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Hirohito and the making of modern Japan / Herbert P. Bix

Main Author Bix, Herbert P. Secondary Author Hirohito, Imperador do Japão, 1901- Country Estados Unidos. Publication New York : Perennial, 2001 Description XI, 814 p., [8] f. est. ; 21 cm ISBN 0-06-093130-2 CDU 952"19"
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

In this groundbreaking biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, Herbert P. Bix offers the first complete, unvarnished look at the enigmatic leader whose sixty-three-year reign ushered Japan into the modern world. Never before has the full life of this controversial figure been revealed with such clarity and vividness. Bix shows what it was like to be trained from birth for a lone position at the apex of the nation's political hierarchy and as a revered symbol of divine status. Influenced by an unusual combination of the Japanese imperial tradition and a modern scientific worldview, the young emperor gradually evolves into his preeminent role, aligning himself with the growing ultranationalist movement, perpetuating a cult of religious emperor worship, resisting attempts to curb his power, and all the while burnishing his image as a reluctant, passive monarch. Here we see Hirohito as he truly was: a man of strong will and real authority.

Supported by a vast array of previously untapped primary documents, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is perhaps most illuminating in lifting the veil on the mythology surrounding the emperor's impact on the world stage. Focusing closely on Hirohito's interactions with his advisers and successive Japanese governments, Bix sheds new light on the causes of the China War in 1937 and the start of the Asia-Pacific War in 1941. And while conventional wisdom has had it that the nation's increasing foreign aggression was driven and maintained not by the emperor but by an elite group of Japanese militarists, the reality, as witnessed here, is quite different. Bix documents in detail the strong, decisive role Hirohito played in wartime operations, from the takeover of Manchuria in 1931 through the attack on Pearl Harbor and ultimately the fateful decision in 1945 to accede to an unconditional surrender. In fact, the emperor stubbornly prolonged the war effort and then used the horrifying bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with the Soviet entrance into the war, as his exit strategy from a no-win situation. From the moment of capitulation, we see how American and Japanese leaders moved to justify the retention of Hirohito as emperor by whitewashing his wartime role and reshaping the historical consciousness of the Japanese people. The key to this strategy was Hirohito's alliance with General MacArthur, who helped him maintain his stature and shed his militaristic image, while MacArthur used the emperor as a figurehead to assist him in converting Japan into a peaceful nation. Their partnership ensured that the emperor's image would loom large over the postwar years and later decades, as Japan began to make its way in the modern age and struggled -- as it still does -- to come to terms with its past.

Until the very end of a career that embodied the conflicting aims of Japan's development as a nation, Hirohito remained preoccupied with politics and with his place in history. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan provides the definitive account of his rich life and legacy. Meticulously researched and utterly engaging, this book is proof that the history of twentieth-century Japan cannot be understood apart from the life of its most remarkable and enduring leader.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • List of Maps (p. viii)
  • Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  • Introduction (p. 1)
  • Part I The Prince's Education, 1901-1921
  • 1 The Boy, the Family, and the Meiji Legacies (p. 21)
  • 2 Cultivating an Emperor (p. 57)
  • 3 Confronting the Real World (p. 83)
  • Part II The Politics of Good Intentions, 1922-1930
  • 4 The Regency and the Crisis of Taisho Democracy (p. 127)
  • 5 The New Monarchy and the New Nationalism (p. 171)
  • 6 A Political Monarch Emerges (p. 205)
  • Part III His Majesty's Wars, 1931-1945
  • 7 The Manchurian Transformation (p. 235)
  • 8 Restoration and Repression (p. 279)
  • 9 Holy War (p. 317)
  • 10 Stalemate and Escalation (p. 359)
  • 11 Prologue to Pearl Harbor (p. 387)
  • 12 The Ordeal of Supreme Command (p. 439)
  • 13 Delayed Surrender (p. 487)
  • Part IV The Unexamined Life, 1945-1989
  • 14 A Monarchy Reinvented (p. 533)
  • 15 The Tokyo Trial (p. 581)
  • 16 Salvaging the Imperial Mystique (p. 619)
  • 17 The Quiet Years and the Legacies of Showa (p. 647)
  • Notes (p. 689)
  • Index (p. 771)

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan Chapter One The Boy, the Family, and the Meiji Legacies Emperor Meiji's first grandson was born on April 29, 1901, within the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo. The moment was one of national delight, and virtually the entire nation celebrated, especially the court. The spirits of the reigning emperor's ancestors were duly notified that the blessed event had come to pass, and that the baby seemed hale and vigorous. An heir had been born; the ancient dynasty would continue, "unbroken," for at least a few more generations. Scholars wise in the complexity of names and titles conferred. The infant, they announced, would be given the title "Prince Michi," connoting one who cultivates virtue, and given the name "Hirohito," taken from the terse Chinese aphorism that when a society is affluent, its people are content. The young but chronically ill Crown Prince Yoshihito, next in line to the throne, was twenty-one that spring. The bloomingly fit Princess Sadako was just sixteen. In time she would bear him three more sons: Yasuhito and Nobuhito in 1902 and 1905 respectively, and Takahito (Prince Mikasa) in 1915. As for the baby's grandfather, Emperor Meiji, at forty-eight he had occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne for thirty-four years, and would continue to reign for eleven more. According to custom, the children of Japanese royals were raised apart from their parents, under the care of an appropriate surrogate. Yoshihito had been taken while still a very small infant to be raised the time-honored way. Shortly after his birth in 1879, he contracted cerebral meningitis. Meiji insisted that he be treated according to traditional (Chinese herbal) rather than Western medical practice. The baby failed to respond quickly and thereafter struggled through a hard, painful, often bedridden childhood. At different periods lasting several years he could seem more or less normal, but there were other times when he was hopelessly afflicted, and he was never robust. He became a royal dropout after managing somehow to graduate from the primary course of the Peers' School (Gakushuin) and to finish one year of middle school. Could the origin of the crown prince's problems have been in part genetic? Emperor Meiji had fathered fifteen children by five different women, and lost eleven of them. Yoshihito, the third son, was the only male to survive, and his mother was not the empress but one of Meiji's many concubines. Inevitably the court suspected that hundreds of years of imperial inbreeding had resulted in a genetic defect of some sort that might show itself in the generation that would be sired by Yoshihito. Naturally enough Meiji and his advisers took extreme care in choosing the princess who would marry Yoshihito and bear his offspring. Their ultimate choice was Princess Kujo Sadako, a young girl from one of the highest-ranking court families. The Kujo were a branch of the ancient Fujiwara, a lineage that reached back to the late twelfth century, when its founding ancestor had become regent for the then-reigning emperor. Sadako had excellent evaluations at the girls' division of the Peers' School. Intelligent, articulate, petite, she was especially admired for her pleasant disposition and natural dignity. In all her attributes she was just the opposite of Yoshihito. The couple, who had met on several chaperoned occasions, were married in early 1900. As the years passed, Sadako grew in self-confidence and maturity, and the wisdom Meiji had shown in choosing her for his son was more and more praised. Emperor Meiji, in consultation with Yoshihito and Sadako, had decided that his grandson Hirohito should be reared in the approved modern manner, by a military man. It seemed wise, therefore, that the parental surrogate be a married army or navy officer who could provide the child not only with a good family atmosphere but also a martial influence. His first choice, Gen. Oyama Iwao, declined to undertake this heavy responsibility. They then turned to the elderly Count Kawamura Sumiyoshi, a retired vice admiral and ex-navy minister from the former Satsuma domain (a feudal fiefdom equivalent to a semisovereign state), and asked him to rear the child just as though he were his own grandson. Kawamura, a student of Confucian learning, could be further trusted because he was a distant relation by marriage of Yoshihito's mother. On July 7, the seventieth day after his birth, Hirohito was removed from the court and placed in the care of the Kawamura family. At the time Kawamura allegedly resolved to raise the child to be unselfish, persevering in the face of difficulties, respectful of the views of others, and immune from fear. With the exception of the last, these were characteristics that distinguished Hirohito throughout his life. Hirohito was fourteen months old when his first brother 'Yasuhito (Prince Chichibu)' joined him at the Kawamura mansion in Tokyo's hilly, sparsely populated Azabu Ward. The two infants remained with the Kawamuras for the next three and a half years, during which time three doctors, several wet nurses, and a large staff of servants carefully regulated every single aspect of their lives, from the Western-style food they ate to the specially ordered French clothing in which they were often dressed. Then in November 1904, at the height of the Russo-Japanese War, the sixty-nine-year-old Kawamura died. Hirohito, age three, and Chichibu, two, rejoined their parents'first at the imperial mansion in Numazu, Shizuoka prefecture, and later in the newly built Koson Palace within the large (two-hundred-acre) wall-enclosed compound of the crown prince's Aoyama Palace. In 1905 Nobuhito (Prince Takamatsu) was born, and toward the end of that year joined his brothers at their Koson Palace home. Their care was directed at first by Yoshihito's newly appointed grand chamberlain, Kido Takamasa; later their own special chamberlain was appointed. During this earliest formative phase of Hirohito's life, one of the chief nurses attending him was twenty-two-year-old Adachi Taka, a graduate of... Hirohito And The Making Of Modern Japan . Copyright © by Herbert Bix. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Bix penetrates decades of "public opacity" to offer a stunning portrait of the controversial Japanese emperor, "one of the most disingenuous persons ever to occupy the modern throne." Hirohito ascended to the Japanese throne in 1926 (at the age of 25) and ruled until his death in 1989. Bix closely examines his long, eventful reign, concentrating on the extent of the emperor's influence-which was greater than he admitted-over the political and military life of Japan during WWII. Bix's command of primary sources is apparent throughout the book, especially in the voluminous endnotes. From these sources, the author, a veteran scholar on modern Japanese history, draws a nuanced and balanced portrayal of an emperor who did not seek out war, but who demanded victories once war began and never took action to stop Japan's reckless descent into defeat. Bix makes Hirohito's later career intelligible by a careful exposition of the conflicting influences imposed on the emperor as a child: a passion for hard science coexisted with the myths of his own divine origin and destiny; he was taught benevolence along with belief in military supremacy. These influences unfolded as Hirohito was drawn into Japan's long conflict with China, its alliance with the fascist states of Europe, and its unwinnable war against the Allies. The dominant interest of the Showa ("radiant peace") Emperor, Bix convincingly explains, was to perpetuate the imperial system against more democratic opponents, no matter what the cost. Bix gives a meticulous account of his subject, delivers measured judgements about his accomplishments and failures, and reveals the subtlety of the emperor's character as a man who, while seemingly detached and remote, is in fact controlling events from behind the imperial screen. This is political biography at its most compelling. Agent, Susan Rabiner. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Most postwar histories have portrayed Emperor Hirohito in one of two ways: a shy, hands-off monarch who preferred marine biology to affairs of state or a pacifistic but weak ruler who was dragged by militarists into a war of conquest against his better judgment. Bix has written extensively on Japanese history and is currently a professor in the graduate school of social sciences at Tokyo's Hitotsubasbi University. In this provocative and disturbing work, he paints a far more complex portrait of Hirohito. Aided by newly available material from Japanese archives, Bix convincingly asserts that the emperor was deeply involved in most aspects of the Pacific war, from start to finish, and he voiced few objections to the most brutal outrages of his military. It is particularly disturbing to see how the cocoon of lies spun around Hirohito has been used by conservative and especially reactionary politicians in Japan to advance their nationalistic agenda. This book will undoubtedly cause a storm of controversy, especially in Japan. However, it is a vital contribution to an ongoing and critical debate. --Jay Freeman

Kirkus Book Review

A lengthy exploration of the role of Emperor Hirohito in 20th-century Japanese politics that draws on an impressive array of fresh sources. Bix (Social Sciences/Hitosubashi Univ.) has written what is essentially a 700-page indictment of the Japanese emperor, arguing that he should bear more blame, responsibility, and consequences than he has for Japan’s aggression in the first half of this century. Far from being a detached figurehead and tool for Japan’s militarist factions, Hirohito was closely involved behind closed doors in all facets of Japanese politics, especially its military forays. “From the very start of the Asia-Pacific war, the emperor was a major protagonist of the events going on around him,” Bix writes. In this portrayal, Hirohito played no small part in the rise of nationalism, Japan’s aggressiveness in Manchuria, the disastrous prolongation of the war against the Allies (leading to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings), and Japan’s ongoing struggle to display adequate repentance to the rest of the world. The author has intentionally made his subject complex to debunk “the myth of Japan as tightly unified and monolithic state.” Though the writing is glib, the result is a trying puzzle of multitudinous pieces that requires some fortitude on behalf of the reader. Bix’s research is thorough, but, as he points out, Hirohito left little documentation behind and his peers have been loath to write badly of him. The author, therefore, had to rely a great deal on reading between the lines. For example, Bix immediately comes to surmise that Hirohito’s abilities had been doubted when his teachers went out of their way to priase the emperor’s speaking abilities. He nestles his speculations firmly between facts, however, and in the end is very convincing. A deeply satisfying immersion into modern Japanese history that also serves to warn against facile approaches to the machinery of states. History Book Club selection

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Herbert P. Bix earned his Ph.D. in history and Far Eastern languages from Harvard University. For the past thirty years he has written extensively on modern and contemporary Japanese history in leading journals in the United States and Japan. He has taught Japanese history at a number of American and Japanese universities, most recently at Harvard, and is currently a professor in the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo

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