HIROHITO: The Emperor and the Man by Edwin P. Hoyt

HIROHITO: The Emperor and the Man

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A provocative but unpersuasive apologia for the Japanese emperor. Was Hirohito a war criminal? No, Hoyt says, basing his argument primarily on interviews with former members of the Imperial Palace staff: The emperor was ""a man of good will and peaceful intentions, caught up in the swirl of events of a turbulent period."" Hoyt asserts that Hirohito intended his reign to promote peace in Japan and the world, and he contends that the emperor was manipulated by power-mad and expansionist generals, deprived of information, kept a virtual prisoner in the Imperial Palace, and constrained from exercising real power by limitations established by the Meiji Constitution. Hoyt points out, however, that Hirohito was capable of affecting Japanese political development, most spectacularly during the ""2-26-36 Incident,"" in which junior army officers murdered members of Japan's cabinet and very nearly took control of the government--until Hirohito intervened. The author also admits that Hirohito failed to intervene during much of the Pacific War, and even got ""caught up in the euphoria of the moment"" and ""sent congratulatory messages to imperial general headquarters"" as Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Guam, Singapore, the Philippines, and China. Hoyt also argues (without citing any authority) that Hirohito was ignorant of Japanese atrocities during the war. After briefly discussing Hirohito's long but uneventful postwar life, and the meaning of his reign for Japanese contemporaries, Hoyt says that ""Westerners cannot expect the Japanese to wear sackcloth and ashes forever"" in remorse over the war; justifies the failure of Japan's educational system to teach the truth about Japanese atrocities; and suggests that ""it would be a good idea"" for the world to ""stop trying to remind Japan"" about the war. Well written, but Hoyt adds little here to our knowledge of Hirohito the man, while his thoughts about Hirohito the emperor amount to an anithistorical polemic.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Praeger/Greenwood