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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 15, 2014)
ASIA / PACIFIC
September 15, 2014
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 3
Official history of Hirohito
By Mari Yamaguchi
and Ken Moritsugu
The Associated Press
OKYO — A 12,000-page history of
Emperor Hirohito released in
Japan includes childhood letters to
his parents, but steps gingerly around
what many want to know: his thinking on
issues such as his responsibility for World
War II. The record took 24 years to create,
but scholars and journalists say it is still
The official annals released by the
Imperial Household Agency, a tradition
dating back 14 centuries, provide a
detailed timeline of Hirohito’s life, but
don’t appear to shed much new light on a
62-year reign that spanned Japan’s brutal
invasion of much of Asia and its recon-
struction and emergence as a global
economic power in the postwar years.
The 61-volume record “hardly contained
anything new that reverses conventional
wisdom and history,” the liberal-leaning
Mainichi newspaper said in an editorial.
“We must keep asking ourselves why that
catastrophic war could not be avoided. ...
The question is hardly resolved.”
The conservative Yomiuri newspaper
noted that the annals left out Hirohito’s
own words on the Yasukuni Shrine, where
war dead are deified, and criticized the
palace for attempting to avoid trouble.
Instead, the official history cites a 2006
scoop by the Nikkei newspaper, which
obtained a memo written by a former head
of the Imperial Household Agency that
quoted Hirohito as expressing displeasure
over the shrine’s decision to include Class
A war criminals. The memo itself, which
some researchers and journalists were
hoping to see, was left out of the record,
according to Japanese media reports.
Chris Winkler, a senior research fellow
at the German Institute for Japanese
Studies in Tokyo, said giving an official
imprimatur to Hirohito’s remarks would
have risked enraging Japan’s vocal right
“They don’t want any trouble,” he said of
the Imperial Household Agency. “They
just want the emperor or the imperial
institution to stay out of trouble. That’s
their primary concern.”
The record conveys some of the frustra-
tions Hirohito felt early in his reign,
through some of the 10,000 waka poems he
is believed to have written. Only about 900
of the poems are known, including three
new ones discovered during the project.
In one, written a few years after
ascending the throne in 1926, he lamented
that his ideas were not being reflected in
palace policies, according to Japanese
media reports. Two other poems from 1929
refer to “a missing fruit,” an allusion to the
frugal life at the palace during the global
The history says Hirohito was first
notified of the U.S. atomic bombing of the
city of Hiroshima nearly 12 hours after the
blast on August 6, 1945, according to
Japanese media reports.
It says Hirohito judged on the evening of
August 8 that it had “become impossible to
HISTORY WITH HOLES. Japanese Emperor
Hirohito waves during an imperial garden party at the
Akasaka Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, Japan, in this May
19, 1988 file photo. The Imperial Household Agency
has released a 12,000-page history of the former em-
peror. It includes childhood letters to his parents, but
steps gingerly around what many want to know: his
thinking on issues such as his responsibility for World
War II. Hirohito died on January 7, 1989. (AP Photo/
continue the war” and expressed hope that
the war would be concluded “as swiftly as
possible,” according to the reports. The
United States dropped another atomic
bomb on the city of Nagasaki the next day,
surrender on August 15.
The practice of documenting an emper-
or’s reign follows a Chinese tradition,
though in earlier times the records were
intended mainly for the imperial house-
The annals of Hirohito’s grandfather,
the Meiji emperor, didn’t start coming out
until 1968, more than 50 years after his
death. The record of Hirohito’s father, the
Taisho emperor, was only released in 2002
after the Asahi newspaper filed a public
records request, and parts were blacked
out, triggering criticism.
Hirohito’s official history was completed
this year and presented to his son, current
emperor Akihito, in August. The 24-year
project cost 200 million yen ($1.9 million),
not including personnel costs for a staff
that averaged about 26 people.
The release of the history was the lead
story in Japan’s major newspapers, play-
ing bigger than tennis star Kei Nishikori’s
bid for the U.S. Open championship.
The relatively quick release of Hirohito’s
record, 25 years after his death in 1989,
was welcomed as progress by the media
and scholars. It’s also the first time the
annals were written in modern Japanese,
instead of a less-accessible archaic form of
the language. None of the annals was
blacked out, though that left many
wondering what was left out.
Hirohito “is a first-rate witness of his
era, which is an extremely turbulent part
of Japanese history, and historical studies
of that era are moving forward beyond
views that tend to see the royals as taboo,”
the Nikkei newspaper said. “But we should
remember that the record is not a complete
documentation of his accounts and try to
read the Imperial Household Agency’s
HARE-RAISING ART. Landscapers trim grass in front of an art installation of a giant white rabbit leaning
against an old aircraft hangar in Taoyuan, Taiwan. The rabbit was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman,
whose popular yellow duck art installation has been displayed in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and
other cities. The white rabbit was part of the Taoyuan Land Art Festival. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Before papal visit, Manila
can take papal selfies
MANILA, The Philippines (AP) — In
Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholic faith,
images of Pope Francis are getting the pop
Life-size cardboard cutouts are being
distributed by a church-run radio station
to churches, schools, and malls in the
Philippine capital to generate “papal
fever” before the pope’s visit in January.
At one of the country’s largest shopping
centers, the SM Mall of Asia, students,
families, and other shoppers snapped
pictures of themselves beside the papal
Rev. Anton Pascual, president of Radio
Veritas, said the promotion allows camera-
loving Filipinos “to take a selfie with the
Pope Francis is set to visit the Philip-
pines from January 15 to 19 and is ex-
pected to meet survivors of Typhoon Hai-
yan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda),
which devastated central provinces,
killing 6,300 people and leaving 1,061
“The Pope Francis standee of Radio
Veritas is the first stage of papal fever we
are launching to spread the mercy and
Help us find a cure.
News page advertising deadlines for our next two issues are:
October 6 to 19 edition:
Space reservations due: Wednesday, October 1 at 1:00pm
Artwork due: Thursday, October 2 at 1:00pm
October 20 to November 2 edition:
Space reservations due: Wednesday, October 15 at 1:00pm
Artwork due: Thursday, October 16 at 1:00pm
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SAINTLY SELFIES. Filipinos have their photo
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