【PART 3】 The Mystery of the Security Treaty Village (1): The Showa Emperor and the Constitution of Japan


【15】 MacArthur and the Showa Emperor’s first talk


MacArthur and the Showa Emperor’s well-known first talk was held on September 27th, 1945, 43 days after Japan’s defeat. An official record of the talk by Katsuzo Okumura, Councilor at MOFA who served as an interpreter, is available to the public. (Published by MOFA on October 17th, 2002.)

According to the record, after they were introduced to each other, MacArthur changed to a forceful tone and delivered a speech for about 20 minutes. Then, when he had stopped speaking, the Showa Emperor said as follows: “I personally intended to avoid the war as much as possible, so I deeply deplore that it ended up in war.”

Anyone might be surprised at his words. In movies or historical novels, the Showa Emperor usually says “I will devote myself to saving the people” or “I deserve hanging,” at which it has been said that MacArthur was deeply impressed.

Because these depictions include political motives, they cannot be regarded as reliable. They were based on memoirs or witness accounts published at a later date of people who desired the survival of the Emperor system, such as MacArthur, aides of the Showa Emperor, and Elizabeth Janet Gray Vining (tutor to the Crown Prince).

At present, the only confirmed historical fact is the statement contained in the official record by MOFA, as quoted above. Added parts are “opinions” by respective researchers or writers.

In my opinion, what is closest to fact is reflected in the content of a strictly confidential telegram from George Atcheson Jr. to the U.S. Department of State on October 27th, exactly one month after the talk. Atcheson was a political adviser to MacArthur; therefore MacArthur did not need to give him false information at that time. Moreover, there is no contradiction between these remarks on the Showa Emperor and other documents. Atcheson’s references to the meeting with the Showa Emperor are as follows:

As General MacArthur told me, when the Emperor Hirohito visited the General (on September 27, 1945,) he walked into a reception room at the Embassy where MacArthur waited and made a deep bow. After they shook hands and took their seats, the Emperor said he had had no intention of attacking Pearl Harbor before the U.S. government received Japan’s document declaring war against the U.S., but that Tojo deceived him (1). The Emperor also maintained that he said so not to avoid his responsibility, that he was responsible for actions of Japanese citizens because he was their leader (2). (George Atcheson on October 27, 1945) (Retranslation of Occupation of Japan 1: Emperor System (1990)/ Ohtsuki shoten, numbered by Yabe)

What this document means, I assume, is that two significantly important remarks of the Showa Emperor were intentionally unrecorded in MOFA’s official record:

(1) The pre-emptive attack on Pearl Harbor without declaration of hostility was not my plan, and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo holds all the responsibility.

(2) Nevertheless, this does not mean that I have the intention of avoiding my responsibility. As their leader, I have a responsibility for the actions of Japanese citizens.

On September 17, ten days before the talk, MOFA secretly contacted Prime Minister Tojo, then imprisoned for war crimes, to confirm that he would “never mention the Emperor’s responsibility at trial.” (Tajiri Akiyoshi Kaisouroku published by Harashobo)

There was a plan, based on Tojo’s reply, to make Tojo the scapegoat for a significant, internationally wrongful act: the pre-emptive attack on Pearl Harbor without a declaration of hostility. Tojo himself also accepted this plan.

However, it is not appropriate for the Emperor to focus blame on a particular person with the individual name “Tojo.” Also, the Emperor himself could be found guilty of accepting war responsibility by virtue of if his own statement that “I do not have intention to avoid my responsibility”–if it were to become public. I assume that is the reason why these two remarks were removed from the record by MOFA.