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Japan: Like Father, Unlike Son

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To the accompaniment of drums, gongs and three cheers of “Banzai!” Emperor ; Akihito was enthroned in Tokyo last week. It was the first such ceremony to be conducted under the country’s postwar constitution, which stripped the Emperor of political power. But the presence of princes and princesses, Presidents and Prime Ministers solemnified the occasion, and leftists enlivened things with a dozen fires at shrines, military bases and subway stations.

Akihito’s accession had been meant to herald a new era in which the imperial office would be free of the controversy that surrounded his father, Emperor Hirohito, for his role in World War II. But it coincided with the publication in the magazine Bungei Shunju of some recently discovered notes on conversations between Hirohito and aides in 1946, in which he discussed his role prior to Pearl Harbor. “It was unavoidable for me as a constitutional monarch,” he said, “to do anything but give approval to the Tojo Cabinet on the decision to start the war.” Had he opposed the attack, the result most probably would have been a coup d’etat. The country would have been violently and pointlessly divided because in any case war was inevitable.

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