With access to hundreds of previously untapped documents, including the unpublished letters and diaries of members of Hirohito's royal court, historian Bix has traced the Japanese emperor's reign from 1926 to 1989, revealing surprising information about his role in World War II.
... important and provocative ... In evaluating Bix's fascinating book it is well to keep three things in mind. First, studies of Hirohito's reign are still in their early stages. Second, as Bix himself points out, many key documents pertaining to the emperor -- his diaries, his personal correspondence and records of his conversations -- are still tightly held by the imperial household. Finally there are, and probably always will be, differing views of this era ... it is safe to say that while Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan' is sure to stimulate discussion in the United States, its reception in Japan, once the book has been translated into Japanese, is bound to be far more explosive.
Bix’s Hirohito seems as contradictory as other versions of the man, but Bix does at least have a coherent line on his subject which doesn’t rely on demonic conspiracy theories. It is largely the line of the left: the Emperor as a leading agent of reaction against liberal tendencies in twentieth-century Japan. This is persuasive, as far as it goes ... Because Bix goes out of his way to show Hirohito’s active political participation, he is puzzled, and sometimes angry, when the Emperor turns out not to have been active enough. It’s as if Bix wants it both ways ... It is hugely important to insist that the truth be told about the past, as well as the present ... David Bergamini deserves a small salute for having made an initial stab at the subject. Bix has done a much better job.
In this provocative and disturbing work, [Bix] paints a far more complex portrait of Hirohito. Aided by newly available material from Japanese archives, Bix convincingly asserts that the emperor was deeply involved in most aspects of the Pacific war, from start to finish, and he voiced few objections to the most brutal outrages of his military. It is particularly disturbing to see how the cocoon of lies spun around Hirohito has been used by conservative and especially reactionary politicians in Japan to advance their nationalistic agenda. This book will undoubtedly cause a storm of controversy, especially in Japan. However, it is a vital contribution to an ongoing and critical debate.