Hirohito and War

Peter Wetzler

Hirohwetzler_1998_2ito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar Japan

294 Seiten

Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998

ISBN: 978-0824819255


The debate over Emperor Hirohito's accountability for government decisions and military operations up to the end of the World War II began before the end of the war and has continued even after his death. This book documents this controversy while providing insights into the Showa emperor's role in military planning in imperial Japan. It argues that Hirohito both knew of and participated in such planning and offers evidence that he was informed well in advance of the planned attack on Pearl Harbor. Using Japanese primary sources, this text aims to show that Hirohito's participation in the decision-making process was entirely consistent with his intellectual background and his passionate belief in the significance of the imperial tradition for the Japanese polity (kokutai) in prewar Japan.

The emperor's relationship with General Tojo Hideki is examined in such a context, revealing an unexpected degree of mutual respect between the military man who would become Japan's "war premier" and the hereditary ruler who wanted to be known as the "peace emperor." Peter Wetzler argues here that the reason for this respect is a little-examined personal trait common to both: the appreciation of traditional Japanese values and like interpretations of the proper role of the imperial house in Japanese society.

Wetzler shows how Hirohito's conservative education in Japanese ethics and history as well as the influence of his first so-called liberal adviser, Count Makino Nobuaki, were instrumental in providing a Basis for the emperor's participation in prewar military planning. He illuminates the issue of the emperor's seemingly contradictory posture vis-à-vis his role by right of birth as emperor of imperial Japan and his oft-proclaimed preference for British constitutional monarchy by suggesting that it may be better understood from the background of Hirohito's education and tutelage by Count Makino.

Hirohito and War furnishes impressive evidence for an interpretation of Hirohito that goes beyond an emphasis on the complexities of his constitutional Position and instead focuses on the emperor's abiding preoccupation with preserving the imperial institution itself, a concern that led Hirohito to participate behind the scenes in, and then to sanction formally, Japan's decision to go to war in the Pacific.

1 Introduction
2 Imperial Navy Planning and the Emperor
3 Pearl Harbor and Decision Making
4 Tōjō and the Emperor: Mutual Political Convictions
5 Scientism, History, and Confucianism:
An Emperor's Education
6 Ancient Institutions and Foreign Cultures: New Interpretations for Modern Times
7 Hirohito's First Adviser: Count Makino Nobuaki
8 Conclusion