On Christmas Day 1926 Prince Hirohito became Emperor of Japan. He was 25 years old and reigned as the 124th Emperor.
Hirohito chose the name “Showa”, meaning “enlightened peace”, to be remembered by. He was considered a pacifist, however, at the same time he encouraged the role of the Japanese military.
In an important meeting with his advisers at the Imperial Conference on September 6th, 1941, Hirohito read a poem by his late grandfather Meiji:
I believe that every sea, to every other,
Is bound together as a brother.
Why is it now, the seas must rise
To strike each other with angry cries?
By this, Hirohito was expressing his uneasiness with the direction that Japan was heading towards war. Emperor Hirohito wanted to attempt diplomacy before war. His meaning was not as explicit as it should have been. It allowed different interpretations.
In October 1941, Emperor Hirohito gave his blessing for General Hideki Tojo, Japan’s strongest war advocate, to become prime minister. Tojo was ordered by Hirohito to do everything he could to avoid war with the United States.
By early November, Hirohito had become fixed on war. He had sanctioned the deadline to terminate diplomatic negotiations with Washington and the preparation for war.
Hirohito was convinced by Tojo and his top naval leaders that the war with the US would be successful. At the same time his military was strangled by US imposed oil embargoes. Faced with this, he chose war against the United States.
Within 24 hours of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito decided to “bear the unbearable” and surrender. In his Imperial Rescript, Hirohito spoke of a “new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives.”52
Emporer Hirohito ruled Japan from 1926 to 1989.