Education About Asia: Online Archives

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

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BY HERBERT P. BIX
NEW YORK, HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS, 2000
800 PAGES, ISBN 0-060931-302, PAPERBACK

As a senior high school student, I enrolled in a social studies elective on World War II. As one of only two girls in a class of twenty, I submitted to the group consensus in identifying the most significant figures in the war. Amidst the predictable favorites of high school boys—the military strategists— we also studied the three “bad guys”: Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. In the histories we read, Hitler and Mussolini were given some breadth and depth, but Tojo was depicted as a one-dimensional villain. There was no context for his “evil,” no historical developments, no economic, political, or social explanations. Somehow this devil-incarnate had rallied the “100 million hearts as one,” planned the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and invented new and truly inhumane military tactics to use against Americans, like the kamikaze, for example. Emperor Hirohito was never, ever portrayed as the villain. Actually, he was rarely discussed at all.