What the PM Kept Japan's Wartime Emperor From Saying

A passage was cut from a speech Hirohito gave in May 1952
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2019 10:20 AM CDT
What Japan's Wartime Emperor Meant to Say in 1952
In this August 1947, photo, Japan's Empress Nagako spruces up Emperor Hirohito's hair as the Japanese imperial family, including Crown Prince Akihito, second from right, prepare to pose for a group portrait during a vacation in Japan.   (AP Photo)

The substance of a passage that was deleted from a May 3, 1952, speech has finally come to light. The Wall Street Journal reports that Japan regained its independence following WWII in April of that year, and on May 3, then-Emperor Hirohito was to give a speech marking the event. What he had planned to express: regret for the Nanjing massacre in China, as well as regret for the war and his role in it. That's per notes taken months prior by Imperial Household Agency chief Michiji Tajima and publicized Monday. The Journal reports the wartime legacy of Hirohito, who was emperor from 1926 to 1989, has long been split, with some pointing to his go-ahead on the Pearl Harbor attack and others saying he was largely a "figurehead" unable to reel in military officers who were determined to create an East Asian empire.

Kyodo News reports that in January 1952, Hirohito told Tajima that he thought the word "remorse" needed to be included in the May speech. The next month he said, "If we reflect, we have all done bad things, so please write well and include in the upcoming speech the meaning that we must all reflect and not repeat them." He described hearing only "vaguely" from unofficial sources about what transpired at Nanjing in 1937, when 200,000 people were said to have been slaughtered in a six-week period. "I didn't pay attention," he said. Per Tajima's notes, Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida thought it would be unwise for Hirohito to express regret, as it could lead to some blaming the emperor for what transpired. He instructed Tajima to delete that portion, and Hirohito ultimately went along with the edit. (Hirohito's memoir was purchased in 2017.)

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