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Author: Peter Mauch

Abstract

This essay introduces readers to the recent discovery of the personal papers of Grand Steward Tajima Michiji. These documents capture the post-surrender reflections of Hirohito, Japan’s Shōwa Emperor, and record him speaking on such issues as his war responsibility, as well as the culpability of prewar politicians such as Konoe Fumimaro and General Tōjō Hideki. In August 2019, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) (nhk) announced that it had gained privileged access to the papers. Acting on advice from scholars, it then released extracts from Tajima’s audience records. Drawing not on the Tajima papers themselves, but on what the nhk has made available, the documents demonstrate that Hirohito, after Japan’s surrender, experienced anguish and over the war and its outcome. He continued as emperor because he accepted “moral responsibility” for the war that required him to help his nation and its people endure occupation and reconstruction. This article also describes Hirohito’s postwar reflections on several issues, such as Japanese field officers and subordinates in the 1930s initiating without authorization acts of aggression, the Rape of Nanjing, and Japan’s postwar rearmament. While the Tajima papers will not resolve the ongoing debate over the emperor’s responsibility for Japan’s path of aggression before 1945, they do provide valuable insights about his role in and reaction to events before, during, and after World War ii.

Open Access
In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
In: Sailor Diplomat
In: Sailor Diplomat
In: Sailor Diplomat
In: Sailor Diplomat
In: Sailor Diplomat
In: Sailor Diplomat