Advanced Search
Herbert Bix
Herbert Bix
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
ISBN: 006019314X
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
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.
—taken from jacket of the book

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
Program Air Date: September 2, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Herbert P. Bix, author of "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan," could somebody who is Japanese write this book and publish it through a Japanese publisher in Japan today?
Professor HERBERT P. BIX, AUTHOR, "HIROHITO AND THE MAKING OF MODERN JAPAN": I think so. I think today there has been a number of breakthroughs that have occurred over the past 20 years, and Hirohito has died, died 10 years ago, so enough time has elapsed. It's possible a Ja--and I would expect and, in fact, I would hope that Japanese historians will surpass this biography and uncover new material and that we will get critical accounts of the emperor and the role he played, both before, during and after the war. Because that man is absolutely crucial for understanding the dilemmas of 20th century Japan.
LAMB: There's a picture in here, and you write about it in your book. What's the importance of this picture right here?
Prof. BIX: General MacArthur, in his first meeting with Emperor Hirohito at the American Embassy, where Hirohito traveled to meet him, is posed as a triumphant general with his hands in his back pockets beside an emperor who is the symbol of a vanquished nation. And the Japanese people, at the time that photograph was taken, when they finally got to see it, it drove home to them the reality of the new situation they confronted: occupation by the foreign enemy.
LAMB: You say in your book that that picture wasn't published right away. What were the circumstance--what year was it?
Prof. BIX: This is s--late September, 1945, and the home ministry interdicted the picture, regarded it as lese majesty, and a--a--a photograph that would undermine the prestige of the throne. It must not be circulated. And so the papers were confiscated, all the newspapers that carried the picture, and this led General MacArthur to issue his famous civil liberties edict of October 4, I believe. At that time not only did MacArthur abolish the peace preservation law of 1925, which, you know, sort of consolidated the restrictions on freedom of press and assembly, he released political prisoners from the jails. And with the threat of punishment for criticism of the emperor removed, you begin to get, in the first few weeks of October, continuing, mushrooming, as the months unfold thereafter, and ex--a flood of publications criticizing the war leaders. Because mind you, from the moment of Japan's surrender on August 15th until late September, the Japanese people were prevented from criticizing their war leaders, and--and the whole apparatus of repression was in place, and thought police and thought procurators, were busy maintaining the emperor's rule. And I think MacArthur, with that civil liberties edict, took the first crucial step.

Of course, he had already ordered, on September 11th, a few weeks before Hirohito came to the palace, the arrest of suspected Class A war criminals, including the wartime prime minister, the man who had taken Japan, as prime minister, into war against the US, Britain and the Netherlands, General Tojo Hideki. And this marks the beginning of a series of arrests of men who would stand trial under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which Japan accepted when it capitulated, and unconditionally accepted the terms that would go into effect.
LAMB: Couple of--I--I lose track of time, but John Dower was here a year or so ago; he had won the National Book Award on a book about Japan. Here you are, just a year later, you won the Pulitzer Prize.
Prof. BIX: Yes. I must say that John also won the Pulitzer Prize. Yes.
LAMB: What is it about your book, do you think, got the Pulitzer Prize judges to give you the award?
Prof. BIX: That's a hard question. I think that the award may be seen as acknowledgement, recognition of the fact that the effort needed to be made--I had made it--to find out the truth about the Showa emperor and the role he played in the war, and that the confrontation with the past history and memory is very important for Japan at this juncture, when the Japanese governments, including the new Koizumi Junichiro government, insists on approving f--for use in the high schools and junior high schools textbooks that whitewash very key aspects of the Asia Pacific war.

I think that at a time when Japan's leaders continue to maintain for home consumption the view of the lost war as sort of a holy war on the one hand, and a war of self-defense, a righteous war, for self-defense and self-preservation, but for external consumption, they, you know, pay lip service to the fact that it was a war of aggression. When you have this double standard being perpetuated in Japan, it's not only harmful, I think, to Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors, but it is a burden that prevents Japan from getting on with its other important tasks in the new century. So I think that the--the Pulitzer award, in the background to the--what moves the men who made—and women who made that decision to give me the award is this whole context of a Japan that's grappling with history and memory, and--and needs all the help it can get, even if it comes from a foreigner.
LAMB: Now you dedicate this book to `Toshie and my grandchildren.'
Prof. BIX: Yes, to my wife and to my grandchildren.
LAMB: Who's Toshie?
Prof. BIX: My wife.
LAMB: She Japanese?
Prof. BIX: She was a--Japanese-born, an American citizen.
LAMB: And the grandchildren, are they here in this country?
Prof. BIX: Yes. My grandchildren--in fact, they're on their way to Vermont, as I speak right now, to visit their grandparents.
LAMB: How did you meet a--well, sh--you say she was born here.
Prof. BIX: My--my wife was Japanese-born, born in Japan, and became a naturalized American citizen in the late 1960s.
LAMB: How did that happen? How did you meet her?
Prof. BIX: I met my wife when I first came to Japan as a young naval officer in the Service Squadron attached to the 7th Fleet. And one of the first things I did when I arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, the big naval base, was to go into Tokyo. My ship was at sea at the time, I'd missed it, so I went into the city and I saw some very interesting sights. I met my wife shortly afterward.
LAMB: So what did--what happened to your life when you married someone who was Japanese?
Prof. BIX: Well, I think it improved my life. It's civilized me, it opened my eyes. I'd been interested in Japan, but, you know, through my wife and her family, I came to appreciate Japan in a different way.
LAMB: How long have your lived there in your life?
Prof. BIX: Well, all together, I would say nearly 15 years at different times, and I--I--this past April, I returned to the United States after three and a half years of living in Japan.
LAMB: Have you talked to many Japanese that have read your book?
Prof. BIX: Indeed, I have, and my book came out late last August, beginning of September 2000, and books weren't available at that time in Japan, but I began a book tour there. Many Japanese ordered it on the Web and began to read the book, and I received letters and postcards, and they kept coming, for the past year. And so I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I learned, as well, that there is a segment of the older generation of Japanese who had visceral dislike of the Showa emperor, Hirohito, something I had not anticipated, but they considered him a moral coward for not having abdicated and taken responsibility for the war fought in his name, the lost war which he had energized and made to appear as a moral endeavor.
LAMB: Let me read from the back of your book, and a lot of comments from different people who basically have endorsed the book, but Chalmers Johnson--who is he, by the way?
Prof. BIX: Chalmers Johnson is professor emeritus at University of California. He's retired, and he's the head of the Japan Policy Research Institute, and a very prolific public intellectual, very important figure, I think...
LAMB: He says this...
Prof. BIX: our national life.
LAMB: `Reading Herbert Bix's pioneering inquiry into Emperor Hirohito's life should make Americans angry.'
Prof. BIX: Yes.
LAMB: Let's stop there. There's more to read, but why would it make Americans angry?
Prof. BIX: He is referring there to the post-war cover-up of Hirohito's role in the war and the way, I think, in which Americans obstructed the Japanese effort to come to terms with their lost war. This begins during the occupation. At the very outset, when General MacArthur arrived in Japan, he already had made up his mind to use the emperor for his own purposes, which were to effect the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, democrati--demil--demilitarize Japan, democratize it. The emperor would be his puppet, he imagined, just as in the 1930s Japanese generals imagined that they could use Hirohito. He was an empty vessel, and they could fill him up as they pleased.

Now, of course, Hirohito proved to be a survivor and as skilled in his negotiations with the Americans, General MacArthur in particular, as he had been in dealing with his admirals and generals during the first half of the 1930s, when it seemed that the military was on such a rapid rise that it--the military would elude control, overall control, and I argue--one of the themes of this book is that the Showa emperor's life during its--the first 20 years of his life, from 1926 down to 1945, illustrates the tendency of military power to expand in any polity. When democratic institutions are absent or non-functioning, the voices of ordinary people are shut out of the policy-making process, and--and--and there is no institutional restraint on the armed forces other than a lax or indulgent chief executive. And Hirohito proved quite often to be a lax and indulgent chief executive.

But when I wrote those words, from the introduction to the book, I also had in mind a present-day United States, because I've been very concerned with that the fact that our own Pentagon seems to be unrestrained by an executive that has the ability and the intention to curb and to restructure our armed forces. Militarism can occur in any country, and although a comparative dimension is to be found in my book, Japan-US comparative dimension, comparative history, it's recessed into the background, but its always there.

I'm--I'm thinking of the US-Japan relationship because I don't consider it to be a healthy relationship, and I've felt this way for a long time. After many, many decades in Japan studies, I feel that the influence of the military in shaping our policy to Japan is excessive. And I--in telling the story of Hirohito and the rise of militarism in a nation that--whose people had historically, for centuries, not been militaristic, and in telling the story, I--I thought that there would be lessons for Americans if I didn't present those lessons with a heavy hand and recess them into the book.
LAMB: Are you still teaching?
Prof. BIX: Yes. I am at Binghamton University. I was at Hitosubashi University in Tokyo until March 31st. I came back to this country April 2nd and in the fall, I will take up my teaching duties at Binghamton University in New York. That's part of the State University of New York, where I once taught, and it's a wonderful place.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
Prof. BIX: I was born and grew up in Boston. I live in a little town near the airport called Winthrop.
LAMB: And where did you go to school?
Prof. BIX: I went to school at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and upon graduation I enlisted in the Navy, went to Officer Candidate School. A--incidentally, I--I received messages, e-mail messages, from my old boss, the chief engineer on my second ship after the book came out, I must say.
LAMB: How--how long did you serve in the Navy?
Prof. BIX: Four years or active duty...
LAMB: What years?
Prof. BIX: the reserves. I--I think it's 1960--was at OCS in the late fall, early winter of 1960, graduated beginning of '61, and I got out of the Navy in, I guess, February of 1964, and I entered Harvard graduate school several months later, that fall.
LAMB: What ex--what impact did your ex--your experience in the United States Navy have on the way you feel about the military here and the military in Japan?
Prof. BIX: Well, I had good experiences in the Navy. You know, I look back on those years when I was very young. But the--being in the Navy alerted me to the security relationship with Japan, the US-Japan Security Treaty, which went into effect in 1952, you know, right after the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and it was renewed, against much popular opposition, in 1960, and thereafter, it was re--renewed automatically. The most recent revision to the treaty are the guidelines, Japan-US guidelines.

But--but my point here is that our security relationship with the US has been dominated by the Pentagon and we have an implantation of 100,000, maybe close to that, troops, military personnel, in the Far East, and in o--on the island of Okinawa, mo--where most of them are--they aren't generally welcomed by the people of Okinawa. So we have serious adjustments to make in our relationship with Japan, but they can only be made by a chief executive who is not self-indulgent, not lax and is very committed to restructuring American armed forces. So I hope that readers of my book, who will understand from it, what Japanese militarism was all about, and--and what happens when a nation eschews militarism and the benefits to be gained from doing so. I hope that some readers, many readers, will pick this up.
LAMB: How long did it take you to do your book?
Prof. BIX: I spent 10 years on the book, and I continued the research until January of 2000 because of the kindness of my publisher.
LAMB: Where did you do most of the research?
Prof. BIX: I did most of the research in Japan, although there were long periods when I would be home in Winthrop, and I would be working at the Ha--Harvard University libraries. But for the most part, the research was done--if I was not at the National Archives in Washington, I was working in Cambridge, and then I was in Japan, initially on--as a Fulbright research scholar in 1990-'91, I believe, and then I did extensive rewriting of the manuscript over the past three and a half years while at Hitosubashi University in Tokyo.
LAMB: Do you speak Japanese?
Prof. BIX: Yes, I do.
LAMB: And you read it.
Prof. BIX: Yes, I do.
LAMB: What advantage do you have in doing your research, because you read it and speak it?
Prof. BIX: Well, you can interact with people and you can read the documents and must--over 95 percent of all the sources cited in the end notes are Japanese sources. And that's one reason why, up to now, even the right wing, the nationalist Japanese press, has been circumspect and careful in reviewing my book.
LAMB: Because?
Prof. BIX: It's not so easy to criticize when most of the sources are Japanese sources. I excavated and built on the basis of the fruits of half a century of Japanese scholarship. It was out there, most of the material was out there. It--it's true, after Hirohito died in January, 1989, there was a vast outpouring of new materials, diaries, memoirs of people who had worked with him and--and had some sense of the man, and I--including his brother. One of his brothers, Prince Takamatsu, and I used these diaries and mom--memoirs as they came out. So the--the book reflects on the life of a—an individual who was absolutely key to un--a key, absolutely a key, to understanding the dynamics of Japanese military and political politics during the 20th century.
LAMB: What's new in your book that's never been published before? What are the conclusions?
Prof. BIX: Well--oh, well, in every chapter there are some things that are new, except to a tiny handful of Japanese scholars who specialize in this area. But what is new in the book, generally speaking, is I offer a Hiro--Emperor Hirohito, who was not a passive puppet of the militarists, not a—a bystander, a silent bystander of events unfolding around him, and an individual who was also not a normal constitutional monarch in any conceivable Western sense of the term. The emperor I describe is a dynamic activist, hands-on, interventionist, individual, struggling to ensure that his role in policy-making gets registered. But, of course, from beginning to end, I stress he is not a dictator. He is not a Hitler or a Mussolini, nor must he ever be compared to them in--in that sense. Nor did the army, or the military, ever establish a dictatorship in Japan, but Hirohito was an active participant, who, in 1941, very late in the day, enters into a de facto alliance with the hard-liners in the army and navy, and it's that de facto alliance that allows him--allows Japan to go to war, to attack Pearl Harbor and the British ter--Malaya at Cotabato.
LAMB: What's different between what you found and what others have found up to this point?
Prof. BIX: Well, a great deal. The emperor I present is an individual who has been given a military education, he's striving at the same time to perform as a benevolent monarch in the Confucian sense. He is an individual torn by tensions of all sorts. He's a nervous, high-strung man, something of a martinet, and he's a stubborn man, and yet he has a capacity for adjusting and for tolerating institutional change. He overturns all sorts of precedents established by his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, the man who helped lead Japan into the modern era. And Hirohito turns Meiji's image on its head.
LAMB: Who was Meiji?
Prof. BIX: Meiji was his grandfather, who as a young boy in 1867-'68 ascended the throne, and it was in his name that the modern Japanese state was constructed by individuals like Ito Hirobumi.
LAMB: Is this Meiji up top--in the top picture up there?
Prof. BIX: Yes. Yes, whom you're pointing to, that's...
LAMB: And who's below here?
Prof. BIX: Below there we see little Hirohito and his brother, Prince Chichibu, I believe.
LAMB: Which one is Hirohito?
Prof. BIX: I'd have to look--put on my glasses and look. Holding his hand--the adult standing erect and holding his hand is his own father, who would become the Taisho emperor. And in my book, I point out that Taisho had been ill, chronically ill since birth, and there were long periods when he was healthy, and when--when this picture was taken, this is one. But sh--a few years after Taisho became emperor, his mental health deterior--deteriorated rapidly, and the man was not able to perform as a monarch, let alone perform his constitutional duties as commander in chief. And so he--he's removed from the scene, so to speak, and Hirohito is—grows up, he's educated in that period, from the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and '05, when Japan is recognized as great regional power in east Asia, down to the end of World War I.

Those years that Hirohito was receiving his education, his father is gradually withdrawing from more and more performance of his ceremonial duties, and the monarchy in Japan is becoming a--something like a true constitutional monarchy. In other words, a passive monarch, not interfe--no--able and not intervening in the political process which is being conducted by elders, Genro, as they were called.

Now Hirohito is brought up to retrieve the lost prerogatives of the throne, prerogatives his father had been too ill to perform. And in November 1921, Hirohito becomes regent for his father. He serves for five years as regent. During this period the political parties are gradually rising to influence and Japan's governments are coalition governments of civilian and military figures. But by the time Hirohito becomes emperor in December 1926, Japan has entered what was called the period of the--the high tide of party Cabinets. And I argue in the book--again, another novel thesis--that Hirohito, by his insistence on playing his constitutionally mandated role in having a say in policy decisions, albeit behind the scenes, he helps to complicate the conduct of party Cabinet politics and undermine it. And eventually he does undermine it, and Hirohito is--soon shows that he's more comfortable dealing with bureaucratic types than with party politicians.
LAMB: When you say `Showa emperor,' what s--does that mean?
Prof. BIX: Well, the practice of ascribing to a reigning emperor a name, the name for his era, f--from the moment he assumes the throne--Meiji is given the name--his na--he's Emperor Mutsuhito. Meiji is his posthumous name, but the era is Meiji, and--and...
LAMB: And the era for Hirohito is Showa?
Prof. BIX: And--and the era for Hirohito is Showa, and his posthumous name is the Showa emperor.
LAMB: What's an emperor?
Prof. BIX: An emperor is a monarch, a king.
LAMB: But, why don't they call him `king?'
Prof. BIX: No, they--they--here they're very distinctive. They--they take the Chinese name, Son of Heaven, and they adopt this term, emperor. Teno is the Japanese term, Teno, Son of Heaven. They adopt this very late in the day, that is to say, when the modern monarchy is constructed, and it is a new monarchy, and it is constructed through stages and it's constantly being reconstructed, this--in this process, they finally fix on the term, Son of Heaven, Teno, emperor, rather than king or monarch, to set their ruler apart from all other rulers. It's a very anachronistic thing, but Japanese emperors weren't called Teno, Son of Heaven, through long stretches of history. Other--many other names were used for them.
LAMB: You write in your book that as soon as he was born, he was handed off to somebody else to raise him?
Prof. BIX: He--yes, he--he has what to us would seem a sort of bizarre upbringing. He's reared apart from his parents in a detached palace. But this doesn't mean that this little boy is denied the--the warmth of concerned parents. His father and mother care for him very much, but the--from an early age, it is is true, he's taken and entrusted to an admiral to be given a modern type of rearing, and that was considered--in those days, the military was at the forefront of modernization, and the young Hirohito was to be the first, very first emperor reared and educated under the modern imperial system, because for hundreds of years, for--emperors had been removed from politics and they were encouraged to study poetry, write poetry, but to take no interest in political affairs.

Now, Hirohito's great-grandfather was an exception, and Meiji, of course was the exception, but neither of them were educated under the modern imperial system. I might add one other thing, and that is that Japan's leaders regarded the imperial institution as a fragile institution. We in the West see it as going back thousands of years, which indeed is true. But it--it's a new institution that is created, new traditions created in the course of Japan's modernization.
LAMB: Lived from 1901 to 1989. His son, Akihito, is currently the emperor?
Prof. BIX: That's right.
LAMB: Just briefly, the difference between Akihito and Hirohito in the--in terms of power.
Prof. BIX: Well, Akihito has no political power, and...
LAMB: Couldn't do the same thing that his father did, if it came to war?
Prof. BIX: C--no, never. He's been stripped of all political power. He's not even a normal constitutional monarch. He's not even a head of state. He's defined in the constitution as a symbol of the unity of the nation, so by inclination, by education, by his intellectual capabilities, he's a completely different individual from his father.
LAMB: Hirohito's wife--how did he get a wife?
Prof. BIX: It was an arranged marriage from--she was selected--this is a picture of Hirohito with his brothers and his mother.
LAMB: How old is he in this picture?
Prof. BIX: In thi--I would--again, I would have to take off my glasses and look closely, but he seems to be in early manhood, probably about ninet--19, 20 years old.
LAMB: Wh--when he--when Hirohito had an arranged marriage, did I read correctly that somebody found out that his wife came from a color-blind family, and they wanted to stop it?
Prof. BIX: And--yes. And--and there was a--an effort to stop it. It--at the forefront of this effort was the leading military figure, the father of the modern Japanese Imperial Army, Yamagata Aritomo, but he was supported by very—other prominent elder statesmen, and he lost out, and it--he ran into terrifically strong opposition, and I tell that story, and in so doing, I use it to reveal the lineup of new political forces in Japan after World War I, forces that were going to grow and take Japanese nationalism in new directions.
LAMB: What were the aggressions of the Japanese, and were they all aggressions on their part?
Prof. BIX: Well, Japanese nationalism is radicalized not in isolation, but in process of interaction with the rise of Chinese nationalism in the early decades of the 20th century, particularly after World War I. Japan, before that time, is taking part in a Western order imposed on east Asia by the leading imperialist powers, particularly Britain and the United States and Germany and France. And Japan is a member—and as a member of this new--newly emergent international order, it makes its debut on the international scene when it goes to war with Ching China in 1894.
LAMB: Did you say that America was imperialist?
Prof. BIX: Yes. America was--took part at the end of the 19th century in the rush for territory in east Asia. This was the period in which the leading American thinker was Admiral Th--Thayer Mahan, Admiral Mahan with his theories of sea power and of forward deployment of American ships, bases, and the United States, as you know, seizes Ha--Hawaii at the end of the 19th century. It fights a war with Spain. It seizes the Philippines, Wake, Guam and Midway Islands. The Japanese come on the scene as late-starting imperialists. They seize territory from China in 1895, but the great powers--France, Germany and Russia, czarist Russia—force Japan to return the little peninsula, Liaotung Peninsula at the foot of Mukden Province.

And Japan does, however, acquire the island of Taiwan, then known as Formosa, as a result of its first war with China, and a decade later, Jap--I might add, it also secures indemnities from China's Ching dynasty. Five years later, it--Japan takes part in putting down an insurrection in north China, around Peking, the Boxer uprising, and it w--secures more rights from China, which are underwritten by the other great powers, who are also taking part. And then five years--four years later, it goes to war with czarist Russia, who has moved into China's three northeastern provinces--Manchuria, it was then called--and Japan fights the war to a standstill. American President Teddy Roosevelt helps to arbiter a peace treaty, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, and out of that war, Japan becomes both an insular power and a continental power, that is to say, it acquires a foothold on the Chinese continent.
LAMB: When does it colonize Korea?
Prof. BIX: It colonizes Korea f--five years after this--the end of the Russo-Japanese war, and it first establishes a protectorate and then it takes the huge step of actually annexing Korea, and so now Japan is even more of a continental power. It's expanded and has strategic burdens that are--are going to prove very onerous. But Japan is still part of a Western imperialist order in east Asia.

Then comes World War I. The Germans are knocked out of this order, and a new international framework for relations among the great powers is constructed at Versailles, and a few years later at the Washington conference that President Harding hosted here in Washington, and Japan is a member in good standing of that new international order, and it's saying that it will abide by the new peace code, and--respect for treaties, the covenant of the League of Nations, and then in 1928, the Kellogg-Briand pact that outlaws aggressive war.

Japan's all part of that, and it signs on--it had signed on earlier to The Hague Conventions governing ground warfare and all.

So when Japan begins--Japan emer--reemerges as an expansionist power in the 1930s, it does so as a revisionist power. It--it wants revision of this Versailles-Washington system. It wants to acquire territory and raw materials. It feels that the United States in particular has rolled back Japan's gains, and it feels aggrieved, and it's in this context of a rising sense of aggrieved nationalism that the depression comes, the military make their move, Hirohito becomes emperor on December 26, and within two years, he's facing the situation of a insubordination in his armed forces, and I—I take the story from there, and in s--and in seven chapters I look very closely at how he performs.
LAMB: Today, the United States has 284 million people in it, or thereabouts, Japan has about 125 million?
Prof. BIX: Yes. I--I'm not quite sure, but I would imagine yes.
LAMB: Today's Gross National Product here in the United States is close to $10 trillion; in Japan, it's close to $5 trillion?
Prof. BIX: It's the number two economy, still, even after a decade of economic stagnation.
LAMB: The reason I use those figures, to ask you, back in 1941...
Prof. BIX: Yes.
LAMB: ...what was the--you know what--have any idea of what that...
Prof. BIX: Oh, Japan produced one-twelfth the steel of the United States; I have all those statistics in the footnote and--yeah.
LAMB: But as it related--as Japan related to the United States then in population and Gross National Product, was it as similar as it is today?
Prof. BIX: Oh, no. No, no, no. Japan was a late-developing country economically, far inferior to the US and enormously dependent on the United States for all of its strategic raw materials.
LAMB: When you talk about the emperor, and from time to time you allude to this in your book, that there was a mystique that was built up around him, including--what did they do to his limousine? I mean, they purified the limousine that he rode in. Was he a deity, as far as the Japanese people were concerned?
Prof. BIX: Yes, from the moment of his en--the completion of his enthronement rights in November, 1928, Hirohito is regarded--the--the Japanese people are encouraged to regard him as a living deity, although he himself didn't think that that was the case--he knew better--but he felt it was efficacious for people to believe.
LAMB: What would he do, then, if--I mean, how--how did he live differently?
Prof. BIX: How did he live--well, he lived a life in isolation from the Japanese people. They saw him when he went on tour. They--but they also saw him as a family man. That picture on the right shows him in the late 1930s when war has begun in China, I think. His--I don't know--I can't see the date on that picture, but a--a family man. Be he--they also see him—and they see him primarily as the supreme commander of the armed forces.
LAMB: It was 1939, was that picture.
Prof. BIX: That was 1939, that's right, and Japan has been at war with China, full-scale war, for three--nearly three years.
LAMB: But if you lived in Japan at the time, wh--what did you see of him? Di--did you hear him? Did he talk? Did he...
Prof. BIX: No, you didn't hear his voice. You would--h—he would come forth in imperial rescripts, and the papers would re--report the emperor taking part in an imperial conference, once that institution was reestablished, and he operated behind the scenes in a system--a pluralistic sys--and complexsystem of decision-making, whereby he was always responding to--it was made to appear that he was responding to sanctioning decisions made by the Cabinet. But the reality was Hirohito--Hirohito taking part in a system of decision-making that diverged more and more from the Meiji constitution, a system of decision-making in which he would receive informal reports on what was being planned, what was being discussed and he would freely make his views known, and then at particular times, he would come forward in a more visible way, and put his imprimatur, his seal, on the documents.

Now all orders to the armed forces of--you know, f—fleet commanders and field commanders were read by him, and sealed by him, and he was very fussy, very careful about what he approved and what he disapproved.
LAMB: The public think he was doing that at the time?
Prof. BIX: The--from about 1936, a great propaganda effort is mounted to present Hirohito as a shinsei, direct ruler of the—a man who is ruling the--the nation directly, and as the war in China drags on and Hirohito finds that he's most effective performing in his role as supreme commander, this comes close to the reality.

But the--the point to bear in mind also is that in—in 1930s--particuarly late 1930s Japan, there was great division, disagreement among the ruling elites. It was Hirohito's task to impose some unity, to make sure that the flow of policy continued, and in the early '30s, there had been continual acts of military insubordination, attempted coup d'etats. When the army moved to seize Manchuria on September 18th, 1941, Hirohito knew, he had heard rumors, that things were afoot, and he'd a few weeks earlier warned his top commanders to make sure nothing happened. But once it happened--once it happened, he struggled for a few years to get on top of things.
LAMB: This is a little bit out of context, but I--it has to do with your research on the--on page 534...
Prof. BIX: Yes.
LAMB: have something from Akihit--Akihito's diary.
Prof. BIX: The war has ended, and Hirohito's son, who had been...
LAMB: Who is now emperor.
Prof. BIX: Ah--i--i--may I see the--What page is this? Five...
LAMB: Five thirty-four.
Prof. BIX: Five thirty-four...
LAMB: And the reason I bring it up is, it's--you say here he's 11 years old in September of 1945, and I was struck when I read it, about what he said. He says--`Japan, however, had been defeated, and this' --these are the words of Akihito--`because of the overwhelming material superiority of Britain and the United States...
Prof. BIX: Yes. Yes, yes.
LAMB: ...and the great skillfulness of the American way of fighting. The Anglo-Americans were defeated at the start because they were not then adequately prepared. But once they were prepared, they came at us like wild boars.'
Prof. BIX: `Like wild boars.' Yes.
LAMB: He actually wrote that at ele--at age 11?
Prof. BIX: This was probably--he was probably tutored to some extent, but I--one doesn't know...
LAMB: He says, `Their methods of attack'--meaning the Americans--`were very skillful and scientific'...
Prof. BIX: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
LAMB: `Finally they used atomic bombs and killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Japanese, destroyed towns and factories. In the end we could fight no longer. The cause for this was the inferiority of Japanese national power and scientific power.'
Prof. BIX: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: And the current emperor now wrote that when he was 11 years old.
Prof. BIX: Ye--yes, apparently he wrote it. These were letters written--of course, he's reflecting the views of his tutors. He's--as I say, you know, these...
LAMB: He's still 11.
Prof. BIX: He's still 11 years old. It's--it's remarkable.
LAMB: Of all the things that you found...
Prof. BIX: Yes.
LAMB: ...what was the most helpful for you? When did you find the document that you said, `This gives me the real insight into Hirohito'?
Prof. BIX: Well, it came early. You know, the book grew, to some extent, out of the diary published in 1990 by the vice grand chamberlain, Kinoshta Michio, which contained documents in it purporting to be, you know, excerpts from dictation by the emperor at the end of the war. The monologue of the emperor was the single most important document in that this dictated account, Hirohito's account, of the war, which was dictated with a view to presenting it to General MacArthur so that MacArthur would then be fortified with the emperor's view of the war.

Mind you, in between March and April of 1946, efforts were under way to establish the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known as the Tokyo Trial, and people were being interviewed, interrogated, to stand trial. Hirohito and those close to him were taking part in selecting the Japanese who would actually be indicted.

Hirohito had to give his account of the lost war, and that document, when it became available in the West and in Japan, caused a sensation. I wrote a long article about it, and out of this, in the course of writing--and I said, `This is my next big project. This will be my book.'
LAMB: When you researched, and you researched Japanese, did you write it in English or did you write it in Japanese?
Prof. BIX: I wrote it in Jap--i--in English, yes.
LAMB: Has this been translated into Japanese?
Prof. BIX: It's being translated now, and hopefully it will come out next summer, from Kodansha. I know many journalists have written that the book isn't going to be published in Japan, or might not be, but within a relatively short time, my publisher secured the leading Ja--one of the leading Japanese publishers to do the work.
LAMB: Kodansha also operates in the United States.
Prof. BIX: That's right. That's a very good publisher.
LAMB: When do you think it will hit the bookstores in Japan?
Prof. BIX: Next summer, and I hope I'll be over there?
LAMB: What do you want to do about that? I mean, are you going to go over there and do a book tour there?
Prof. BIX: Well, I--it depends on Kodansha.
LAMB: Has the fact that you--when you first published this book in 2000, did the local papers cover it in Tokyo?
Prof. BIX: No, not at first. It was neglected at first. And—and then, what the Japanese did--they do this so often—they picked up the Western press. `Oh, this book is causing a furor in the United States, in Europe, in Singapore, in the Philippines, and elsewhere in Asia,' and they wrote stories about it. Only later did I--yeah.
LAMB: Could World War II happen again, from the Japanese standpoint? Could they ever do what they did then?
Prof. BIX: No, I don't think so.
LAMB: Why not?
Prof. BIX: Well, I don't think history will repeat itself like that, and the Japanese aren't a militaristic people and the whole situation is different. And...
LAMB: Have they ever come to--have they ever come to admit the tr--the atrocities?
Prof. BIX: Oh, yes. Oh, yes indeed, they have. They have, but this is a...
LAMB: But they--but you say their censorship of--of the textbooks...
Prof. BIX: The--it's a struggle that goes on. The new prime minister has indicated, Koiz--Prime Minister Koizumo Junichiro has indicated that `enough adjustment of our textbook,' in response to foreign pressures. But that's him. How long he can maintain this, I don't know, but I think that the Japanese people do have a realistic understanding of the aggressive nature of the war they fought.
LAMB: What was the hardest part of doing this book, for you?
Prof. BIX: Getting good material on Hirohito.
LAMB: Well, was your material refused you?
Prof. BIX: It was--yeah. It's hard to get material. It's hard to get material.
LAMB: How do you do it?
Prof. BIX: Well, I relied on the published record. I--I went to different archives. I didn't bother to go to the Imperial Household Agency, because I knew I would get nowhere dealing with those people.
LAMB: Well, and they're--they're located where?
Prof. BIX: In Tokyo.
LAMB: And how would they deal with you?
Prof. BIX: Well, they--I don't know. I--I didn't bother to do deal with them.
LAMB: Well, why do you s--I mean, if you bothered, they wouldn't give you the time of day?
Prof. BIX: Well, I did make some attempts, indirectly. The Japanese imperial house is not an open imperial house. It's not like the British monarchy. You don't go traipsing through the corridors of the palace on specified days to visit. The--everything is done to protect the privacy of the imperial family. When I spoke at the National Press Club in Tokyo, the Japan National Press Club, I said to the journalists there that those materials pertaining to the Showa emperor, his diary and everything about him during the war and the materials of the privy council's office, that is the property of the nation, it's not the private property of one family, and it belongs to the nation, and you journalists should demand it.
LAMB: In the end, this $35 book, 800 pages, how many copies were printed and put into the marketplace?
Prof. BIX: Well, the--it's gone through eight printings. There'll bee--it'll come out in many languages. I--I--I would assume over 50,000, 52,000 copies are in print.
LAMB: And when do you pick up the Pulitzer Prize?
Prof. BIX: When did I get the Pulitzer Prize?
LAMB: Yeah. Have you gotten it in your hands yet?
Prof. BIX: Oh, yes.
LAMB: How long ago?
Prof. BIX: A few months ago, in New York.
LAMB: Here's the book. Our guest has been Herbert Bix, and the title of this book is "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan." Thank you very much.
Prof. BIX: Thank you, Mr. Lamb, for having me.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2001. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.