Born in 1901, Hirohito was Emperor of Japan from 1926-1989.
Under his rule, Japan emerged as one of the greatest economic powers in the world. As the only one of the leaders listed here to have inherited his power, there was no contested election: when his father died in 1926, he assumed the throne.
His early years in power saw economic difficulties throughout the country, and an increased military presence in government. In February 1936, a military coup was attempted, which he quickly had quashed. In the early 1930s, Japan was engaged in the Sino-Japanese War, during which Hirohito controversially authorised the use of chemical weapons against the Chinese. In 1940, Japan entered into the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy, despite the fact that Hirohito expressed reluctance where the war was concerned. He emphasised his desire for peaceful resolutions, but the consensus at the Imperial Conference was in favour of war. In December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, declaring war on the Allied forces.
Once Japan had entered into the war, Hirohito sought to boost spirits around the country, and took an active interest in the progress of the Japanese Army. In the latter years of the war, the public were being told of great victories when there were none, and discontentment grew as Japan neared defeat. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito told his ministers to hasten a surrender, which eventually came in August 1945.
There has been much academic and historical debate as to whether or not Hirohito should have been tried as a war criminal after the war, and how much control he had over the actions of the Japanese armed forces during the conflict. There was immediate pressure after Japan’s surrender for Hirohito to abdicate, which he refused to do. He was later forced to abandon claims that he – as Emperor – had divine power over Japan, and in 1946, his title changed from ‘imperial sovereign’ to ‘constitutional monarch’. The rest of his life was spent in a way appropriate of a constitutional monarch, attempting to repair the damage to Japan’s diplomatic relations with visits overseas. He died in 1989.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as Emperor Hirohito: https://worldwar2.org.uk - WorldWar2.org.uk, November 22, 2013