The short speech that has reverberated throughout Japan's modern history since it was delivered by Emperor Hirohito at the end of World War II has come back to life in digital form. Hirohito's "jewel voice"—muffled and nearly inaudible due to poor sound quality—was broadcast on Aug. 15, 1945, announcing Japan's surrender. Today, the Imperial Household Agency released the digital version of the original sound ahead of the 70th anniversary of the speech and the war's end. In it, the emperor's voice appears clearer, slightly higher, and more intense, but, Japanese today would still have trouble understanding the arcane language used by Hirohito, who was considered a living deity.
Speaking in unique intonation that drops at the end of sentences, Hirohito opens his 1945 address with Japan's decision to accept the condition of surrender. He also expresses "the deepest sense of regret" to Asian countries that cooperated with Japan to gain "emancipation" from Western colonization. Hirohito laments devastation caused by "a new and most cruel bomb" dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and asks everyone to stay calm while helping to reconstruct the country. "What's most important is the emperor reached out to the people to tell them that they had to surrender and end the war," says Takahisa Furukawa, a historian at Nihon University in Tokyo. "The speech is a reminder of what it took to end the wrong war."