January 1, 1946: Hirohito States That He Is Not a God

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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: 

  1. Deliberative assemblies shall be established and all measures of government decided in accordance with public opinion.
  2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the affairs of State.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. (more…)

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Whither Japan

An interesting look at the occupation of Japan in the 1947 Australian film Whither Japan.

Published in: on November 18, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Whither Japan  
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Feeding Japan

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The most pressing problem facing General Douglas MacArthur as the post war ruler of a devastated Japan was the prospect of famine.  MacArthur immediately set up feeding stations throughout Japan in order to feed the tens of millions of Japanese who had been left completely indigent as a result of the War.  News of this filtered back to the states and was ill received in an America still angry from a War begun by a sneak attack and in the throes of mourning 400,000 war dead.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff warned MacArthur against the gratuitous use of US supplies to relieve Japan. (more…)

Published in: on November 6, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Feeding Japan  
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October 4, 1945: Birth of Japanese Civil Liberties

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General MacArthur wasted no time in letting the Japanese government know precisely the direction that the new Japan would take. By his directive of October 4, 1945,  (SCAPIN-93) he ordered the Japanese government to remove restrictions on the civil, political and religious rights of Japanese citizens.

Five days after the directive, the Japanese prime minister resigned, unwilling to carry out this sweeping change.  His successor released all political prisoners, repealed or abrogated fifteen laws restricting the rights of the Japanese people and began a far sweeping purge of government officials wedded to the old regime.  (more…)

Published in: on October 19, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 4, 1945: Birth of Japanese Civil Liberties  
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September 27, 1945: Hirohito Comes to MacArthur

Emperor and Shogun

 

When MacArthur took up his command as Supreme Commander Allied Powers it was suggested by aides that he summon Hirohito to appear before him.  MacArthur rejected that suggestion, stating that it was important that Hirohito come to him voluntarily.  That he did on September 27, 1945, the first of eight meetings between the Emperor and the American Shogun.  The meeting lasted only a few minutes with Hirohito taking complete responsibility for the War and requesting that any punishment for the War fall on him.  MacArthur said that the War was over and that he wished to work with the Emperor for the betterment of Japan.  (more…)

Published in: on September 27, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Japan Remains One Country

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One of the more decisive decisions of the Occupation of Japan, that Japan would remain one state, was made early in the process by General MacArthur.  The Soviets planned to occupy the northern island of Hokkaido and establish a puppet Soviet regime, identical to what was occurring in East Germany.  If this had succeeded, Japan could have been divided into a Communist North Japan and a Democratic South Japan for the length of the Cold War.  Appeasement of the Soviets was still very much in favor at the State Department, and it is possible that if the Soviets had simply begun landing in Hokkaido, that Washington may have capitulated on that point.  After all, the Soviets were full members, with Great Britain, in the Allied commission to supervise and monitor the Supreme Commander in Tokyo.  The Soviets also insisted upon a tri-partite division of Tokyo, similar to what was being done in Berlin.  MacArthur would have none of it. (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Japan Remains One Country  
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Our Job in Japan

 

A film produced by the Army Signal Corps for troops who would serve on occupation duty in Japan.  Written by Theodore Geisel, who would later achieve immortality as Dr. Seuss, the film explains why it was necessary to occupy Japan and convert the nation to the ways of peace and Democracy.

Published in: on September 17, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Our Job in Japan  
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September 14, 1945: Statement by MacArthur

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The task confronting MacArthur seventy years ago in Japan was absolutely staggering.  As Supreme Commander Allied Powers, he found himself in charge of a devastated Japan. Most of its major cities were collections of rubble.   The Japanese rail system was in shambles from Allied bombing.   Most of the Japanese merchant fleet was now sailing the bottom of the Pacific. An immense famine was manifestly waiting in the wings.  The Japanese shattered medical system was unable to cope with rampant disease.   Finally, the Japanese economy was at a virtual standstill, awaiting the repatriation of millions of Japanese troops stationed overseas to add to the ranks of the unemployed.  To top this off, MacArthur also had to fend off loud demands from politicians and ordinary American citizens that Japan be punished, anger at the unprovoked war still being raw in the United States.  MacArthur, ever sensitive to public opinion, on September 14, 1945 released a statement to give some inkling to his fellow countrymen of the situation in Japan:

 

STATEMENT BY GENERAL MACARTHUR ON THE OCCUPATION OF JAPAN

September 14, 1945

New York Times.

I have noticed some impatience in the press, based upon the assumption of a so-called soft policy in Japan. This can only arise from an erroneous concept of what is occurring.

The first phase of the occupation must of necessity be based on military considerations which involved the deployment forward of our troops and the disarming and demobilization of the enemy. This is coupled with the paramount consideration of withdrawing our former prisoners of war and war internees from internment camps and evacuating them to their homes.

Safety and security require that all of the steps shall proceed with precision and completeness, lest calamity may be precipitated.

The military phase is proceeding in an entirely satisfactory way.

Over half of the enemy’s force in Japan proper is now demobilized and the entire program will be practically complete by the middle of October. During this interval of time, safety and complete security must be assured.

When the first phase is completed, other phases as provided in the surrender terms will infallibly follow. No one need have any doubt about the prompt, complete, entire fulfillment of the terms of surrender. The process, however, takes time. It is well understandable that in the face of atrocities committed by the enemy there should be impatience. This natural impulse, however, should be tempered by the fact that security and military expediency still require an exercise of some restraint. The surrender terms aren’t soft and they won’t be applied in kid-glove fashion.

Economically and industrially as well as militarily, Japan is completely exhausted and depleted. She is in a condition of utter collapse. Her governmental structure is controlled completely by occupation forces and is operating only to the extent necessary to insure such an orderly and controlled procedure as will prevent social chaos, disease and starvation. (more…)

Published in: on September 14, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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