Emperor Hirohito: Bold Leader or War Criminal?


Transcript Provided by YouTube:

00:00
just before yet cracking with today’s
00:01
video I want to say there’s obviously
00:03
going to be a lot of Japanese
00:04
pronunciation and as always I am doing
00:06
my best if you’d like to have a go at me
00:08
anyway do use the comments that’s what
00:09
they’re for
00:10
so Hirohito he was the longest reigning
00:12
monarch in Japan’s history serving his
00:14
emperor for 63 years
00:16
vested with supreme power and viewed as
00:19
a day at ey as people he presided over a
00:22
nation that unleashed a war savagery
00:24
that shocked the world his unprecedented
00:26
radio address to his nation announcing
00:29
Japanese surrender in World War two
00:31
startled the people only to be followed
00:33
with the bombshell that he was not in
00:35
fact to God but just a fallible man just
00:38
like the people in this week’s by
00:39
graphics video we go beyond the pomp and
00:42
the ceremony to discover the man who was
00:44
Emperor Hirohito
00:48
[Music]
00:55
[Music]
01:01
by the middle of the 19th century the
01:04
Emperor ship of Japan had become a title
01:06
in name only the emperor was merely a
01:09
figurehead with no real say in matters
01:11
of state that changed with the ascension
01:13
to the throne of the 120 second Emperor
01:16
Meiji Meiji embarked upon a series of
01:19
political reforms that brought about an
01:21
era of enlightened rule by the time of
01:24
his grandson the future Emperor
01:25
Hirohito’s birth the cult of the Emperor
01:28
it was already well established laws had
01:30
been enacted forbidding any criticism of
01:33
the Emperor the birth of Emperor Meiji
01:35
‘s first grandson on April the 29th 1901
01:38
was a time of rejoicing throughout the
01:40
empire the infant was given the title
01:42
Prince Michie he was named Hirohito
01:44
which comes from a Chinese saying that
01:46
roughly translates to when society is
01:49
wealthy the people are content ariados
01:52
father was the 21 year old Crown Prince
01:54
Yoshihito he was slightly built and he
01:56
was constantly unwell his mother was the
01:58
16 year old princess Sadako as was the
02:01
custom among Japanese Royals the child
02:03
was taken from his parents and raised by
02:05
a surrogate it was decided by the
02:07
Emperor that his grandson be raised by a
02:09
retired military officer in order to
02:11
provide the mental toughness and
02:13
discipline that would be needed for his
02:15
future role as Emperor the man that was
02:18
chosen was count Cao amara Sumiyoshi a
02:20
retired vice admiral the Emperor told
02:22
calamara to raise her a hito is if he
02:25
were his own grandson
02:27
karemera raised the infants at his
02:28
mansion in the hills outside of Tokyo
02:30
when he was 14 months old her Ito was
02:32
joined by his younger brother Prince
02:34
yeshu hito every aspect of the
02:36
children’s lives was carefully overseen
02:38
including the foods they ate and the
02:40
clothes that they wore but then in
02:42
November of 1904 calamara died and
02:44
suddenly the two boys were reunited with
02:47
their parents at the crown prince’s
02:48
Aoyama palace the boys were now attended
02:51
by a series of nurses the main carer of
02:54
Hirohito was a woman named Adachi tako
02:57
who became his surrogate mother Hirohito
02:59
developed into a sedate retiring and
03:02
insecure Charles as would be expected he
03:04
was fussed over and pampered from the
03:06
moments he work each morning this did
03:08
nothing to develop resilience and
03:10
independence even in play he was to be
03:12
shown the utmost reverence
03:15
he and other children of the royal
03:16
palace played war games he was always to
03:18
take the role of the conquering general
03:20
from the age of four onwards Hirohito
03:23
and his brother were indoctrinated into
03:25
the military heritage of their nation
03:27
they were often taken to military
03:29
parades and war museums to gaze upon the
03:31
swords of former heroes
03:33
Harry yuto’s worldview was built upon
03:35
the belief that the entire past present
03:37
and future of the great Empire of Japan
03:40
depended on the wisdom of the Emperor
03:42
and those few advisers that he
03:45
surrounded himself with at the age of
03:46
seven Hirohito straining was put in the
03:48
hands of a hero of the russo-japanese
03:50
war named general noogie noogie insisted
03:53
on strict military discipline refusing
03:55
to show any deference for the princes
03:57
position
03:58
instruction centered on things that were
04:00
considered essential in a future Emperor
04:02
frugality patience diligence
04:04
self-control and manliness no he quickly
04:07
made the young Hirohito come to the
04:08
realization that he was physically weak
04:10
and had to work hard to develop physical
04:13
strength his instructors apears college
04:15
were also told to give special attention
04:16
to guiding him in military matters by
04:19
the age of eleven Hirohito had been
04:21
imbued with a strong sense of reverence
04:22
for his ancestors it was at that age
04:24
that he officially became a Crown Prince
04:27
he was also given the rank of second
04:29
lieutenant in the army a few months
04:31
later and purim AG died at the age of 61
04:33
Hirohito his father inherited the
04:35
supreme position in contrast to his own
04:37
father Yoshihito proved to be a weak and
04:40
indecisive Emperor as a result that
04:42
visors came to have more and more sway
04:44
in the royal court Yoshihito did not
04:46
involve himself in state affairs his
04:48
grandfather’s death marked a turning
04:50
point in the life of the future emperor
04:52
a new phase of his training
04:54
it was undertaken with the appointment
04:55
of a military aide to come into
04:57
Chamberlain between the ages of 13 and
05:00
19 he was given a military and liberal
05:03
arts education at a school that had been
05:05
especially built for him within the
05:06
confines of the Takanawa palace he was
05:09
instructed by the brightest military
05:11
minds in the land Hirohito graduated
05:13
from the school in 1921 by this time he
05:16
developed a fascination with biology he
05:18
liked nothing better than collecting
05:20
seashells and small insects during his
05:22
school years his teacher of Natural
05:24
History was a professor hitori for the
05:26
next 30 years Satori acted as his
05:28
servant in all manner of scientific
05:31
pursuits in 1921 Hirohito visited Europe
05:34
making him the first Japanese Crown
05:35
Prince to travel abroad he was out of
05:38
the country for six months visiting the
05:40
United Kingdom France Italy Belgium and
05:42
the Netherlands of this period he later
05:44
wrote I new freedom for the first time
05:47
in England every move that the young
05:49
Prince made while on tour was covered
05:51
feverishly by the world’s press having
05:54
just returned from his overseas
05:55
excursion Hirohito was thrust further
05:57
into the limelight when his father
05:58
retired his office due to mental illness
06:00
the future emperor was now the regent he
06:04
was to retain this position until his
06:06
father died at the age of 23 Hurra hito
06:08
married his distant cousin Princess
06:10
Nagato Cooney he did so against the
06:12
advice of his advisers who considered
06:14
her to be an unsuitable match for the
06:16
future Emperor two years later with the
06:18
death of his father his Regency ended
06:20
and he became the Emperor
06:24
[Music]
06:31
Hirohito inherited the throne on
06:33
December the 25th 1926 the 25 year old
06:36
was now the 124th Emperor of Japan this
06:39
automatically natan the
06:40
commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces
06:42
able to give orders directly without
06:44
consulting the cabinet’s he also became
06:47
the chief priest of the Shinto religion
06:49
guiding him in his new political life
06:51
Hirohito was attended to by a
06:53
seven-member palace entourage of men
06:55
much older than himself
06:56
these gathered filtered and disseminated
06:58
political information to the Emperor
07:00
Hirohito quickly established a vast
07:02
network of informants who relayed
07:04
information to him on the going-ons in
07:06
every corner of government he even had a
07:09
spy regularly reporting to him on the
07:10
political activities of his brother
07:12
Prince Chichibu the new emperor was keen
07:15
to stamp his footprints on the political
07:16
landscape his first act was to announce
07:19
the public holiday in remembrance of his
07:20
grandfather then in an effort to show
07:22
solidarity with the peasantry during a
07:24
time of agricultural hardship he
07:26
received rice plants from all over the
07:28
Empire and staged a ritualistic rice
07:30
planting event within the palace grounds
07:32
throughout the Year 1928 enthronement
07:35
ceremonies and rituals were carried out
07:37
in honor of the emperor the celebrations
07:39
climaxed in November and December when
07:41
hundreds of thousands of people
07:42
participated in banquets and award
07:44
ceremonies in the Emperor’s name
07:46
millions of yen were given to the needy
07:47
and thousands of prison sentences were
07:50
commuted the reign of Hirohito was
07:52
designated as Showa which means
07:54
enlightened peace from the moment of his
07:57
ascension the emperor was no longer to
07:59
be referred to by his given name but
08:00
rather by the title his majesty the
08:03
emperor hirohito came to power during a
08:05
time of economic hardship the crisis had
08:08
led to the rise of political power of
08:09
the military who now had veto power over
08:11
his cabinets incidents of political
08:13
violence were not uncommon in 1932 the
08:16
Prime Minister in your Chi tio sheet was
08:17
assassinated and there was an attempt on
08:19
Hirohito his own life in 1932 this
08:22
incident led to a dramatic curtailing of
08:25
the Emperor’s availability to the public
08:27
as Emperor Hirohito followed a
08:29
disciplined routine he rose at 6:00
08:31
sharp
08:32
every morning to prepare for an English
08:33
breakfast at 7:00 throughout the morning
08:35
he would receive visitors enjoy a light
08:37
lunch at midday and then spend the
08:38
afternoon poor
08:39
/ and signing documents Hirohito’s
08:41
marriage din the Garko it was a happy
08:43
one with their only source of anxiety
08:45
being the failure to produce an heir his
08:47
advisors urged him to take a concubine
08:49
but he resisted this advice the couple
08:52
bought three daughters before the heir
08:53
to the throne Akihito arrived in 1933
08:56
the couple of went ons you have a total
08:58
of seven children
09:02
[Music]
09:09
Japan had enjoyed a level of
09:11
unprecedented growth and prosperity
09:12
during the 1920s in essence the country
09:15
existed as a democracy during this
09:17
period which lessens the influence of
09:19
the military this came to an end with
09:21
the onset of the depression during which
09:23
time the strong measures advocated by
09:25
the military leaders began to gain
09:26
ascendancy the unification of
09:28
neighboring China also fed into the call
09:31
for a strong militaristic hands in 1931
09:34
the military moved against civilian
09:36
leaders but first they devised a plan to
09:38
go to walk with Manchuria by blowing up
09:41
a portion of the South Manchurian
09:43
railway and blame it on the Chinese this
09:45
gave the pretext for an invasion of
09:47
Manchuria the Emperor not to mentioned
09:49
the government was completely in the
09:50
dark about any of these goings-on this
09:52
set the scene for the 1930s this was a
09:55
period during which the military pretty
09:57
much acted in an arbitrary fashion when
09:59
the army began a full-scale invasion of
10:01
China Hirohito ordered that they stop
10:03
however the Cabinet managed to persuade
10:05
the Emperor to acquiesce and allow this
10:08
invasion to proceed Hirohito felt
10:11
powerless to rein in the army ever
10:13
fearful that doing so would result in
10:15
his assassination in 1932 he gave the
10:17
go-ahead for the bombing of Shanghai the
10:20
assault was also approved by the Chinese
10:22
leader Chiang kai-shek who saw it as an
10:25
opportunity to put down a rebel group
10:27
who were based in Shanghai the bombing
10:29
and subsequent invasion led to
10:31
tremendous loss of life unleashing
10:33
worldwide condemnation Hirohito was
10:35
worried that the Americans might respond
10:37
militarily and told the army to withdraw
10:39
again they ignored the commands of their
10:42
Emperor the Japanese went on to
10:44
completely subjugate Shanghai by now
10:46
Manchuria was completely occupied and
10:48
had become a Japanese state many Chinese
10:51
were simply put to death by the
10:52
occupying force once again this brought
10:54
public condemnation with the League of
10:56
Nations condemning the Japanese in
10:58
response Japan resigned from the league
11:00
despite the Emperor’s desire to remain
11:02
within us unable to stop their
11:04
withdrawal he insisted that his foreign
11:06
minister stress that Japan was
11:08
determined to work to achieve world
11:10
peace throughout the 1930s spurred by
11:12
the flexing of his military muscle a
11:14
sense of nationalism grew in Japan that
11:16
saw a reverence for the samurai
11:18
traditions Vols all of this fed into the
11:20
worst
11:21
of the Emperor which was especially
11:22
strong among the rank and file of the
11:24
Armed Forces via soldiers viewed
11:26
Hirohito as a god and pledged their
11:29
lives to serve Him in 1934 Japan began
11:32
to enlarge its Navy and direct violation
11:34
of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922
11:36
which had restricted its size to 3/5
11:39
that of the United States in Great
11:40
Britain yes again Hirohito was against
11:43
the move but was not strong enough to
11:44
stand up to the military the flexing of
11:46
military muscle came to a head in
11:47
February of 1936 when there occurred an
11:50
uprising led by army officers finally
11:52
Hirohito acted decisively he ordered the
11:54
immediate suppression of the revolts
11:56
along with the execution of its
11:58
instigators
12:01
[Music]
12:09
Hirohito was powerless however to stop
12:11
the growing power of the military by
12:13
1937 the situation with China had
12:16
developed into all-out war era Ito had
12:18
agreed to a buildup of forces in
12:20
occupied China in order to stem the tide
12:22
of communism but he soon realized that
12:24
hostilities were escalating
12:25
uncontrollably and he insisted that the
12:28
army pulled back however the military
12:30
brass they were not listening a
12:31
full-scale attack was made on the
12:33
Chinese capital of Nanking in the wake
12:35
of the subjugation of Nanking the
12:37
Japanese army unleashed an orgy of rape
12:40
and murder that shocked the world known
12:42
as The Rape of Nanking it resulted in
12:43
the death of as many as 200,000 Chinese
12:46
men women and children worldwide
12:49
condemnation for the atrocities of
12:50
Nanking were heaped upon Japan still the
12:53
Armed Forces forged on in their attempt
12:55
to conquer China however the country was
12:57
simply too large with the result that
12:59
the Japanese military was tied up in a
13:01
hopeless mission on foreign soil for the
13:03
next four years by the outbreak of the
13:06
Second World War the combination of
13:08
nationalism Emperor worship and military
13:10
control had forged to Japan into a
13:13
nation that was ready and eager to enter
13:15
hostilities with other nations after all
13:17
going to war was seen as doing the will
13:20
of the Emperor the reality was that
13:22
Hirohito was opposed to the idea of his
13:24
country going to war he was a pacifist
13:26
at heart and was cautious by Nature but
13:28
he was simply too weak wills to control
13:31
the reins of a military that was
13:33
chomping at the bit to exert its control
13:35
throughout the Far East
13:39
[Music]
13:45
in September 1940 Japan entered into a
13:48
three-way alliance with Germany and
13:50
Italy
13:51
this gave the military leaders the
13:53
confidence to extend its conquests in
13:55
the Far East
13:56
the first victim would be the French
13:57
colony of Indochina with the French
14:00
already having been beaten by Germany it
14:02
was easy pickings
14:03
the Emperor however was opposed to the
14:05
move on principle considering it to be
14:07
like acting as a thief in a fire in 1941
14:11
Japan signed a non-aggression pact with
14:13
Soviet Union
14:14
this gave the military the confidence to
14:16
extend its occupation into southern
14:18
Indochina in response the United States
14:21
imposed tough sanctions on the Japanese
14:23
they also put an embargo on all oil
14:25
exports to Japan this move forced
14:28
Japan’s hand with the results that the
14:29
decision was made to go to war with the
14:31
United States as usual the Emperor felt
14:34
powerless to stop this military
14:36
juggernaut with the attack on Pearl
14:38
Harbor on December 7th 1941 war was
14:41
declared between the United States and
14:43
Japan Hirohito though not opposing the
14:46
planned attack had always intended that
14:48
Japan would declare war before striking
14:50
he considered the surprise attack on
14:52
Hawaii as dirty tactics and was
14:55
extremely upset with the military for
14:57
the manner in which this attack was
14:59
carried out with a much long fall war
15:01
now upon them all of Japan put their
15:03
shoulder to the wheel in support of
15:04
victory ironically the Emperor who had
15:06
never been an advocate of the war was
15:08
looked to as the champion of the
15:10
Japanese war effort during the first few
15:12
months of 1942 Japan won victory after
15:15
victory Malaya Singapore Bataan but then
15:18
a heavy blow was inflicted when an
15:20
American bombing raid was unleashed upon
15:22
a number of key Japanese cities the
15:24
Battle of Midway was the first military
15:26
defeat and things they simply never
15:29
recovered by the end of 1944 Japan’s
15:31
last hopes rested with the kamikaze
15:33
pilots who vowed to die for their
15:35
Emperor by crashing their planes into
15:37
American aircraft carriers but this was
15:40
simply too little too late
15:42
Hirohito was by now eager to see an end
15:44
to hostilities for the first time he
15:46
involved himself in the planning of a
15:48
battle that if one would force the
15:50
Americans to propose a peace settlement
15:52
the resulting Battle of Okinawa saw some
15:55
of the fiercest fighting of the entire
15:57
war however the Emperor’s plan
15:59
it back fat the American casualties were
16:01
so high that they despaired that the
16:03
Japanese would ever surrender with
16:05
American bombs decimating his key cities
16:08
Iraheta was ready to put an end to the
16:10
carnage but once again he was overridden
16:13
by his military commanders who vowed to
16:15
never surrender on August the 6th and
16:18
9th 1945 the Americans dropped atomic
16:21
bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and
16:23
Nagasaki despite the terrible loss of
16:25
life that resulted half of the Prime
16:27
Minister’s cabinet were opposed to a
16:29
surrender the deadlock it was broken by
16:32
the Emperor on August the 15th the
16:44
people of Japan heard the voice of their
16:46
Emperor for the first time he told them
16:48
that Japan was surrendering to the
16:50
Allies in stating his reasons for the
16:52
surrender he said with reference to the
16:54
atomic bomb that a continuation of the
16:57
struggle would lead to the total
16:59
extinction of human civilization the
17:01
formal surrender took place on September
17:03
the 2nd onboard the USS Missouri arizo
17:06
did not have to suffer the indignity of
17:08
attending Japan was now an occupied
17:10
country under the management of General
17:12
Douglas MacArthur the Emperor expressed
17:14
a desire to abdicate but he was
17:16
persuaded to remain in place by
17:18
MacArthur giving him on the throne would
17:20
help to provide some semblance of
17:21
normality as Japan emerged from the
17:23
ashes of war the Allies drew up a list
17:25
of 28 top wartime leaders who are
17:27
culpable of committing crimes against
17:29
humanity during the war and they put
17:31
them on trial here at he’s out though it
17:33
was not among them still many pointed
17:35
the finger at the Emperor surely if he
17:37
was a god he could have stopped the
17:40
atrocities
17:43
[Music]
17:50
with mounting pressure Hirohito spoke to
17:52
its people for a second time over the
17:54
radio on New Year’s Day 1946 this time
17:57
what he had to say was even more
17:59
shocking than his announcement of the
18:01
surrender he was not a god he told the
18:03
nation but just an imperfect human being
18:05
just like them in the wake of this
18:08
bombshell announcement his title was
18:10
officially changed from imperial
18:12
sovereign to constitutional monarch
18:14
throughout the next few years Hirohito
18:16
made many public appearances he toured
18:18
bombed-out cities and inspected new
18:20
factories now he dressed in a suit and
18:22
tie looking more like a prime minister
18:24
than an emperor hirohito Zima J was now
18:27
reshaped into the symbol of the
18:28
well-to-do Japanese middle class success
18:31
story he was what the ordinary Japanese
18:33
man could strive to be if he worked hard
18:35
enough free of his imperial duties the
18:37
former emperor now had time to indulge
18:39
his passion for biology in the ensuing
18:41
decades era hito faded into the
18:43
backgrounds of Japanese significance he
18:46
was increasingly seen as a symbol of the
18:47
old Japan the new Japan it was focused
18:50
on industrialization consumerism and a
18:52
strong work ethic his value was now as a
18:55
public relations figure who was
18:57
occasionally wheeled out and sent around
18:59
the world on goodwill toss
19:03
[Music]
19:10
still the specter of the passing of the
19:13
emperor in the mid 1980s saw an
19:15
outpouring of grief and profound respect
19:17
among all classes and all ages in Japan
19:20
but also there was the question of war
19:22
responsibility but the consensus was and
19:25
remains that Hirohito bore a measure of
19:27
moral responsibility for the atrocities
19:28
that were committed in China and through
19:31
the Far East in the 1930s and 40s the
19:34
ends it ultimately came on January the
19:35
7th 1989 the result of duodenal cancer
19:38
the funeral was attended by
19:40
representatives of 163 nations many had
19:43
mixed feelings about being there because
19:45
of the war responsibility question Great
19:47
Britain’s Prince Philip later said that
19:49
he overcame his conscience by not bowing
19:51
before the Emperor’s casket simply
19:53
knotting his head slightly so I really
19:56
hope you enjoyed that episode of
19:57
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19:59
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[Music]
20:42
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video.