and the Making of Modern Japan

Author: Bix, Herbert P. Bix

HarperCollins Publishers

Until the late thirties, Hirohito favored peace. Then, amid Japan's war against China, he took sides, supporting, not surprisingly, the nation that he was believed to be leading. It was an age of empire, and Hirohito accepted Japan's imperialism – just as Churchill of Britain had accepted his nation's imperialism. Hirohito joined with those in Japan who believed that Japan's holdings on Asia's mainland – mainly in Manchuria – were vital to Japan's success. Victory eluded the Japanese in China. His generals were reluctant to accept failure in China, and Hirohito faced a great decision: whether to give up Japan's occupation of China or, in order to continue the war, to extend war to the Dutch, British and Americans, who were holding back resources that the Japanese needed to pursue war.

Europe was at war, and Hirohito saw his ally, Germany, at the height of its power. Hirohito sought assurances that Japan would be victorious in an extended war. He was told that there was not a 100 percent probability of victory, but he was given an analogy in the form of a question: If a doctor's prognosis offers a seventy percent chance of survival if surgery is performed, don't you think one must try surgery? And Hirohito accepted this argument.

During the war, Hirohito was, of course, a patriot, supporting his nation. He demanded success from his subordinates in the military. By 1944 chances for success appeared minuscule, or non-existent for Japan, and again Hirohito and others faced failure. Hirohito was advised by minority opinion to seek an end to the war. Instead he dallied. Like many others he was slow in facing up to difficult realities.

I found Bix's book a good read. Bix is an established scholar, currently a professor in the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. His book is endorsed by able people such as Andrew Gordon of the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Chalmers Johnson. It covers Japan from 1901 into the 1990s.