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

 

【25 The Declaration of Humanity that decided the Japanese view of history

 

The Japanese view of history at that time, which afterward supported the high economic growth period, was based on the logic shown by the Showa Emperor in the Declaration of Humanity. According to this view of history:

(1) The Meiji era  = a positive era based on democracy

(2) The Early Showa era  = a negative era when the military was out of control, a historical anomaly, an era of “mutation”

(3) Post-war Japan  = a positive era that returned to democracy

In order to advance this view–that is, to make the Emperor system and Japan under the Emperor system thrive again after the war–it was absolutely necessary to emphasize that the time frame of point (2) was only an era of historical mutation, and then to deny the divinity of the Emperor. To create this emphasis, the Showa Emperor made a major twist by adding the Charter Oath to the beginning of the Declaration of Humanity, and then issued it as a “national renewal message” on New Year’s Day. GHQ readily approved it, because it went along with the policy of the U.S. Forces and with the Potsdam Declaration. Thus, Japanese people eventually got used to the idea, supported by both Japan and the U.S., that an out-of-control military alone was to be blamed for the militarism before and during the war.

In my youth I enjoyed the writings of Ryotaro Shiba, one of Japan’s great historical novelists, who passed away 20 years ago. When I carefully looked back at his stories and their view of history, they were exactly the same as the logic in the “Declaration of Humanity.”

The logic is very clear and simple: The Meiji era was such a great and reasonable period, while the early Showa era was only the worst and most extraordinarily awful of times. Japan in that latter period can then be interpreted as a state occupied by the military in such a way that, when GHQ came in as an occupation army, the Japanese people accepted it as “a lighter occupation.” Once Japan regained its independence, it returned to the great nation it once was. Of course, the Showa Emperor had no war responsibility.

What are we to think of this? It might be 80 percent true, but it is wrong that the Showa Emperor had no war responsibility and that the early Showa era was only a historical aberration. As ages are continuous, so a later era is based on the former era. In fact, there has been a possibility that such an “anomalous era” as (2) would hit Japan again. Shiba’s view of history is called “Shiba shikan” and still has influence, and yet it was a fiction in a broad sense.