Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Author(s): Herbert P. Bix


Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeIn this groundbreaking biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, Herbert P. Bix offers the first complete, unvarnished look at the enigmatic leader whose sixty-three-year reign ushered Japan into the modern world. Never before has the full life of this controversial figure been revealed with such clarity and vividness. Bix shows what it was like to be trained from birth for a lone position at the apex of the nation's political hierarchy and as a revered symbol of divine status. Influenced by an unusual combination of the Japanese imperial tradition and a modern scientific worldview, the young emperor gradually evolves into his preeminent role, aligning himself with the growing ultranationalist movement, perpetuating a cult of religious emperor worship, resisting attempts to curb his power, and all the while burnishing his image as a reluctant, passive monarch. Here we see Hirohito as he truly was: a man of strong will and real authority.Supported by a vast array of previously untapped primary documents, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is perhaps most illuminating in lifting the veil on the mythology surrounding the emperor's impact on the world stage. Focusing closely on Hirohito's interactions with his advisers and successive Japanese governments, Bix sheds new light on the causes of the China War in 1937 and the start of the Asia-Pacific War in 1941. And while conventional wisdom has had it that the nation's increasing foreign aggression was driven and maintained not by the emperor but by an elite group of Japanese militarists, the reality, as witnessed here, is quite different. Bix documents in detail the strong, decisive role Hirohito played in wartime operations, from the takeover of Manchuria in 1931 through the attack on Pearl Harbor and ultimately the fateful decision in 1945 to accede to an unconditional surrender. In fact, the emperor stubbornly prolonged the war effort and then used the horrifying bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with the Soviet entrance into the war, as his exit strategy from a no-win situation. From the moment of capitulation, we see how American and Japanese leaders moved to justify the retention of Hirohito as emperor by whitewashing his wartime role and reshaping the historical consciousness of the Japanese people. The key to this strategy was Hirohito's alliance with General MacArthur, who helped him maintain his stature and shed his militaristic image, while MacArthur used the emperor as a figurehead to assist him in converting Japan into a peaceful nation. Their partnership ensured that the emperor's image would loom large over the postwar years and later decades, as Japan began to make its way in the modern age and struggled -- as it still does -- to come to terms with its past.Until the very end of a career that embodied the conflicting aims of Japan's development as a nation, Hirohito remained preoccupied with politics and with his place in history. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan provides the definitive account of his rich life and legacy. Meticulously researched and utterly engaging, this book is proof that the history of twentieth-century Japan cannot be understood apart from the life of its most remarkable and enduring leader.


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"Explosive. . . . Demolishes the stereotype of Japan's wartime emperor as a mousy and passive figurehead."
-- "Los Angeles Times
"A stunning portrait of the controversial Japanese emperor. . . . Bix gives a meticulous account of his subject, delivers measured judgments about his accomplishments and failures, and reveals the subtlety of the emperor's character. . . . This is political biography at its most compelling."
-- "Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This is the rare work of impeccable scholarship that will also be fascinating to the general reader. Nearly every page of the book offers provocative insights about the man who was previously known in the Western world mainly as a stereotype. Herbert Bix offers a more complicated and convincing picture of an active political leader who shaped his country's fate in war and peace."
-- James Fallows, author of "Looking at the Sun
"Drawing on the wealth of fascinating new Japanese materials that have become available since Hirohito's death, Herbert Bix has given us a riveting portrait of the engaged, intense, and complex man who stood at the very center of Japan's turbulent century of war and peace. In this excellent and incisive study, the emperor's new clothes are stunning to behold."
-- John W. Dower, author of"Embracing Defeat
"As Herbert Bix documents meticulously Emperor Hirohito was in every sense of the word a war-time military leader deeply involved in the merciless attacks on China and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He escaped censure because of the Cold War but the Cold War is now over. For those who want to understand history and modern events such as the relationships between China and Japan this is a must read."
-- Lester C. Thurow, Lemelson Professor of Management
"This remarkable study is indispensable for the understanding of Japan and its place in Asia in the past century. It provides new perspectives on a wide range of crucial issues, among them, the actual role of the Emperor, the origins and termination of the Pacific War, and the forging of the postwar Japanese polity through the interactions of the American occupation, the Emperor and his circle, and the emerging civil society. It is a truly outstanding contribution."
-- Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT
"This is an important and controversial book, sharply challenging the reigning view of Hirohito. Where others have described a reluctant warrior, inclined toward pacifism, committed to the constitution, and unwilling to take actions of political significance, Herbert Bix shows us a far more complex and consequential monarch. This book is must reading for all those interested in the history of the twentieth century world."
-- Andrew Gordon,Director, Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University
"Reading Herbert Bix's pioneering inquiry into Emperor Hirohito's life should make Americans angry. For the past fifty-five years, senior officials of the United States government have systematically lied to the American and Japanese peoples about Hirohito's true role in public affairs during the 20th century. The overarching theme of this monumental work is Hirohito's failure to publicly acknowledge his own moral, political, and legal accountability for the long war fought in his name. The result today is Japan's continuing denial of responsibility for the war crimes it visited on its neighbors. This is one of the most important books ever written on World War II in the Pacific. It is also a major work of political philosophy."
-- Chalmers Johnson, author of "Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
"Bix has written the definitive account of Hirohito's extraordinary reign as emperor of Japan. His pursuit of previously unknown Japanese sources and his ability to situate Hirohito as both man and political force have given us a compelling portrait. The biography is revisionist in the best sense -- not an 'expose' but a challenge to nearly all our assumptions about the role played by Hirohito in shaping Japan's turbulent century. It will become the standard work on the subject."
-- Michael Schaller, author of "Altered States: The U.S. and Japan since theOccupation
"This book is a rare achievement: a work that turns established knowledge upside down. . . . Impressive."
-- Foreign Affairs
"A historical bombshell. . . . Compelling. . . . The most controversial book yet on Japan's previous emperor."
-- The Economist
"Herbert Bix's highly readable and massively researched biography is all but certain to shatter the old images. . . . Controversial and important."
-- The Washington Post Book World
"Myth-shattering. . . . [T]his superb biography should jog loose a few suppressed memories."
-- Newsweek
"Provocative and disturbing. . . . A vital contribution to an ongoing and critical debate."
-- Booklist
"A pathbreaking study. . . . It prompts a major reconsideration of both what happened during the war and why Japan cannot face the past."
-- U.S. News & World Report
"The author's virtuoso scholarship and accessible narrative invite us into Hirohito's world and change the way we think of recent history; his portrayal of a monarch rationalizing evil is superb."
-- The New Yorker
"Thetriumph of Mr. Bix is that of a tailor able to assemble disparate scaps of material and sew them into a seamless whole."
-- The New York Times
"Professor Bix has created both a fascinating biography and a brilliant encapsulation of Japan's most difficult years."
-- San Diego Union Tribune
"Bix succeeds . . . in demonstrating that the emperor shirked moral responsibility. . . . Offers fresh and well-documented insights."
-- The Boston Globe
"Nothing published since the Berlin Wall's fall quite comes up to Herbert Bix's new book. . . . It's a startling work -- awesomely ambitious, faultlessly researched, daring in its thesis, and profound in its implications."
-- Business Week
"Bix's invaluable book illuminates this life that helped shape the modern world."
--The Oregonian
"Magnificent. . . . [A]magisterial effort. . . . HIROHITO AND THE MAKING OF MODERN JAPAN is everything a political biography should be."
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Fascinating. . . . . In his important and provocative new book . . . . Bix presents one of the first complete biographies of the emperor."
--The New York Times BookReview
"Persuasive. . . . Bix proves, in an immensely readable 800 pages, that good imperial biography is still possible."
--The Times Literary Supplement
"A superb biography of the emperor that fully explains his role in Japan's wars that cost some 20 million lives."
--The Dallas Morning News
"An incisive work of scholarship. It should put an end to the myth, contrived by Americans as well as Japanese, that Hirohito had been a peace-loving, passive puppet of the military. . . . Excellent."

Herbert P. Bix grew up in Winthrop, Massachusetts, and earned his Ph.D. in history and Far Eastern languages from Harvard University. For the past thirty years he has written extensively on modern and contemporary Japanese history in leading journals in the United States and Japan. He has taught Japanese history at a number of American and Japanese universities, most recently at Harvard, and is currently a professor in the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

General Fields

  • : 9780062560513
  • : HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • : HarperPerennial
  • : 0.614
  • : November 2016
  • : 203mm X 135mm X 36mm
  • : United States
  • : November 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Herbert P. Bix
  • : Paperback
  • : 952.033092
  • : very good
  • : 880