Hirohito's War Responsibility (03:49)
The Asian Century sets out to investigate Emperor Hirohito's role in Japan's actions and in the consequences of those actions during World War II and the Sino-Japanese War. Prior to his death, conservative elements portrayed him as a symbol of national unity who had saved and advanced the country after the war. More critical historical investigations reveal the authority and constitutional, political, and militaristic powers the emperor wielded.
Religious Leadership of Japan (07:18)
The pre-war Shinto religion recognized the emperor as being divinely descended from Amaterasu, the Japanese goddess of the sun, and he was worshipped alongside family ancestors in household shrines. This worship was described in the Imperial Rescript of Education and utilized by the military to instill unwavering devotion in their soldiers. Generally viewed as weak-willed, Hirohito sought to prove himself in his quashing of an attempted coup d'état in February of 1936.
Japanese Expansionism (11:10)
In July of 1937, Emperor Hirohito was recalled from vacation to approve military action following an altercation between Japanese and Chinese troops. His approval launched a campaign which would result in atrocities and biological warfare claiming the lives of over 300 thousand Chinese civilians in the Nanjing Massacre. As survivors tell their stories of the horrific events, experts examine how the Japanese officers and soldiers could have carried out those attacks.
Japan During Second World War (10:04)
The embargoes leveraged against Japan in response to its invasion of French Indochina in July of 1941 and American demands for a withdrawal of troops from the region led the Japanese military to consider a direct attack on the United States. Though initially hesitant, Emperor Hirohito eventually gave his approval and planes were scrambled to attack Pearl Harbor. A survivor of the Sook Ching Massacre recounts her story to shine light on the murders and rapes common in regions invaded by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Atomic Bombs and Postwar Pardons (09:17)
As a result of Emperor Hirohito's refusal to unconditionally surrender in June of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 129 thousand and injuring thousands more. Survivors of the bombings recall the scenes that greeted them immediately after the blasts. Experts investigate why Hirohito continued the war despite knowing Japan could not win it, the reasons for his remaining in power, and how he avoided execution alongside his subordinates for war crimes.
Hirohito's Legacy (04:10)
Following Japan's surrender on September 2, 1945, the Emperor's visits with the wounded across the country had a healing effect on the battered nation's spirits, spurring them to rebuild and become a world economic power by the time of his death. Taking the Chrysanthemum Throne after his father in 1989, Emperor Akihito traveled Asia, attempting to mend emotional and political wounds left by the war. Nevertheless, many in China, Malaysia, and other affected regions still feel that Hirohito should have been held accountable for his role in the nearly 20 million lives claimed by the Japanese military.
Japan's Militarist Emperor: Credits (00:33)
Japan's Militarist Emperor: Credits
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