Review of Asian Studies the role of emperor hirohito in the pacific war 1941-1945: the views of the revisionists

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More than a half century after the end of the Pacific War, the scholarly debate on the role of Emperor Hirohito in the war shows no sign of ending. The driving force for this debate stems from the revisionist scholars who contend that the image of Hirohito as a pacifist and mere figurehead during the war had been distortion and falsification of the true personality and role of Hirohito by those who engaged in the reconstruction of Japan. As discussed in this article, such contention by the revisionists is hardly supported by any of the primary sources available today. It is an irony that distortion and falsification took place, not by those responsible for the reconstruction of Japan but by the revisionists.
Today, more than six and half decades since the end of the Pacific War, the historians continue to debate the question of the true role of Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) in Japan’s war efforts. In the aftermath of the war, despite the growing demand from the Western public to see Hirohito be indicted as a war criminal, Hirohito managed to keep himself free from taking any responsibility for Japan’s “war crime.” Although he was stripped of his divinity and constitutionality as Emperor and the supreme commander and became a mere symbolical figure, he remained until his death in 1989 well respected, and handled well his new image of being an “icon” of postwar Japan, where peace and tranquility, not aggression and uproar, prevailed.
This pacifist image of Hirohito has been well established throughout the postwar era of Japan. There have been, however, the ceaseless efforts from people who firmly believe that such image of Hirohito as a pacifist is nothing but the deliberate falsification and distortion of the true personality of Hirohito and his role in the Pacific War by those who engaged in the reconstruction of Japan.1 Among those who take this revisionist view against Hirohito, the most vociferous is Herbert P. Bix. He has won the Pulitzer Prize over his 2000 book Hirohito and Making of Modern Japan. In the book, Bix portrays Hirohito as someone who was completely opposite from his prewar image of a powerless figurehead. He says, “Hirohito and his key advisers participated directly and decisively as independent forces in policy making. Acting energetically behind the scenes, Hirohito influenced the conduct of his first three prime ministers, hastened the collapse of political party cabinets, and sanctioned opposition to strengthening the peace machinery of the League of Nations. When resistance to his interventions provoked open defiance from the army, he and his advisers drew back and connived at military aggression.”2
As discerned from the above quotation, according to Bix, contrary to his generally accepted image of being docile, tacit, and lonely, Hirohito was energetic, shrewd, calculative, and manipulative; he was an active participant, taking a leadership role in decision-making and war planning.3 So Hirohito, Bix argues, was the main architect of Japan’s war of aggression and territorial acquisitions and, instead of a “puppet” of militarism of Japan, he became actively involved in promoting it.4
This view of Bix on Hirohito’s personality and role in the Pacific War, shared by other revisionists such as Edward Behr, continues to provoke scholarly debates. While contentious, Bix and other revisionists are correct in one thing in their arguments. That is, contrary to the generally accepted image of Hirohito as a mere figurehead, Hirohito was by no means just a by-stander regarding the unfolding events and mounting problems Japan faced internally and externally in the 1930s and early 40s. He showed strong concerns and actively engaged in expressing his opinion and even outrage from time to time over the political and military decisions, giving an impression that Hirohito was far from the generally accepted image of mere figurehead and pacifist.
There is truth regarding such active involvement of Hirohito in expressing his concerns and views over the national affairs. It does not, however, constitute what the revisionists claim – the Emperor as an “architect” of Japanese aggressions.5
Bix argues that the kodo (the imperial way) became the catalyst for Japan’s execution of “holy war” against things Western.6 Here the connotation of the imperial way is the Emperor as a divine figure. It was used as a means for justification and rationalization of the acts of Japan in the name of helping and leading the rest of the world to the benevolence of divine Emperor of Japan. Bix calls it Japanese version of “Manifest Destiny.”7 Utilizing this setting of the imperial way, Bix argues, the Emperor actively engaged in decision-making and manipulation behind scenes. Although it sounds convincing, this argument of Bix has almost no substance.
In February 26, 1936, by mobilizing more than 14,000 men of the infantry regiments of the First Division and the Imperial Guards Division, the young military officers known as the Kodo-ha (the imperial way-faction) carried out the massive uprising. They attacked and occupied the key government buildings and killed a number of senior statesmen. Their aim was “purification” of Japan from Western influence to restore “old” Japan under Yamato (Japanese) spirit. They expected the Emperor to be on their side. After all, they were carrying out the uprising in his name. It turned out that they were wrong in their assumption. The Emperor had no intention to be part of it. Instead, despite the plea from the top military officers for lenience to the rebels, he expressed his desire to see those young military officers punished promptly and harshly. Not having the Emperor‘s support, this quest of the Kodo-ha, later known to be the Showa Restoration, was doomed.

The Emperor’s cold and apathetic response to the Kodo-ha contradicts Bix’s assertion that the Emperor utilizing the imperial way as prerogatives was a driving force of Japanese aggressions. One may argue that the Emperor did not quite agree to the scheme of the Showa Restoration and therefore he had no intention to associate himself with it; it did not mean the Emperor’s indifference to the imperial way. It does not quite explain, however, his desire to see such harsh punishment against the Kodo-ha if, as Bix and other revisionists claim, the Emperor truly believed in an idea of imperial way as the catalyst of his prerogative and prestige, creating common theme between the Emperor’s scheme of using imperial way as justification of his holy war to establish his quest, “greater Asian empire” in his name and that of the Kodo-ha, the purification of Japanese society from the Western influence to revive Yamato spirit by utilizing the Emperor’s divinity and prestige.

So, it is a tough argument that the Emperor acted upon his conviction of his divinity as prerogative to achieve his quest. It is true that his prerogatives were used as a driving force to achieve political and military objectives, as shown repeatedly in the history of Japan, but not for the Emperor but for his “surrounding figures.” The above-mentioned Showa Restoration is a typical paradigm of such use of legacy and divinity of Emperor as prerogative to achieve political goals. The young military officers, lamenting the decadence of Japanese society by things Western as they saw, tried to restore “Yamato” spirit by utilizing Emperor’s divinity as prerogatives. That was “their” vision, not Hirohito’s.
Yet Bix and other revisionists argue otherwise. Bix contends, “Though the time span of his great Asian empire was brief, its potential was enormous. He [the Emperor] had presided over its expansion and had led his nation in a war that cost nearly 20 million Asian lives, more than 3.1 million Japanese lives, and more than sixty thousand Western Allied lives.”8 This was quite a charge against Hirohito, suggesting that he was primarily responsible for Japan’s war and aggression; it was this quest of his, an “establishment of the greater Asian empire in his name by deliberately and manipulatively utilizing his prerogatives as divine Emperor,” that brought Japan into the path of war of aggression.
As Bix points out, today there are a great number of sources, which provide excellent accounts of Hirohito’s personality and role in the war, such as The Memoir of Prince Konoe, The Sugiyama Memorandum, The Diary of Harada Kumao: Prince Saionji and Political Situation, The Diary of Kido Koichi, or The Diary of Ogura Kuraji. Contrary to Bix’s and other revisionists’ assertion, close examinations of these primary sources refute the revisionists’ view of Hirohito.
For example, Bix points out that Hirohito favored Japan’s territorial expansion in China and provided direct leadership to promote it.9 There is absolutely no collaborating source that even slightly supports this assertion. Numerous sources suggest otherwise. In the entry of Ogura Kuraji’s diary dated January 9, 1941 the following Emperor’s remark was quoted: “Japan has underestimated China. It is wise to end the war as soon as possible and make effort for next ten years to restore national strength.”10 A similar remark is also found in the diary of Harada Kumao, Prince Saionji and Political Situation. According to the entry of the diary dated on July 4, 1938, when the Emperor asked the Minister of Army and the chief of the Army General Staff about their view over his thought of ending the war against China as promptly as possible, both the Minister of Army and the chief of the Army General Staff responded by saying, “We will continue to fight until we achieve the downfall of Chiang Kai-shek,” the Emperor was vividly dismayed by their response.11 This was only a year after the outbreak of the war against China in August 1937. These are clear indications that the Emperor was consistently against Japan’s territorial expansion in China and apprehensive about it and critical toward the military officers who repeatedly expressed their optimistic views to him over Japan’s involvement in China.
In the late 1930s, the quagmire of Japan’s involvement in China and increasingly deteriorating relation with the Western powers brought Japan closer to war against the United States and her allies. As a further supporting case for his assertion of Hirohito as a driving force for Japanese aggression, Bix argues that in this development no one played more pivotal role than Hirohito. According to Bix, it was Hirohito who manipulatively led decision-making over the crucial issues with regard to dealing with the United States and the Britain. Here Bix agues that, caught up in his passion of territorial expansion of Japan, Hirohito dared to go to war against the United States and Britain, if that was inevitable to achieve his “quest.”12
Once again this argument of Bix does not carry much substance. Contrary to Bix’s assertion, Hirohito was against an idea of bringing Japan into war against the United States and apprehensive about the unfolding events, which were edging Japan into that direction. Such apprehension of Hirohito is shown in his actions and thoughts, particularly in his conversations with the contemporary leading statesmen or military figures of Japan.
On September 16, 1940, when Hirohito met Prime Minister Konoe, he made the following remark with regard to the on-going ratification process of the Tripartite Pact: “After giving this matter deep consideration, I think the ratification of the Tripartite Pact today is unavoidable if there is nothing else to be done to come to peace terms with the United States. I wonder, however, how well the navy would do if Japan faces confrontation with the United States. I often hear that, according to maneuvers outlined on the map at the Naval Academy, Japan is always defeated by the United States.”13 This remark of Hirohito manifests that he desired peace with the United States and he was opposed to the ratification of Tripartite Pact.14 It also shows Hirohito’s apprehension about the outcome if the war indeed had to come.
A year later, on September 6, 1941, when Hirohito summoned the chief of the Army General Staff Sugiyama Hajime and the chief of the Naval General Staff Nagano Osami to see where the army and the navy stood regarding the imperial national policies over the increasingly deteriorating situation Japan faced in her relation with the United States, Hirohito asked Sugiyama, “If the war breaks out between the United States and Japan, how long does the army need to end the war?” Sugiyama responded, “Regarding the fight in the southern Pacific, we perhaps need three months.” Hirohito replied, “You were the Army Minister when the China Incident took place. I remember you saying to me at that time, ‘The incident will be solved within a month.’ It has been four years since then. It has not been solved yet.” When Sugiyama tried to defend himself by telling Hirohito about the vastness of the Chinese interior that made the military operation more difficult than anticipated, Hirohito responded by saying, “You say that the Chinese interior is vast. The Pacific is even vaster. So how can you say that you can end the war in three months?” Sugiyama absolutely had no word to respond.15 This conversation also indicates Hirohito’s reluctance and apprehension about going to war against the United States.

In October 1941, after having failed in his last endeavor to restore peace with the United States by holding the summit meeting with Roosevelt, Konoe stepped down from his premiership. Home Minister Kido Koichi recommended General Tojo to Hirohito as a successor to Konoe. Hirohito sanctioned the recommendation. Tojo was formally appointed as Prime Minister. Seeing that Tojo was a militant and strong advocate for opening hostility against the United States, the West saw this appointment of Tojo as Prime Minister by Hirohito as Japan’s ultimate decision to go to war and, to Bix, it is “manifestation” of true color of Hirohito. Nothing, however, is farther from the truth. After the appointment Hirohito said to Kido, “You do not get a baby tiger unless you are brave enough to get into a tiger cave.” What Hirohito meant by saying this is that, knowing that Tojo was absolutely loyal to him as Emperor, he thought he was able to restrain Tojo from his advocacy of opening a confrontation with the United States by giving Tojo duty as Prime Minister.16 Contrary to Bix’s assertion, it was a counter measure to “control” Tojo, indicating that, even at this late stage of Japan-the U.S. dispute shortly before the Japan’s Pearl Harbor assault, Hirohito hoped to avoid confrontation with the United States.

Thus, Hirohito’s opposition to Japan’s territorial expansion and apprehension about going to war against the United States were irrefutable, rendering the revisionist view of Hirohito desiring to go to war against the United States if that was what take to achieve of his quest of an establishment of greater Asian empire, nothing but erroneous.
Then, what did bring Bix and the other revisionists to such erroneous assertions? A key to answer this question is found in the failure of the revisionists in their assessing correctly Hirohito’s thought on Japan’s experiences throughout the turbulent period from the late 19th Century to the early 20th Century until the end of WWII.
On September 27, 1945 when Hirohito met General MacArthur, now American “Shogun,” as Edward Behr, an author of Hirohito behind the Myth, calls him, and was asked about where Japan stood about the war responsibility, he said to MacArthur, “It was not clear to me that our course was unjustified. Even now I am not sure how historians will allocate the responsibility for the war.”17 In the same meeting Hirohito was asked why he could not prevent the war from breaking out if he had capacity to end the war in August 1945. Hirohito told MacArthur that such idea of intervention to prevent the war never occurred to him.

These remarks of Hirohito reveal a great deal about how he thought about Japan’s aggression and ultimate decision to get into the war against the United States. What is crystal clear from his remarks is that he did not share the revisionists’ view that the war broke out primarily due to Japan’s naked and lawless acts of aggression to establish hegemonic power of Japan over Asia.

Then, how did Hirohito see Japan’s aggression and the ultimate breakout of the Pacific War against the United States? One clue to this question is found in the article, “Reject Anglo-American Centered Peace,” written by one of major political figures during this turbulent period of modern Japan, Konoe Fumimaro. In it Konoe argued that by the early 20th Century, the United States and the British as “Haves” nations had established their dominance over world politics and economy, giving little room for nations like Japan as a “Have-not” nation to expand; and the advocacy of establishment of lasting peace by the United States and the British was nothing but a gimmick to maintain this status-quo of their dominance. Konoe believed that it was this setting that created the stage of Japan’s aggression, meaning Konoe saw Japan’s aggression as an outcome of this “Haves” and “Haves-not” structure. When the Manchurian Incident took place in 1931, therefore, while it is not clear that how he viewed about the way the incident was carried out, Konoe was not against it18 He accepted as a needed step for Japan’s challenge to end the status quo. To him it was “necessary” aggression. Konoe thought that the takeover of Manchuria by Japan would save Japan from her economic crisis and population problem and at the same time would contribute to China economic development, thus establishing the solidified relationship between China and Japan. After the incident and throughout the 1930s Konoe had become a strong advocate of the triple alliance of Japan, Manchukuo, and China and worked tenaciously to earn Chiang Kai-shek’s agreement to his master plan for the establishment of “Asia for Asia” by eradicating Western imperialism from Asian soil.19
Accordingly, while he saw the Manchurian Incident as “necessary” aggression, Konoe was against any further provocative act toward China that might jeopardize his quest. The China Incident in July 1937, therefore, became upsetting to Konoe now as Prime Minister.

If not identical, Hirohito agreed to Konoe’s above points of view. Although Konoe was eight years older than Hirohito, both grew up during Japan’s epoch making period of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, sharing the similar cultural and political background, and experienced as young adults one of the most turbulent periods of modern Japan and had the same concerns and apprehension about Japan’s fate. When Konoe formed his cabinet in July 1937 for the first time, Hirohito was pleased about it, believing that Konoe would strictly follow the constitutionality of Japanese politics.20 This indicates that, although they did not have any direct interaction between them until Konoe was selected as Prime Minister, Hirohito formed a favorable view of Konoe and his thoughts.

As mentioned above, when Hirohito was asked about war responsibility by MacArthur, he told MacArthur that he was not sure about an idea that Japan alone should be responsible for the war. This response of Hirohito to MacArthur suggests that Hirohito shared Konoe view that the war did not break out just because of Japan’s aggressions but primarily because of Japan’s effort to end the status quo of Anglo-Saxon dominance. Accordingly, when the Manchurian Incident took place, like Konoe, Hirohito did not express his opposition to it. He was silent, signifying that Hirohito was basically in accordance to Konoe’s view of the Manchurian Incident, “necessary aggression.” Regarding the China Incident, as stated earlier, Hirohito actively expressed his concern and apprehension about it, sharing Konoe’s trepidation that Japan’s territorial expansion into China after the Incident might derail a chance to end the status quo.

With regard to the war against the United States, the various remarks and actions of Hirohito suggest that Hirohito shared Konoe’s view—avoiding the war against the United States. While hoping that it might be possible for Japan to achieve the end of the status quo and to establish Asia for Asia without getting into the war against the United States, it was clear to Konoe that the war against the United States was not winnable and could bring national ruin. From the 1937 China Incident until his resignation as Prime Minister in October 1941, almost all the acts of Konoe were carried out with his determination to avoid the war against the United States. For example, when the military and general public was showing strong desire to make an alliance with Germany by signing the Tripartite Pact in 1939, Konoe was not in favor of the idea of the Tripartite Pact, being apprehensive about its negative impact on Japan’s relation with the United States.

Later Konoe agreed to the pact when he saw the possibility to bring the Soviet Union into it. Konoe calculated that by having the Soviet Union on the side of the pact, it would be possible to deter the United States from coming into the war in Europe and Asia, creating a chance for Japan to end the status quo of Anglo-Saxon dominance by establishing Asia for Asia without facing the United States as an enemy. Although such calculation of Konoe was shattered by German invasion of the Soviet Union, changing the Soviet Union overnight from a possible “friend” of Japan to an “adversary,” it is undeniable that Konoe signed the pact for the same reason why he was reluctant to accept, that is, primarily to avoid the confrontation with the United States.

Now the situation was grim for Japan in facing the United States. Having had the Soviet Union on her side, the United States became assertive in its dealing with Japan. Putting an embargo against Japan on raw materials, including Japan’s vital commodity, oil, the United States demanded the end of Japan’s aggressions with the complete withdrawal of her troops from China and Indo-China and relinquishment of all the territorial acquisitions of Japan as the conditions for ending the embargo. While the military was in defiance toward the United States’ demand and willing to go to war if that was a choice Japan had to take to defend Japan’s interests, Konoe was determined to avoid it. He worked tenaciously to achieve that end. From April 1941 to October 1941, Konoe as his “last” endeavor to avoid the war against the United States engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the United States, hoping to find a way of solution. Konoe even proposed a summit meeting between himself and Roosevelt. As history tells us, despite Konoe's tenacity and determination, nothing worked in Konoe’s favor. In October Konoe stepped down as Prime Minister. Tojo replaced him. At this point, clear to almost anyone, the outbreak of the war against the United States was eminent. Thus the quest of Konoe to save Japan from the fatal confrontation with the United States had failed.

Hirohito stood for Konoe throughout this endeavor of Konoe. The numerous remarks and actions of Hirohito indicate his high expectation of Konoe as Prime Minister and also sympathy toward Konoe for his facing an “impossible” task. In late 1937, when Konoe told Hirohito about the autonomous nature of Japanese army, which made it difficult for Konoe as a head of the civilian government to carry out foreign, financial, and other government affairs in coordinating fashion with military, Hirohito responded saying that he would personally and directly inform Konoe of anything about supreme command.21 Similarly when Konoe, frustrated by his dealing with Chiang Kai-shek to settle the quagmire of Sino-Japanese War and the army persistence to use military force to make Chiang Kai-shek to give in that was in return feeding strong sense of anti-Japan among the Western powers, tried to put pressure on the military by forcing the Army Minister Sugiyama Hajime to resign, Hirohito personally placed his pressure on Sugiyama to assist Konoe.22 In July 1941 in the midst of peace negotiations with the United States Konoe was increasingly concerned with Foreign Minister Matsuoka’s hawkish remarks in dealing with the United States.
Having noticed those remarks of Matsuoka causing negative impact on the negotiations and generating the counter remarks from the United States officials against Matsuoka, Konoe tried to get rid of Matsuoka from his cabinet by having his whole cabinet resign. Equally apprehensive and concerned with Matsuoka’s remarks and their negative impact on the peace talk, Hirohito supported Konoe’s decision to remove Matsuoka and even made a suggestion to Konoe to make Matsuoka alone resign.23 Then, on August 6, 1941 when Konoe met Hirohito to tell his decision to meet Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to rescue the failing negotiations, Hirohito understanding significance of Konoe’s decision to meet Roosevelt as the last hope to avoid the war against the United States and wanting to encourage him summoned Konoe on the following day and said to him, “There is information that the United States would totally ban Japan’s import of oil from the United States. So your meeting with the President needs to be prompt.”24
Thus, Konoe and Hirohito were on the same page with regard to the idea of going to war against the United States. Both shared absurdity and fatality of Japan as nation if the war broke out. Hence, Hirohito, contrary to Bix‘s and other revisionists’ assertion, never made himself inclined to support the idea of going to war against the United States under any circumstance and made tenacious effort along with Konoe to save Japan from getting into that direction. Then there is an important question that both MacArthur and Bix asked, why did not Hirohito, if he was so opposed to going to war against the United States and able to end the war in August 1945, stop Japan from going to war against the United States in 1941?

Two points can be raised here to answer the above question. One is that, as mentioned above, when Hirohito was asked by MacArthur about the war responsibility of Japan and why he did not prevent the war from coming, Hirohito responded by saying that he was not sure where the war responsibility should be placed and the idea of intervention to stop the war never occurred to him. What one can discern from these responses of Hirohito is that, while he was against the war against the United States because of no prospect of Japan’s victory and great possibility of rendering Japan totally ruined, like Konoe, Hirohito was convinced that the war against the United States was a “just” war to end the status quo of the Anglo-Saxon domination and it was forced upon Japan under the given situation.

The other is that Hirohito as Emperor simply followed the traditional custom of Emperor’s role as a figurehead. Although he was a supreme commander in chief under the monarchial system of Japan, he was always faithful to this long established tradition and so never desire to defy it, as demonstrated his actions and thoughts throughout this ordeal of Japan in the 1930s and early 40s. Shortly before Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor, Konoe, after the exhaustion of all the maneuvers to prevent Japan from going to war against the United States and believing that now the only person who could achieve that was the Emperor, lamented that Hirohito did not make any decisive effort to turn the situation around to avoid the war by using his constitutionally given prerogative. At the same time, however, as he stated in his postwar memoir, Konoe understood how difficult it was for Hirohito to take such action that was against long established custom, that is, the passivity of the role of the Emperor as a figurehead.25 So, contrary to Bix’s assertion, he did not even once directly intervene in the decision-making process of Japan. The only exception to this was of course his decision to end the war in August 1945 by using his constitutionally given prerogative as a supreme commander.
Why then did Hirohito break a long established custom against his will? It does not take the mind of a genius to discern that. It was nonsense to contend about whether or not keeping tradition when the national survival was at stake. Three days after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, on August 9, the same day, the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the Imperial Conference was held. At the conference the decision was made to surrender by accepting the Potsdam Declaration on the condition if the Allied Powers would make some sort of guarantee to Japan with regard to maintenance of sovereignty. After the conference, the inquiry regarding the condition for accepting Potsdam Declaration was sent to the Allied Powers. The positive response to the inquiry came on August 13. Hirohito promptly decided to accept the Potsdam Declaration to end the war when Japan still had a chance to maintain the national sovereignty. Hirohito knew that by continuing the war Japan would lose even that chance.
So Hirohito broke the tradition. He did so to save Japan’s sovereignty. His imperial power was required for the sake of maintaining national polity. He was compelled to do so to save the nation. Was there the same urge of compulsion that might have made Hirohito to take an action to prevent Japan from initiating a fight against the United States in the late 1941? He knew that Japan would face dire consequence by going to war against United States. It is, however, unreasonable and unrealistic to expect Hirohito to act in the same way as he did in August 1945 with mere “anticipation” of the consequences of the fighting. So for the afro-mentioned two reasons Hirohito did not take an action to prevent the war. As he told MacArthur, an idea of the intervention to stop the war from coming did not even occur to Hirohito. He opposed the war but if that had to be only choice for Japan to take, he was ready to accept it and he hoped the best in the worst circumstance Japan faced. The circumstantial conditions did not outweigh his desire to follow the long established role of Japanese monarch as “figurehead.”


Thus, it is an irony that, contrary to Bix’s assertion, falsification and distortion of the personality of Emperor Hirohito and his role in the Pacific War fall on the revisionists, not those who maintain orthodox views of Hirohito.

 Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, Douglas Macarthur, was most notable figure in the effort of preserving Japanese monarchism as an indispensable element for speedy reconstruction of Japan. Equally notable was a former Prime Minster of Japan, Konoe Fumimaro. In fact they met each other on October 4, 1945. In this meeting Konoe told Macarthur passionately how essential it was to maintain the right-wing force in the postwar society of Japan, particularly monarchism, if Japan was to have a quick recovery and defend itself from the encroaching tide of communism. Macarthur was deeply impressed by this Konoe’s argument and wholeheartedly shared it. See Yabe Teiji, Konoe Fumimaro (Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, 1958), pp. 586-9

2 Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 2000), pp. 11-12

3 Ibid, p.12

4 Ibid, p.12

5 Bill Emmott wrote the following in his book, The Sun Also Sets: the Limits to Japan’s Economic Power, “Throughout the 124 reigns known to history, Japanese imperial families have never really sought the public eye, nor usually have they been allowed to. Emperors have always been symbols or, occasionally, puppets, which is why it is wholly irrelevant for the West to debate endlessly Hirohito’s role in World War II or in Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s. Even if Hirohito had been in favor of war, conquest, torture, and experimenting on prisoners, it would have made little difference. The decisions were not his to make, so his view was beside the point. That is also why it is futile to speculate about whether he opposed wartime atrocities, since even if he did he had no power to prevent them. A Japanese emperor simply could not be a driving force in the style of Adolf Hitler. He is in the background, not foreground.”

6 Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, pp. 10-11

7 Ibid, p. 11

8 Ibid, p. 4

9 Ibid, pp. 4-5

10 Ogura Kuraji, Jijyu Diary of Ogura Kuraji in Bungei Shunju V. 85 (April 1, 2008), p, 141. This diary of Ogura Kuraji recently discovered source is considered to be one of the most precious and indispensable documents with regard to the study of the role of Hirohito and his personality during the crucial period of Japan’s endeavor between 1939 and 1945. It carries Emperor’s own voices regarding Japan’s war effort.

11 Harada Kumao, Prince Saionji and Political Situation (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, Vol. 7, 1951) p. 32

12 Herbert Bix, Hirohito and Making of Modern Japan, p. 12

13 Harada Kumao, Prince Saionji and Political Situation, Vol. 8 pp. 346-7

14 When Army Minster Itagaki Seishiro met the Emperor on July 5, 1939 regarding the issue of the army personnel and the dispatch of general Terauchi to the party convention of the Nazi, Hirohito literally expressed his outrage against Itagaki, saying “No one is as stupid as you are.” Hirohito was infuriated by the army’s secret maneuvering to bring Japan to ratification of Tripartite Pact when Japan was still in dispute with Germany with regard to conditions of the Pact. See Ogura Kuraji, Jiju Dairy of Ogura Kuraji pp. 123-4

15 Konoe Fumimaro, “The Las Imperial Conference”, Jiyu Kokumin (Tokyo: Jikyoku Geposha, Vol. 19, 1946), p. 41

16 Ogura Kuraji, Jijyu Diary of Ogura Kuraji in Bungei Shunju, p. 152. It is interesting to note that this remark by Hirohito was completely misinterpreted by Bix. He translated Hirohito’s remark as followed, “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained,” meaning that Hirohito was ready to venture into the war if that was what to take to gain his wish. Truth was completely opposite. See Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, p. 419

17 Edward Behr, Hirohito: Behind the Myth, (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), p. xvii

18 It all started when the Japanese army blew up the section of the railroad and put blame on China to create a pretext for putting whole Manchuria under Japanese control.

19 After the occupation of the whole Manchuria, Japanese army set up a new nation in Manchuria in 1932, so-called Manchukuo.

20 Harada Kumao, Prince Saionji and Political Situation, Vol.6, p. 86

21 Yabe Teiji, Konoe Fumimaro (Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, 1958), p. 91

22 Kazuo Yagami, Konoe Fumimaro and the Failure of Peace in Japan 1937-1941: A Critical Appraisal of the Three-Time Prime Minister (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.), p. 61

23 Kido Koichi, Kido Koichi Diary, (Tokyo: Tokyo University Press, Vol. 2, 1966), p. 890

24 Konoe Fumimaro, “Saigono Gozenkaigi” (The Last Imperial Conference), Jiyu Kokumin (Tokyo: Ikyoku Geposha, Vol. 19, 1946), p. 35

25 Kazuo Yagami, Koneo Fumimaro and the Failure of Peace in Japan 1937-1941, p. 132


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Critical Appraisal of the Three-Time Prime Minister. North Carolina: McFarland &

Company, Inc., 2006

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