Hirohito was Emperor of Japan from 1926 until his death in 1989. His role in Japan's government in the World War Two remains highly controversial.
Hirohito was born in Tokyo on 29 April 1901, the eldest son of Crown Prince Yoshihito. His father became emperor when Hirohito was 11.
In 1921, Hirohito went on a six-month tour of Europe, becoming the first member of the Japanese imperial family to travel abroad. He married an imperial princess, Nagako, in 1924 and they had seven children. Hirohito became emperor when his father died in 1926.
The emperor was regarded as divine by many Japanese. In reality he had little power, with civilian and increasingly military officials deciding national policy. He reluctantly supported the invasion of Manchuria and the war against China, and attempted to encourage cooperation with Britain and the USA. However, he had no choice but to approve the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that led to war between Japan and the United States in December 1941. Despite his lack of enthusiasm over the decision to go to war, he was pleased with the Japanese military and naval successes that followed. He frequently appeared in military uniform to raise morale.
By the spring of 1945, the defeat of Japan seemed imminent. The Japanese government was deeply divided between military leaders who favoured continuing the war and civilians who wanted to negotiate for peace. Hirohito appears to have favoured peace. Following the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito insisted that Japan surrender. On 15 August 1945, he made a radio broadcast announcing the end of the war - this was the first time the people of Japan had heard the voice of their emperor.
Some Allied leaders wanted to try Hirohito as a war criminal. General Douglas MacArthur, who was in charge of the United States' occupying forces in Japan, felt it would be easier to introduce democratic reforms if Hirohito stayed in office. Hirohito nonetheless repudiated his divine status.
In the post-war years, Hirohito travelled throughout Japan to see the progress of reconstruction and to win popularity for the imperial family. He also represented Japan abroad. He was very interested in marine biology and published numerous scholarly works in this field.
Hirohito died of cancer on 7 January 1989 at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and was succeeded by his son Akihito.
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