The Japanese Monarchy: Ambassador Joseph Grew and the Making of the "Symbol Emperor System," 1931-1991

By Nakamura Masanorit; Herbert P. Bix et al. | Go to book overview

Preface

The author of this book, Nakamura Masanori, was ten years old when he heard Emperor Hirohito announce the end of World War II. Growing up in wartime Tokyo, he was evacuated to the countryside to escape American bombing and later witnessed Japan's defeat and occupation by American armed forces. By the time Nakamura entered university in 1957, Japan's rise from the ashes of war was well underway; and when he published his first major work of history in 1972, Japan had catapulted into the front rank of economic powers and was reaping the benefits of uninterrupted economic growth.

Over the next ten years, however, as Japan continued its extraordinary economic growth, the political and economic milieu that had once been so congenial steadily eroded, while trade "frictions" and misunderstandings with the United States signaled the return of an increasingly conflictual international environment. At the same time, a more assertive Japanese nationalist sentiment began to manifest itself. Drawing strength mainly from the triumphs of the Japanese economy, the new nationalism also took delight in Japan's long history and in the imperial institution, whose postwar form was that of a "symbol" emperor system, which lent itself to diverse interpretations. The Shōwa Emperor reinforced this sense of pride in continuity with the past by his own persistent denial that defeat in war and constitutional revision had brought about any sharp break in the position of the monarchy under the new constitution.

In these circumstances, Nakamura began to reflect on the Japanese view of the emperor and the public debate about continuity and change in postwar history. Turning to the study of the Japanese-U.S. relationship during the watershed decades of the 1930s and 1940s, he sought to understand where the confusion in the constitutional specification of the emperor originated. While in residence at Harvard University in 1979 and 1980, he read the unpublished memoirs of Thomas A. Bisson, a

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