According to my local newspaper, a document containing a speech commissioned by Emperor Hirohito has been unearthed. Composed around 1948, the speech offered an apology to the Japanese people for the horrors which they suffered during World War II. Furthermore, the emperor reproaches his own ‘immortality’ and declares that he has dishonoured his dynasty and heritage by causing his people to lose their lives and, for those who survived, much that was dear to them. No part of the apology is directed to those nations (especially China and Korea) which suffered because of Japanese aggression or to any prisoners of war who died in internment camps (or elsewhere), however.
Although not written by the emperor himself, Kato Kyoko, the finder of the document, contends that it must have been commissioned by the emperor because of the use of the personal pronoun chin, which, according to the article, is only used by Japanese emperors in everyday speech. The speech was written by Michiji Tajima, the head of the Imperial Household Agency, and Tajima would have never used the pronoun chin unless he were commissioned by the emperor himself. Kato, who was writing a biography of Tajima, found the document amongst his papers.
Kyoko also holds that the purpose of the speech was an attempt to re-establish support for the monarchy amongst the populace, who believed that the emperor was responsible for the war and the calamities which ensued because of it. The speech was never made, however. Although no one knows exactly why, Kyoko suggests that it was because of a change in government: Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, elected after the war, wanted to dispel the horror from the minds of the populace and move on with life. Furthermore, it was feared that, if delivered, the speech might arouse new interest in debate about the monarchy’s responsibility and that in turn might lead to new war trials, one of which would be for the emperor.
The document is a very interesting revelation about Hirohito. I had always thought of him as being of a very obdurate character, but this speech obviously displays another side of him, stricken with guilt.