An opposing take on a widely believed story about Japan’s most significant figure, “Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan” sheds light on the role of Emperor Hirohito during one of Japan’s most militarised time in history. The book reveals how much power the emperor had in controlling the politics and the society as a whole in Japan. And though there were claims that he was also involved in the manipulation of military command, Emperor Hirohito insisted that he was merely a “figurehead manipulated by war-minded militarists.”
His refusal to take personal responsibility as war criminal after Japan surrendered to the US without conditions marked the continual existence of national sentiment in what had really occurred during the war.
American historian Herbert P. Bix’s book presents a complete biography of the emperor, and how the monarch shaped Japan’s war history and imperialism.
Emperor Hirohito grew up in an imperial household. He was separated from his father, Emperor Taisho, and his mother. He lived solemnly, with limited contact to the outside world. But even at a young age, he had a martial spirit and a strong imperial ambition like his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, whose reign saw the expansion of the Japanese empire to China and Russia.
Hirohito was, since little, imbued with traces of successful conquest by his grandfather and technical practice in military strategy. Conditioned by army generals, and senior politicians dating back from the Meiji era, Hirohito became a significant spiritual leader and commander-in-chief of Japanese army. From the Manchurian incident to Pearl Harbor attack, Hirohito had all the power as a supreme god-emperor to influence the navy, army and prevent war. But Hirohito, though at first, eventually accepted the military’s stand that going in a war against the US was unavoidable.
According to Bix, the emperor never really thought of anything other than upholding the imperial system of Japan with himself as its head.
After making deals with General Douglas MacArthur, Hirohito maintained he was innocent and distanced himself from wartime responsibility despite his apparent “ceremonial role” in the military operations.
The book, considered as one of the most convincing and compelling biographies of the wartime emperor, relied heavily on the memoirs and diaries of senior and top-level Japanese officials who had strong connections with Hirohito.
Bix’s Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan stimulated a wide discussion on the Japan-America war history, but it nevertheless gave Bix a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2001.
If you want to have a deeper understanding of Japan’s imperialism, war history and the 63-year reign of Emperor Hirohito, this book is worth your time. It costs just as much as four Venti Mocha Frappes. Definitely not a bad alternative to your coffee cravings.