Hirohito, Japan’s wartime emperor, had given up the will to live towards the end of his life, desperate to avoid the anguish of being blamed for his role in World War II, his aide’s diary has revealed.
The diary of the late chamberlain Shinobu Kobayashi, obtained by Kyodo News, revealed that the aging emperor was haunted by talk of his wartime responsibility.
"There is no point in living a longer life by reducing my workload. It would only increase my chances of seeing or hearing things that are agonizing," he was recorded as saying in a diary entry dated April 7, 1987. The emperor died two years later, aged 85.
His remarks were reportedly made to Mr Kobayashi while he was staying at the royal residence in the capital, Tokyo, at a time when the Imperial Household Agency was trying to reduce the scope of the emperor’s official duties.
"I have experienced the deaths of my brother and relatives and have been told about my war responsibility," the emperor added.
Mr Kobayashi tried to console him that very few people spoke of his role in the war as the nation’s focus had shifted to the more positive story of post-war reconstruction. “It is only a page in history. You do not need to worry,” he assured Hirohito.
The emperor was once considered to be divine and under the pre-war constitution had supreme control of the army and navy. Post-war, the emperor’s role is defined as “the symbol of the state” with no political power.
However, Hirohito’s sense of guilt appears to have passed through the generations to his eldest son and successor, Akihito.
Emperor Akhihito was just 11 when his father announced Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945. Now 84, and preparing to abdicate next spring, he used a World War II memorial service last week to express “deep remorse” for the war.
Akhihito has strived throughout his 30-year reign to make amends for the war fought in his father’s name, although he never issued a direct apology.
“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” he said in a two-minute speech on the 73rd anniversary of Japan’s surrender, reported The Washington Post.
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