1946 began with a bang in Japan with the release of an Imperial Rescript by Hirohito in which he stated that he was not a god:
In greeting the New Year, We recall to mind that Emperor Meiji proclaims as the basis of our national policy, the Five Clauses of the Charter-Oath at the beginning of the Meiji Era. The Charter-Oath signified:
- Deliberative assemblies shall be established and all measures of government decided in accordance with public opinion.
- All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the affairs of State.
- All common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall be allowed to fulfill their just desires so that there may not be any discontent among them.
- All the absurd usages of old shall be broken through, and equality and justice to be found in the workings of nature shall serve as the basis of action.
- Wisdom and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Empire.
The proclamation is evident in significance and high in its ideals. We wish to make this oath anew and restore the country to stand on its own feet again.
We have to reaffirm the principles embodied in the Charter, and proceed unflinchingly towards elimination of misguided practices of the past, and keeping in close touch with the desires of the people, we will construct a new Japan through thoroughly being pacific, the officials and the people alike, attaining rich culture, and advancing the standard of living of the people.
The devastation of war inflicted upon our cities, the miseries of the destitute, the stagnation of trade, shortage of food, and great and growing number of the unemployed are indeed heart-rending.
But if the nation is firmly united in its resolve to face the present ordeal and to seek civilization consistently in peace, a bright future will undoubtedly be ours, not only for our country, but for the whole humanity.
Love of the family and love of the country are especially strong in this country. With more of this devotion should we now work towards love of mankind.
We feel deeply concerned to note that consequent upon the protracted war ending in our defeat, our people are liable to grow restless and to fall into the Slough of Despond.
Radical tendencies in excess are gradually spreading and the sense of morality tends to lose its hold on the people, with the result that there are signs of confusion of thoughts.
We stand by the people and We wish always to share with them in their moments of joys and sorrows.
The ties between Us and Our people have always stood mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths.
They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.
Our Government should make every effort to alleviate their trials and tribulations.
At the same time, We trust that the people will rise to the occasion, and will strive courageously for the solution of their outstanding difficulties, and for the development of industry and culture.
Acting upon a consciousness of solidarity and of mutual aid and broad tolerance in their civic life, they will prove themselves worthy of their best tradition.
By their supreme endeavours in that direction, they will be able to render their substantial contribution to the welfare and advancement of mankind.
The resolution for the year should be made at the beginning of the year. We expect Our people to join Us in all exertions looking to accomplishment of this great undertaking with an indomitable spirit.
MacArthur had requested this, and he praised Hirohito the same day the rescript was issued.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur today issued the following statement concerning the Emperor’s New Year’s Rescript:
“The Emperor’s New Year’s statement pleases me very much. By it he undertakes a leading part in the democratization of his people. He squarely takes his stand for the future along liberal lines. His action reflects the irresistible influence of a sound idea. A sound idea cannot be stopped.”
Privately Hirohito still considered himself to be descended from gods. The reaction of his subjects was subdued, although some traditionalists were shocked by this statement, while others felt bitter about having been lied to all their lives on this point.