January 13, 2010

Book Review: Hirohito Emporer of Japan


Title: Hirohito Emperor Of Japan
Author: Leonard Mosley
Publisher: Prentice Hall Inc., 1966
Genre: Japanese Non-fiction biography
Pages: 371

This book was written as a biography of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) who reigned as a supposed divine being during World War II. The author outlines the Emperor's life describing the man's emotions, decisions, actions and relationships.

The author does an excellent job of painting the Emperor as a fair and humble man made impotent by the lies and guile of his entourage of government mentors. From his birth to his enthronement at age 26 to World War II and beyond, Hirohito was timid and skeptical of his own divinity. By his actions, it was apparent that he would rather perform his hobby as a botanist than dictate the direction of a nation. He had few meaningful relationships and he resented being subject his advisers, the majority of whom toyed with the Emperor as their personal puppet using him as a means to an agenda. He was a pacifist who often believed the lies of his advisers. Military fanatics used the Emperor's name in order to erupt national pride in the face of an oppressive world.

The book also does a good job of concentrating on its goal: to follow the life of the Emperor. World War II literature can fill aisle after aisle of library shelves and yet Mosley examines his topic without falter and without falling into any detail of the war that does not address the Emperor. A lot of the war is not mentioned because the Emperor was left ignorant for most of it. The author conveys the feeling that the Emperor was blind to much of the happenings and devastation of the war.

I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates Japanese culture, enjoys World War II knowledge or needs a new perspective on history. After reading the book, I felt as if I had a broader view and a new understanding of Japan and her history.