Diary shows Emperor Showa's attitude before war

A journal by a close aide to Japan's late Emperor Showa indicates that he was positive but later cautious about starting the Pacific War in World War Two.

Admiral Hyakutake Saburo of the now-defunct Japanese Navy served as grand chamberlain to the Emperor for nearly eight years, from 1936. He wrote about what he experienced and heard in the post in more than 20 volumes of diaries and memo pads. NHK has obtained copies of most of them. One of the journals says the Emperor often met senior officials and officers of the government and military before the Pacific War.

On November 20, 1941, eighteen days before the start of the war, Hyakutake wrote down an account by one of the Emperor's closest aides, Kido Koichi, who had informed Emperor Showa of negotiations with the United States to avoid war.
Hyakutake's journal says Kido told him the Emperor's determination appeared to be going too far, indicating he was then positive about starting the war.

The journal says Kido told the Emperor that US President Franklin Roosevelt was showing eagerness to conclude the negotiations. It also says Kido recommended that the Emperor express intent to pursue a peaceful path in front of Japan's foreign minister and other officials.

Hyakutake also wrote that the Emperor listened to opinions of close aides, including a former prime minister, on November 29, when it had become difficult for the talks to reach an agreement. This indicates that he was then cautious about the war.

Nihon University Professor Furukawa Takahisa, an expert on modern Japanese history, says Emperor Showa is said to have been reluctant about the war, but that the documents suggest another aspect.

Furukawa says the documents show the Emperor's hesitation, impatience and wavering mind at the time, and are valuable materials that provide clues about how events developed just before the war.

Hyakutake's relatives entrusted his diaries to the University of Tokyo's Center for Modern Japanese Legal and Political Documents. They were put on display on Wednesday.