Taikō Tennō", which means the departed emperor. His definitive posthumous name, (昭和天皇 Shōwa Tennō), was determined on January 13 and formally released on January 31 by Toshiki Kaifu, the prime minister.
On February 24, Emperor Shōwa's state funeral was held, and unlike that of his predecessor, it was formal but not conducted in a strictly Shinto manner. A large number of world leaders attended the funeral, including U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Emperor Shōwa is buried in the Imperial mausoleum in Hachiōji, alongside Emperor Taishō, his father.
Japanese militarism (or Nihon gunkoku shugi) refers to the ideology in the Empire of Japan that militarism should dominate the political and social life of the nation, and that the strength of the military is equal to the strength of a nation.
Rise of militarism
The military had a strong influence on Japanese society from the Meiji Restoration. Almost all leaders in Japanese society during the Meiji period (whether in the military, politics or business) were ex-samurai or descendants of samurai, and shared a set of values and outlooks. The early Meiji government viewed Japan as threatened by western imperialism, and one of the prime motivations for the Fukoku Kyohei policy was to strengthen Japan's economic and industrial foundations, so that a strong military could be built to defend Japan against outside powers.
Domestic issues within early Meiji Japan also called for a strong military. The early Meiji government was threatened by internal revolts, such as the Saga Rebellion and Satsuma Rebellion, and numerous rural peasant uprisings.
The rise of universal military conscription, introduced by Yamagata Aritomo in 1873, along with the proclamation of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors in 1882 enabled the military to indoctrinate thousands of men from various social backgrounds with military-patriotic values and the concept the unquestioning loyalty to the Emperor was the basis of the Japanese state (kokutai). Yamagata like many Japanese was strongly influenced by the recent striking success of Prussia in transforming itself from an agricultural state to a leading modern industrial and military power. He accepted Prussian political ideas, which favored military expansion abroad and authoritarian government at home. The Prussian model also devalued the notion of civilian control over the independent military, which meant that in Japan, as in Germany, the military could develop into a state within a state, thus exercising greater influence on politics in general.
Following the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War, the Army Staff College and the Japanese General Staff paid close attention to O-yatoi gaikokujin Major Jakob Meckel's views on the differences between the German and the French military models. In response to a Japanese request, Prussian Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke selected Meckel. In Japan, Meckel worked closely with future Prime Ministers General Katsura Taro and General Yamagata Aritomo, and with army strategist General Kawakami Soroku. Meckel made numerous recommendations which were implemented, including reorganization of the command structure of the army into divisions and regiments, thus increasing mobility, strengthening the army logistics and transportation structure, with the major army bases connected by railways, establishing artillery and engineering regiments as independent commands, and revising the universal conscription system to abolish virtually all exceptions. A bust of Meckel was sited in front of the Japanese Army Staff College from 1909 through 1945.
Although his period in Japan (1885-1888) was relatively short, Meckel had a tremendous impact on the development of the Japanese military. He is credited with having introduced Clausewitz's military theories and the Prussian concept of war games (kriegspiel) in a process of refining tactics. By training some sixty of the highest-ranking Japanese officers of the time in tactics, strategy and organization, he was able to replace the previous influences of the French advisors with his own philosophies. Meckel especially reinforced Hermann Roesler's ideal of subservience to the Emperor by teaching his pupils that Prussian military success was a consequence of the officer class's unswerving loyalty to their sovereign Emperor, as expressly codified in Articles XI-XIII of the Meiji Constitution.
The rise of political parties in the late Meiji period was coupled with the rise of secret and semi-secret patriotic societies, such as the Genyōsha (1881) and Kokuryukai (1901), which coupled political activities with paramilitary activities and military intelligence, and supported expansionism overseas as a solution to Japan's domestic issues.
With a more aggressive foreign policy, and victory over China in the First Sino-Japanese War and over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan joined the imperialist powers. The need for a strong military to secure Japan's new overseas empire was strengthened by a sense that only through a strong military would Japan earn the respect of western nations, and thus revision of the unequal treaties.
During the 19th century, Great Power status was considered dependent on resource-rich colonial empires, both as a source of raw materials for military and industrial production, and international prestige.
Due to the lack of resources in Japanese home islands, raw materials such as iron, oil, and coal largely had to be imported. The success of Japan in securing Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910) had brought Japan primarily agricultural colonies. In terms of resources, the Japanese military looked towards Manchuria's iron and coal, Indochina's rubber, and China's vast resources.
Independence of the military
Also forming part of the basis for the growth of militarism was the freedom from civilian control enjoyed by the Japanese armed forces. In 1878, the Imperial Japanese Army established the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff office, modeled after the Prussian General Staff. This office was independent of, and equal to (and later superior) to the Ministry of War of Japan in terms of authority. The Imperial Japanese Navy soon followed with the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff. These General Staff offices were responsible for the planning and execution of military operations, and reported directly to the emperor. As the Chiefs of the General Staff were not cabinet ministers, they did not report to the Prime Minister of Japan, and were thus completely independent of any civilian oversight or control.
The Army and the Navy also had decisive say on the formation (and survival) of any civilian government. Since the law required that the posts of Army Minister and Navy Minister be filled by active duty officers nominated by their respective services, and since the law also required that a prime minister resign if he could not fill all of his cabinet posts, both the Army and the Navy had final say on the formation of a cabinet, and could bring down the cabinet at any time by withdrawing their minister and refusing to nominate a successor. In reality, while this tactic was used only one time (ironically to prevent a General, Kazushige Ugaki, from becoming Prime Minister in 1937), the threat always loomed high when the military made any demands on the civilian leadership.
Growth of ultranationalism
During the Taishō period, Japan saw a short period of democratic rule (the so-called "Taisho democracy"), and several diplomatic attempts were made to encourage peace, such as the Washington Naval Treaty and participation in the League of Nations. However, with the beginning of the Shōwa era, the apparent collapse of the world economic order with the Great Depression starting in 1929, coupled with the imposition of trade barriers by western nations and an increasing radicalism in Japanese politics including issues of domestic terrorist violence (including an assassination attempt on the emperor in 1932 and a number of attempted coups d'etat by ultra-nationalist secret societies) led to a resurgence of jingoistic patriotism, a weakening of democratic forces and a belief that the military could solve all threats both domestic and foreign. Patriotic education also strengthened the sense of a hakko ichiu , or a divine mission to unify Asia under Japanese rule.
Those who continued to resist the “military solution” including nationalists with unquestionable patriotism, such as generals Jotaro Watanabe and Tetsuzan Nagata and ex-Foreign Minister Kijuro Shidehara were driven from office or an active role in the government.
A turning point came with the ratification of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi and his Minseito party agreed to a treaty which would severely limit Japanese naval power. This treaty was strongly opposed by the military, who claimed that it would endanger national defense, and was portrayed by the opposition Rikken Seiyukai party as having been forced upon Japan by a hostile United States, which further inflamed growing anti-foreign sentiment.
The Japanese system of party government finally met its demise with the May 15th Incident in 1932, when a group of junior naval officers and army cadets assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. Although the assassins were put on trial and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment, they were seen popularly as having acted out of patriotism and the atmosphere was set where the military was able to act with little restraint.
Growth of military adventurism
Japan had been involved in the Asian continent continuously from the First Sino-Japanese War, Boxer Rebellion, Russo-Japanese War, World War I and the Siberian Intervention. During the term of Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi from 1927 to 1929, Japan sent troops three times to China to obstruct Chiang Kai-shek's unification campaign. In June 1928, adventurist officers of the Kwantung Army embarked on unauthorized initiatives to protect Japanese interests in Manchuria, including the assassination of a former ally, warlord Zhang Zuolin, in hopes of sparking a general conflict.
The Manchurian Incident of September 1931 did not fail, and it set the stage for the Japanese military takeover of all of Manchuria. Kwangtung Army conspirators blew up a few meters of South Manchurian Railway Company track near Mukden, blamed it on Chinese saboteurs, and used the event as an excuse to invade and seize the vast territory.
In Tokyo one month later, in the Imperial Colors Incident, military figures failed in an attempt to establish a military dictatorship, but again the news was suppressed and the military perpetrators were not punished.
In January 1932, Japanese forces attacked Shanghai in the First Shanghai Incident, waging a three-month undeclared war there before a truce was reached. The civilian government in Tokyo was powerless to prevent these military adventures, and instead of being condemned, the Kwangtung Army's actions enjoyed considerable popular support.
Inukai's successors, military men chosen by Saionji Kinmochi, the last surviving genrō, recognized Manchukuo and generally approved the army's actions in securing Manchuria as an industrial base, an area for Japanese emigration, and a potential staging ground for war with the Soviet Union. Various army factions contended for power amid increasing suppression of dissent and more assassinations. In the February 26th Incident of 1936, the Army's elite First Infantry Division staged an attempted coup d'état in yet another effort to overthrow civilian rule. The revolt was put down by other military units, and its leaders were executed after secret trials. Despite public dismay over these events and the discredit they brought to numerous military figures, Japan's civilian leadership capitulated to the army's demands in the hope of ending domestic violence. Increases were seen in defense budgets, naval construction (Japan announced it would no longer accede to disarmament treaties), and patriotic indoctrination as Japan moved toward a wartime footing.
In November 1936, the Anti-Comintern Pact, an agreement to exchange information and collaborate in preventing communist activities, was signed by Japan and Germany (Italy joined a year later). War was launched against China with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 7 July 1937 in which a clash near Beijing between Chinese and Japanese troops quickly escalated into the full-scale warfare of the Second Sino-Japanese War, followed by the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars and the Pacific War.
Despite the military's long tradition of independence from civilian control, its efforts at staging a coup d'état to overthrow the civilian government, and its forcing Japan into war through insubordination and military adventurism, the military was ultimately unable to force a military dictatorship on Japan.
Under Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro, the Japanese government was streamlined to meet war-time conditions and under the National Mobilization Law was given absolute power over the nation's assets. In 1940, all political parties were ordered to dissolve into the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, forming a single party state based on totalitarian values. Even so, there was much entrenched opposition from the government bureaucrats, and in the 1942 general election for the Japanese Diet, the military was still unable to do away with the last vestiges of party politics. This was partly due to the fact that the military itself was not a monolithic structure, but was rent internally with its own political factions. Even Japan's wartime Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, had difficulty controlling portions of his own military.
Japan's overseas possessions, greatly extended as a result of early successes in the Pacific War were organized into a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, which was to have integrated Asia politically and economically—under Japanese leadership—against Western domination.
Hideki Tōjō (Kyūjitai: Shinjitai:Tōjō Hideki) (30 December 1884 – 23 December 1948) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, member and succeeding leader of the Taisei Yokusankai and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during much of World War II, from 18 October 1941 to 22 July 1944. Some historians hold him responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which led to America's direct involvement in World War II. After the end of the war, Tōjō was sentenced to death for war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed by hanging on 23 December 1948.
Hideki Tōjō was born in the Kōjimachi district of Tokyo in 1884. He was the third son of Hidenori Tōjō, a lieutenant general in the Imperial Japanese Army. Tōjō's two older brothers died before his birth, therefore he was considered the oldest and received the treatment and rights that an eldest child of Japan would receive, which includes an immense amount of honor. In 1909 he married Katsuko Ito, with whom he had three sons and four daughters.
He was appointed commander of the IJA 24th Infantry Brigade in August 1934. In September 1935, Tōjō was transferred to become commander of the Kempeitai of the Kwangtung Army in Manchuria. Tōjō's nickname was "Razor" (Kamisori), earned for his reputation for a sharp, legalistic mind capable of making quick decisions.
During the February 26 Incident of 1936, Tōjō and Shigeru Honjō, a noted supporter of Sadao Araki, came out against the coup attempt. Emperor Hirohito himself was outraged at the attacks on his close advisors, and after a brief political crisis and stalling on the part of a sympathetic military, the rebels were forced to surrender. In the aftermath, the Toseiha was able to purge the Army of radical officers, and the coup leaders were tried and executed. Following the purge, Toseiha and Kōdōha elements were unified in their conservative but highly anti-political stance under the banner of the Kōdōha military clique, with Tōjō in a leadership position.
Tōjō was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Kwangtung Army. As Chief of Staff, Tōjō was responsible for various military operations to increase Japanese penetration into the Mongolia and Inner Mongolia border regions with Manchukuo. In July 1937, he personally led the units of the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade in Operation Chahar.
Rise to Prime Minister
On July 22, 1940, Tōjō was appointed Army Minister in the second Fumimaro Konoe Cabinet, and remained in that post in the third Konoe Cabinet. He was a strong supporter of the Tripartite Alliance between Japan, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. As Army Minister he continued to expand the war with China. After negotiations with the Vichy Government, Japan was given permission to place elements of its army in French Indochina in July 1941. In spite of its formal recognition of the Vichy Government as legitimate; the United States retaliated against Japan by imposing economic sanctions in August, and a total embargo on oil and gasoline exports .
On 6 September, a deadline of early October was fixed in Imperial conference for continuing negotiations. On 14 October, the deadline had passed with no progress. Prime minister Konoe then held his last cabinet meeting, where Tōjō did most of the talking:
For the past six months, ever since April, the foreign minister has made painstaking efforts to adjust relations. Although I respect him for that, we remain deadlocked...The heart of the matter is the imposition on us of withdrawal from Indochina and China...If we yield to America's demands, it will destroy the fruits of the China incident. Manchukuo will be endangered and our control of Korea undermined.
The prevailing opinion within the Japanese Army at that time was that continued negotiations could be dangerous. However, Hirohito thought that he might be able to control extreme opinions in the army by using the charismatic and well-connected Tōjō, who had expressed reservations regarding war with the West, although the emperor himself was skeptical that Tōjō would be able to avoid conflict. On October 13, he declared to Kōichi Kido: '"There seems little hope in the present situation for the Japan-U. S. negotiations. This time, if hostilities erupt, I might have to issue a declaration of war."
On 16 October, Konoe, politically isolated and convinced that the emperor no longer trusted him, resigned. Later, he justified himself to his chief cabinet secretary, Kenji Tomita:
Of course his majesty is a pacifist, and there is no doubt he wished to avoid war. When I told him that to initiate war is a mistake, he agreed. But the next day, he would tell me: "You were worried about it yesterday, but you do not have to worry so much." Thus, gradually, he began to lead toward war. And the next time I met him, he leaned even more toward war. In short, I felt the Emperor was telling me: "My prime minister does not understand military matters, I know much more." In short, the Emperor had absorbed the views of the army and navy high commands.
At the time, Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko was said to be the only person who could control the Army and the Navy and was recommended by Konoe and Tōjō. Hirohito rejected this option, arguing that a member of the imperial family should not have to eventually carry the responsibility for a war against the Occident. Following the advice of Kōichi Kido, he chose instead Tōjō, who was known for his devotion to the imperial institution. The Emperor summoned Tōjō to the Imperial Palace one day before Tōjō took office.
Tōjō wrote in his diary, "I thought I was summoned because the Emperor was angry at my opinion." He was given one order from the Emperor: To make a policy review of what had been sanctioned by the Imperial conferences. Tōjō, who was on the side of the war, nevertheless accepted this order, and pledged to obey. According to colonel Akiho Ishii, a member of the Army General Staff, the prime minister showed a true sense of loyalty to the emperor performing this duty. For example, when Ishii received from Hirohito a communication saying the Army should drop the idea of stationing troops in China to counter military operations of occidental powers, he wrote a reply for the prime minister for his audience with the emperor. Tōjō then replied to Ishii: "If the emperor said it should be so, then that's it for me. One cannot recite arguments to the emperor. You may keep your finely phrased memorandum."
On 3 November, Nagano explained in detail the Pearl Harbor attack to Hirohito.. The eventual plan drawn up by Army and Navy Chiefs of Staff envisaged such a mauling of the Western powers that Japanese defense perimeter lines—operating on interior lines of communications and inflicting heavy Western casualties—could not be breached. In addition, the Japanese fleet which attacked Pearl Harbor was under orders from Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to be prepared to return to Japan on a moment's notice, should negotiations succeed.
On 5 November, Hirohito approved in Imperial conference the operations plan for a war against the West and had many meetings with the military and Tōjō until the end of the month. On 1 December, another imperial conference finally sanctioned the "War against the United States, England and Holland"
As Prime Minister
Tōjō continued to hold the position of Army Minister during his term as Prime Minister, from 18 October 1941 to 22 July 1944. He also served concurrently as Home Minister from 1941-1942, Foreign Minister in September 1942, Education Minister in 1943, and Commerce Minister in 1943.
As Education Minister, he continued militaristic and nationalist indoctrination in the national education system, and reaffirmed illiberal policies in government. As Home Minister, he approved of various eugenics measures.
His popularity was high in the early years of the war, as Japanese forces went from one victory to another. However, after the Battle of Midway, with the tide of war turning against Japan, Tōjō faced increasing opposition from within the government and military. To strengthen his position, in February 1944 Tōjō assumed the post of Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. However, after the fall of Saipan, he was forced to resign on 18 July 1944. He retired to the first reserve list and went into seclusion.
Capture, Prisoner of War trial and execution
After Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur issued orders for the arrest of the first forty alleged war criminals, including Tōjō. Soon, Tōjō's home in Setagaya was besieged with newsmen and photographers. Inside, a doctor named Suzuki had marked Tōjō's chest with charcoal to indicate the location of his heart. When American military police surrounded the house on 8 September 1945, they heard a muffled shot from inside. Major Paul Kraus and a group of military police burst in, followed by George Jones, a reporter for The New York Times'. Tōjō had shot himself 4 times in the chest, but despite shooting directly through the mark, the bullets missed his heart and penetrated his stomach. At 4:29, now disarmed and with blood gushing out of his chest, Tōjō began to talk, and two Japanese reporters recorded his words. "I am very sorry it is taking me so long to die," he murmured. "The Greater East Asia War was justified and righteous. I am very sorry for the nation and all the races of the Greater Asiatic powers. I wait for the righteous judgment of history. I wished to commit suicide but sometimes that fails."
He was arrested and underwent emergency surgery in a U.S. Army hospital, where he was cared for postoperatively by Capt. Roland Ladenson. After recovering from his injuries, Tōjō was moved to the Sugamo Prison.
- count 1 (waging wars of aggression, and war or wars in violation of international law)
- count 27 (waging unprovoked war against the Republic of China)
- count 29 (waging aggressive war against the United States of America)
- count 31 (waging aggressive war against the British Commonwealth of Nations)
- count 32 (waging aggressive war against the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
- count 33 (waging aggressive war against the French Republic)
- count 54 (ordering, authorizing, and permitting inhumane treatment of Prisoners of War (POWs) and others)
Hideki Tōjō accepted full responsibility in the end for his actions during the war. Here is a passage from his statement, which he made during his war crimes trial:
"It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, I am prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of the world be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly, according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is false is false. To shade one's words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this."
He was sentenced to death on 12 November 1948 and executed by hanging on 23 December 1948. In his final statements he apologized for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military and urged the American military to show compassion toward the Japanese people, who had suffered devastating air attacks and the two atomic bombings.
Tōjō is often considered responsible for authorizing the murder of millions of civilians in China, the Philippines, Indochina, and other Pacific island nations, as well as tens of thousands of Allied POWs. Tōjō is also implicated in government-sanctioned experiments on POWs and Chinese civilians (see Unit 731). Like his German counterparts, Tōjō often claimed to be carrying out orders; in his case those of the Emperor, who was granted immunity from war crimes prosecution.
Many historians criticize the work done by MacArthur and his staff to exonerate Emperor Hirohito (Emperor Shōwa) and all members of the imperial family from criminal prosecutions. According to them, MacArthur and Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers worked to protect the Emperor from the role he had played during and at the end of the war and attribute ultimate responsibility to Tōjō.
According to the written report of Shuichi Mizota (Mizota Shūichi), interpreter for Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, Fellers met the two men at his office on 6 March 1946 and told Yonai that: "it would be most convenient if the Japanese side could prove to us that the Emperor is completely blameless. I think the forthcoming trials offer the best opportunity to do that. Tōjō, in particular, should be made to bear all responsibility at this trial."
The sustained intensity of this campaign to protect the Emperor was revealed when, in testifying before the tribunal on 31 December 1947, Tōjō momentarily strayed from the agreed-upon line concerning imperial innocence and referred to the Emperor's ultimate authority. The American-led prosecution immediately arranged that he be secretly coached to recant this testimony. Ryūkichi Tanaka, a former general who testified at the trial and had close connections with chief prosecutor Joseph Keenan, was used as an intermediary to persuade Tōjō to revise his testimony.
Tōjō's commemorating tomb is located in a shrine in Hazu, Aichi, and he is one of those enshrined at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine. He was survived by a number of his descendants, including his granddaughter, Yūko Tōjō, a right-wing nationalist and political hopeful who claims Japan's was a war of self-defense and that it was unfair that her grandfather was judged a Class-A war criminal. Tōjō's second son, Teruo Tōjō, who designed fighter and passenger aircraft during and after the war, eventually served as an executive at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government, on board USS Missouri, 2 September 1945. Lieutentant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, watches from the opposite side of the table.
Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, reading his speech to open the surrender ceremonies, on board USS Missouri (BB-63). The representatives of the Allied Powers are behind him, including (from left to right): Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, RN, United Kingdom; Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko, Soviet Union; General Sir Thomas Blamey, Australia; Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave, Canada; General Jacques LeClerc, France; Admiral Conrad E.L. Helfrich, The Netherlands and Air Vice Marshal Leonard M. Isitt, New Zealand. Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland, U.S. Army, is just to the right of Air Vice Marshal Isitt. Off camera, to left, are the representative of China, General Hsu Yung-chang, and the U.S. representative, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN. Framed flag in upper left is that flown by Commodore Matthew C. Perry's flagship when she entered Tokyo Bay in 1853.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Surrender Ceremony of Japan aboard U.S.S. Missouri. (Sep. 2, 1945)
We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored. The issues, involving divergent ideals and ideologies, have been determined on the battlefields of the world and hence are not for our discussion or debate. Nor is it for us here to meet, representing as we do a majority of the people of the earth, in a spirit of distrust, malice or hatred. But rather it is for us, both victors and vanquished, to rise to that higher dignity which alone befits the sacred purposes we are about to serve, committing all our people unreservedly to faithful compliance with the understanding they are here formally to assume.
It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.
Radio Address after ceremony to world audience. (Sep. 2, 1945)
Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won....
As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.
A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.... Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.