A 61-volume biography of the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito depicts him as being critical of plans to attack the United States in 1941, and describes him as convinced that Imperial Japan had no chance of victory.
Excerpts from an advance copy of the 12,000-page document detailing Hirohito during World War II circulated Tuesday in Japanese media. It shows the emperor complaining as early as 1939 about the Japanese military “predisposition” for war, as military leaders moved to form an alliance with Nazi Germany.
The Kyodo news agency also cites Hirohito warning in July 1941 against the navy’s call for war on the United States. He is said to have predicted the move would be “nothing less than a self-destructive war.”
Five months later, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, pulling the United States into a global conflict that still reverberates across the globe seven decades later.
Japanese experts offering early analysis say the massive document also shows Hirohito exalting over Japanese military victories in China, but they say the annals do not contain groundbreaking revelations.
The imperial biography extensively references U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, who led the post-war occupation of Japan. The general is quoted as saying Hirohito accepted full responsibility for the war.
MacArthur decided against placing Hirohito on trial as a war criminal, with the United States instead using him as a symbol for rebuilding his war-shattered country. The reports say details leading to MacArthur’s decision were not included in the biography.
Kyodo said the nearly $2 million publication, begun in 1990, is unlikely to change current thinking about Hirohito, who was revered as a living god in wartime Japan while lacking the power to influence the military.
Hirohito died in 1989, after 62 years on the throne.
Kyodo says the record also confirms that Hirohito said in 1988 that he had stopped visiting the controversial Yasukuni (war) Shrine because it had added the names of war criminals to those honored there.
Current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the shrine last year, sparking protests from China and South Korea.