An official biography of Hirohito


By Joe Hhung

Japan’s Imperial Household Agency has published an official biography of the Emperor Showa (�L�M�Ѭӹ���), though he is better known the world over as just Hirohito (�Τ�), his given name. Showa is his reign title. That’s the Japanese business. The Imperial Household Agency has since the Meiji Restoration of 1868 published official biographies of all four Mikado after Komei, father of Meiji, after the pattern China set during the Epoch of Division between North and South (420-589). But Herbert P. Bix, emeritus professor of history and sociology at Binghamton University, seems more than willing to make it his business. Professor Bix, who authored ��Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan,�� had an article titled ��Hirohito: String Puller, Not Puppet�� aired on the op-ed page of the New York Times calling the emperor a ��timid opportunist, �� who exercised close control over the use of chemical weapons in China and sanctioned the attack on Pearl Harbor, and continued to meddle in politics even after the American modeled Constitution had deprived him of sovereignty. What prompted Dr. Bix to direct a tirade against Hirohito was probably that he couldn’t comment on Hirohito’s perspective on Japan’s undeclared war on China, the Pacific War, the Tokyo trial of Japanese war criminals, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the U.S. military occupation of postwar Japan. The Imperial Household Agency asked the American professor to comment on the biography of Emperor Showa on condition that he could not discuss Hirohito’s role and responsibility in World War II. Professor Bix rightfully rejected the offer.

As a historian, Professor Bix has to write ��wie es eigentlich gewesen,�� or ��how it really was.�� He is duty-bound to comment on Hirohito’s perspective according to Leopold von Ranke’s dictum. But he did not adhere to another dictum for historians who are not supposed to pass judgment on whomsoever they write about as history. It’s the job of a journalist. C. P. Scot, the celebrated editor of the Manchester Guardian, says ��facts are sacred but opinions are free.�� Journalists have the right to air their opinions, but not historians. Some of Bix’s judgments are not quite right. Hirohito might be a puppet, but he certainly was not a string puller. I think Professor Bix was influenced by Hideaki Onizuka (�����^�L), a Japanese amateur historian known for his ��The Emperor’s Rosario�� in two volumes, which is a sweeping hostile criticism of Hirohito.

As Dr. Bix admitted, Hirohito failed to prevent his army from invading Manchuria. The fact is that he couldn’t. The Kwangtung Army wasn’t under control of the High Command in Tokyo. He didn’t sanction the full-scale invasion of China, Chiang Kai-shek knew it full well, and that’s why he recommended to the Allies in the Second World War that the defeated Japan keep the emperor system in line with Tatsukitchi Minobe’s theory of the emperor as government (�ѬӾ�����), which was condemned by the ultranationalists on the ascendancy.