Hiroshima and the Emperor

Het leven van de keizer

Het leven van de keizer

THE VOICE OF THE CRAIN

THE VOICE OF THE CRAIN

Zen en Oorlog

Zen en Oorlog

In July 1945, the leaders of the Allied Forces met in Potsdam. At the early evening of the first work meeting at 16 July 1945, Truman received the message that a nuclear bomb successfully exploded in New Mexico. He informed Churchill, who immediately answered that they ‘would no longer need the Russians’ when the Americans were actually able to use the nuclear bombs against Japan. Truman decided not to inform Stalin and remarked that the United States now possessed a new, powerful weapon against Japan. Stalin was only politely interested. Stalin brought up Konoye’s proposal to travel to Moscow for negotiations. Stalin intended to invade Manchuria with the Russian army in the beginning of August. Truman gave him the freedom to answer Konoye as he liked, while Stalin argued that he would be able to string the Japanese along. The Japanese envoy Sato was welcomed by the replacement of Molotov, and it was announced that Konoye’s proposal had been too vague to make a visit to Moscow possible.

After the conference, the ultimatum of the Allied Forces regarding Japan was included in the Declaration of Potsdam, which stated that Japan should surrender unconditionally. The text permitted Hirohito to answer quickly and positively, which gave Truman the opportunity to possibly cancel the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Emperor never used the words Declaration of Potsdam, but it was clear that his power would be maintained. However, the law against criminals of war would be implemented.

At 27 July 1945, the Japanese commission of war came together to discuss the Declaration of Potsdam. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Admiral Togo, found it unwise to react in a reluctant manner. The commission and the entire cabinet were divided, however, when it came to the question of how the Declaration had to be announced to the people and the armed forces.

Eventually, it was decided that a censured version of the Declaration had to be spread without any comments. Furthermore, it was decided to wait in the hope that the Soviet Union would react positively to the proposal of Konoye. Moreover, Prime Minister Suzuki held one of his rare press conferences at 28 July, in which he announced that the government had decided, with a majority of the votes, to ‘kill the Declaration with silence’. At the orders of the government, the Asahi Shimbun called the Declaration of Potsdam ‘without any meaning’. In Washington, however, they quickly found out that crucial passages were left out in the Japanese, censured version of the Declaration.

The Japanese leaders, including Hirohito, could not have known that their unfortunate statements confirmed the destiny of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The lack of willingness, which the Emperor had suffered from before, now spread among the entire government. Most of them thought they were winning time and that the Allied Forces would announce a clearer declaration regarding the future of Hirohito. Truman waited for exactly a week, until it became clear that Tokyo would not give another response. At a quarter past eight in the morning of 6 August 1945, the Enola Gay threw the nuclear bomb that landed in Hiroshima with a parachute.

The population of the city were so used to bombings that the two approaching airplanes did not make them chase to the underground shelters; they assumed that it was just a flight to explore. It was only in the afternoon that the detailed messages regarding the attack reached Tokyo. The Japanese army leaders immediately understood what happened; they were, after all, doing their own nuclear research. President Truman confirmed their suspicions in a statement. Hirohito was informed by Admiral Togo and the army about the nuclear bomb.

Only 48 hours later, after Togo had advised Hirohito in the bunker beneath the palace to accept the Declaration of Potsdam, the Emperor decided to act. He told guard Kido that his own personal safety did not matter; only the immediate end of the war was important. The mills of the government bureaucracy worked so slowly, however, that again valuable time was lost.

At 9 August 1945, the commission of war met again, only after the second nuclear bomb had exploded in Nagasaki and the Russian troops had invaded Manchuria. The Japanese leaders started to fear that a third bomb would explode in Tokyo as well, in order to destroy the Emperor’s family and a huge part of the population. When the commission of war met in the bunker in the afternoon, Prime Minister Suzuki declared that Japan had no other choice than to accept the Declaration of Potsdam. Both of the chefs of staff and the Minister of War, General Anami, were convinced that Japan could enforce its own demands on the Allied Forces. Their proposals show that they could not comprehend a defeat. Anami argued that Japan had to push for a minimal occupation, prosecution of war criminals by the Japanese courts and demobilisation without foreign efforts. ‘We can not state that the victory is a fact, but it is far too soon to say that we have lost the war’. The other members were convinced of the unconditional surrender as stated in the Declaration of Potsdam.

Hirohito finally lost his hesitance. He sent for Hiroshi Shimomura, director of the information facilities, with whom he stayed in the bunker for over two hours. In the evening, Shimomura told one of his employees: ‘The Emperor wants to announce in a radio broadcast whether it will be peace or war’. Until late in the evening, Hirohito spoke with Marquis Kido. The Emperor had finally decided to make use of his special authorities. Even later that evening, the most dramatic meeting of the Showa-period took place. At the end, tears were streaming down their faces as well. The Declaration of Potsdam was read aloud. Suzuki apologised to Hirohito formally, regarding the fact that the Emperor had to be present at the meeting of the divided commission. Afterwards, he requested those present to give their judgement. Togo still argued that the Declaration had to be accepted. The Minister of the Naval Force, Yonai, simply stated that he agreed with Togo.

Anami insisted even more eloquent and pressing than the day before on the Japanese terms. General Umezu supported him. Hiranuma, chairman of the commission, asked the representatives of the army and navy questions about a possible peaceful capitulation. It seemed that he indirectly agreed with the three soldiers. The Minister of Defence, Toyoda, agreed with Umezu and Anami. Lastly, Suzuki shared his opinion. With a complete speech, as required at official meetings in which the Emperor was present, he asked Hirohito to make a decision in the name of the commission. A command of the Emperor was also known as the ‘voice of the crane’, named after the call of a bird seldom seen in Japan. Now, the crane had to decide whether Japan would survive as a nation or if it had to continue its struggle until the ‘honourable death of a thousand million souls’. Hirohito answered in a collected manner. Continuation of the struggle would only lead to the destruction of his people and more suffering of humankind. It had become clear to him that Japan could no longer be in war, let alone defend its own soil. “It is obviously unbearable to see my loyal soldiers without weapons, but the time has come to bear the unbearable. I accept the Declaration of Potsdam, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has written down”.

While speaking, he mainly focused on one of the persons present: Minister Anami. No complete account of the meeting exists, but it was revealed that the Emperor used the name of the Minister, as if they were brothers, while he only used titles when speaking with the other, as in accordance with the imperial protocol. Hirohito knew that Anami’s support of the imperial decision was most important, because he was the one who had to convince the forces to lay down their weapons. The Emperor did not wait for the answer of the eleven men in the room. He stood up and left. “We have to make the decision of the Emperor ours”, said Suzuki. All eyes were on Anami, who did not speak. The silence meant that everyone agreed with Suzuki, which resulted in the end of the meeting. According to the constitution, the cabinet had to decide officially.

All ministers met in Suzuki’s home, even the ones who took part in the imperial meeting. In a short amount of time, a communiqué was drawn up in which the Declaration of Potsdam was accepted. Every minister had to sign the document. Even now, Anami could have put a stop to the decision, since it had to be a unanimous one. But the Emperor had spoken and Anami had to obey, even though he knew that it would cost him his life. A sigh of relief could be heard when he signed. Three hours later, a telegram was sent to the Japanese embassies in the neutral cities of Bern and Stockholm, with the instruction to send it to Washington, London, Moscow and Chungking. The telegram said: the Japanese government is willing to accept the conditions as put forward in the Declaration of Potsdam, stated by the heads of government of the United States, Great-Britain and China at 26 July 1945, and later signed by the government of the Soviet Union, with the agreement that the Declaration includes no demand that harms the rights of His Majesty as a sovereign. This last statement was the only condition that the fanatical soldiers had held onto until the end. But the others, such as Suzuki and Kido, agreed with this passage. It was the first step in securing the Emperor’s safety.

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY

The Allied Forces made their point of view clear in a telegram: immediately after the capitulation, the Emperor and the Japanese government would no longer be able to govern the state, as General MacArthur of the Allied forces would take on this responsibility, and would undertake every needed measure to meet the conditions of the capitulation. The Emperor would encourage the signature of the Japanese government and the Japanese forces. In Japan, however, the decision to surrender was not yet known, because the cabinet had not dared to announce the capitulation. The confusion became even bigger due to two communications that were in conflict with each other. The Ministry of Defence in the name of General Anami had given out the first one, while he had not agreed to such a communication. The text was drawn up, however, by a couple fanatical officers. According to this statement, there was only one possibility: “We have to fight until we have won the war, in order to protect our sacred state, even when we have to eat grass and live in the open air”. With a different content, but with a meaningless text as well, the cabinet gave out a communication in which they vaguely spoke about a historical decision yet to be taken. Only the press agency Domei received permission to change the text to Morse for the foreign countries.

At the Ministry of Defence, the mood was similar to the February Revolution in 1936. Agitated officers gathered at backrooms to discuss the case, others exerted pressure on Anami and the chairman of the commission, Baron Hiranuma, and even tried to win over Prince Mikasa in order to fight until the end. There was even a plan to commit a coup d’état as the one of 26 February, and take control of the Imperial Guard and units of the Eastern Front. The main conspirator was major Kenji Hatanaka, head of Defence at the Ministry. He was supported by his brother-in-law lieutenant colonel Hideki Tojo, the former prime minister, and several other officers.

The leadership of the army heard of the conspiracy. General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of Staff of the Land Forces, refused to cooperate when asked. Anami refused as well, because to break his promise to the Emperor would be a bigger shame than the capitulation itself. However, Anami started to doubt when in the next 48 hours, more and more hysterical officers tried to convince them, because deep in his heart he agreed with them. The same thing happened to the Chiefs of Staff of the Navy and the Land Forces, who eventually begged the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Togo, to change his point of view regarding the capitulation.

Instead of bombs, the American B-29’s now started to spread pamphlets as well, in which the population could read the Japanese translation of the Allied Forces’ telegram. With the armed forces divided, the consequences could be catastrophic if the population had no knowledge of the situation. Kido convinced Hirohito that it was necessary to have another imperial meeting in order to make the hesitant army leaders obey, which would prevent them from committing a coup d’état. The meeting took place in the morning of 14 August 1945 in an underground room. Hirohito wore his army uniform and listened, while sweating heavily, to Admiral Toyoda and General Anami, who insisted on the continuation of war. Even though he was emaciated, tired and insecure about his own future, he succeeded in keeping his imperial dignity and authority. It was ‘his finest hour’, without a doubt.

He said: “I have listened carefully to all of the arguments. My own opinion has not changed: I will repeat them again. The continuation of war would only lead to an even bigger destruction. The answer of the Allied Forces was ‘a recognition’ of our position. I think of it as acceptable. While some of you are worried about the preservation of our national system, I think of the Allied Forces’ response as proof of the enemy’s good intentions. That is why I am willing to accept the answer. I completely understand how difficult it will be for the officers and forces of both the army and the navy to lay down their weapons and to watch their country being occupied. I do not care for my own faith. I want to save the lives of my people. I do not want them exposed to destruction any longer. I find it very difficult to watch my loyal soldiers being disarmed and my loyal ministers being judged as war criminals. However, continuing the war will mean the end of Japan. Now, the country still has the opportunity to recover. The Japanese people do not know of the current situation and I know it will be a shock when our decision becomes public. I am willing to hold a radio speech in which I will talk about the capitulation personally, if needed. I am willing to visit everywhere to explain our decision. I am asking the cabinet to draw up an imperial proclamation as soon as possible, in which the end of the war will be announced.

Without waiting for an answer, he left the room. A couple of ministers kneeled before him; everyone was crying out loud. Hirohito told Kido that he meant what he said; he was willing to go the Ministries of War and Navy himself to talk to the hysterical officers. He commanded Kido as well to get into touch with Shimomura, head of press of the cabinet, in order to prepare a radio speech. It was unthinkable that the Emperor would be heard on the radio directly, which is why the national broadcasting company NHK composed a team to record the speech and broadcast it later. After the final imperial meeting, lieutenant colonel Takeshita of the Ministry of War spoke with his brother-in-law Anami in the office of the prime minister, in order to convince him of the continuation of the war. Anami refused. “The Emperor has made a decision, there is nothing I can do. As a Japanese soldier, I have to obey my Emperor”. Takeshita asked him to at least resign. “Even when I resign, the war will end”, answered Anami. “And if I would resign, I would never see the Emperor again”.

After the cabinet meeting, Anami left for his own department. Just as the Minister of Navy, he had agreed to obey the Emperor. He made a short statement: “the imperial army will only act in accordance with the decision of his Imperial Majesty”. Afterwards, all of the officers and officials of his department signed the statement. He held a speech as well to explain Hirohito’s decision. “You officers should realise that death will not dismiss you from your duty. It is your duty to stay alive and do everything in order to make the country recover, even if it means that you have to eat grass, earth and sleep in the open air”. He thus told them that the ‘heroic’ seppuku was no longer a possibility, but instead of ‘us officers’, he said ‘you officers’. For some of the people present it meant that Anami no longer wanted to live after the capitulation. One of the members of the radio team of NHK, who had to record the speech of the Emperor, was the 23-year old Shizuto Haruna. He remembered that day well.

At two o’clock in the afternoon, he was picked up with five of his colleagues by a car of the palace The recording would take place in the building of the court minister and his civil servants, not far from the Sakashita-porch on the terrain of the palace. A stand with a big microphone was placed in the room where the Emperor would read his speech: in the room nearby they placed the equipment to tailor the speech. A band recorder was there as well, in order to enable the Emperor to listen to his own speech. Haruna and the others had to wait for a long time. The lights went out when the bomb alarm rang; even after the signal ‘safe’ had been given, the Emperor was nowhere to be seen. General Anami was responsible for the unexpected delay. In the office of the prime minister, ministers and civil servants debated endlessly about one line of Hirohito’s radio speech. Originally, it was: “the war becomes more and more unfavourable for us each day”.

Anami said that he would not agree with that wording, because it would suggest that all communications of the Ministry of War had been lies. After hours of discussion, they agreed on a new quote: “The war has developed itself in such a way that Japan is at a disadvantage”.

Meanwhile in the palace, Hirohito became impatient and asked his chamberlains several times if the script had been finished. Kido informed the princes Takamatsu and Mikasa about the events of that day, while Konoye warned him about a potential coup. Konoye told him: “I do not enjoy this, I have heard bad rumours about the division of the Imperial Guard.” The main quarters of the Guard were located behind the palace itself, near the Inui-gate, and was led by lieutenant-general Takeshi Mori. The first division of the Guard had to protect the Emperor himself, which was why a battalion was stationed near the palace permanently. Kido ensured Konoye that Anami had control over the army. He did share the rumour with Hirohito’s bodyguard, who went to general Mori and heard that the soldiers were a bit agitated, but that they did not conspire against the Emperor.

However, Mori was wrong. Several officers of the Guard joined major Hatanaka, including major Ishihara and major Koga, who were the commander of the battalion and the son-in-law of Togo. Hirohito went for his usual evening walk through the garden of the palace. Upon his return, premier Suzuki apologised to him regarding the delay of the script. Around 7:30 P.M., everyone finally agreed on the final content of the radio speech. Unfortunately, the script had to be rewritten on special paper first, which meant that the radio speech could no longer take place on that day. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Togo, wanted as less delay as possible and suggested 7 A.M. as a possibility. Anami opposed this proposition. He insisted on 24 hours delay to enable the army to send the script to every unit abroad, together with an explanation of the Ministry of War. As a compromise, 15 August at 12 A.M. was chosen as the new date. This enabled the government as well to repair the electricity in all of Japan and to inform the population with the radio speech.

They proposed the final script to Hirohito in the library. He changed the script five times, under which the quote that had been under discussion: “The war has developed itself in such a way that Japan is at a disadvantage”. Due to the gravity of the situation, they decided as an exception not to rewrite the whole document, but just improve several sections. A second copy was proposed to the Ministers, who all had to sign the document. Anami signed without reading the document, after which he headed straight to his departement. He wrote his long awaited letter of resignation and started to empty his desk. The proclamation was now official, and at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they formulated a telegram which would announce the Japanese capitulation world wide: “His Majesty the Emperor has ordained the proclamation regarding the acceptance of the Declaration of Potsdam. He is willing to let his government settle in such a way that Japan fulfils the requirements of the Declaration of Potsdam. He is also willing to order every military authority and every unit to lay down their weapons. Furthermore, he will meet the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces regarding the requirements of the Declaration”.

The telegram was sent to the Japanese embassies in Bern and Stockholm, who would send it to the governments of the United States, China, Great-Britain and the Soviet-Union. Fires were made in all of Tokyo and even Japan. These were no ‘flowers of Edo’, shot from the ground after attacks with fire bombs. At the palace, the departements and the military head quarters, all confidential documents and files were thrown on a pile and lighted. Meanwhile, it was 10 P.M. in the evening and the radio team was still waiting. Hirohito was ready for his speech, but the deputies thought it would be safer if he stayed in the library for the first couple of hours, just above the underground shelter, keeping possible bombings in mind. It was almost midnight when several chamberlains, staff of the govermental broadcast and Shimomura walked to the improvised studio at the first floor of the Ministry. No one was introduced to the Emperor, who immediately asked: “How should I speak?”. Shimomura told him that a normal tone as used in a conversation would be sufficient. “Is this okay?”, asked Hirohito. The leader of the broadcast let the tape run and let the civil servant near the door know that it could start. The civil servant bowed to Shimomura, who bowed to Hirohito. After they tested the microphone, the Emperor started to read the script of the paper which he held in his hand.

“No one ever heard the voice of the Emperor”, said Haruna afterwards. “We were always told that hell would break loose if we would record his voice at an official event by accident. Because I was so nervous, I did not listen to the meaning of his words. I had headphones on and focused on the quality of his voice more than on what he said, but I picked up on the main things. The speech lasted about three minutes and we made two recordings”. The Emperor listened to both of the recordings and decided to use the first one. Hirohito was transported to the palace by car immediatly afterwards. The radio crew were given permission to stay in the Ministry, but everyone preferred to go home. While they put away the tapes in cotton bags, the sirens went off in Tokyo again: it was the bomb alarm for the final American bombings. Hirohito prepared for another restless night in the underground shelter and the tapes were not brought to the building of the broadcoast, but put away in a small safe by Yoshihiro Tokugawa, who was a civil servant of the palace and a descendant of the famous Tokugawa-shoguns who were once more powerful than Hirohito’s ancestors. The script of the speech was passed to Domei and every important newspaper, with the instruction to publish after the radio speech had taken place.

THE LAST DAY OF THE SAMURAI

While the radio crew was packing its stuff, the army pulled its last desperate deed. Major Hatanaka and his captain Shigetaro Uehara went to the main quarters of the Imperial Guard because they were convinced that they could win commander Mori over. When general Mori disagreed with their plan of a coup, Hatanaka shot him with his gun; then Uehara beheaded him with his sword. Another officer helped them with attaching the seal of Mori to their order, which ordered the Guard to surround the palace and the radio station and to not let anyone in or out. The regiment commanders did not know what had truly happened and thought they obeyed Mori’s order when they gathered their troops. Several employees of the NHK, who had not waited for the technical crew, were stopped by the Guard when they wanted to leave the palace. There were soldiers everywhere, and just as with the uprising in 1936, the palace was closed up.

Hatanaka knew that the Emperor’s speech had already been recorded. Also, the interrogation of the radio crew taught him that the tapes were still in the palace, but where? His first goal was to prevent the speech from airing in order to kill the ‘traitors’ who had ‘ill advised’ the Emperor, which was the plan he set up with his allies in the Imperial Guard from Yokohama. Kido and Suzuki were the most important scapegoats. The rebels cut the telephone wires and started looking for the tapes. Kido and the minister Ishiwatari realised they were in danger and hid themselves in the bank safe of the palace. The rebels did not succeed in tracing the tapes. While this was all happening in the palace, Hirohito’s chamberlains gathered at the entrance of the underground shelter and started discussing whether or not to wake the Emperor. However, the Emperor had not been able to sleep that night and heard their whispers about the uprising.

Meanwhile, general Anami prepared for his ritual seppuku. His brother-in-law Takeshita came to his house to help him with his ritual. Anami looked happy for someone who was about to kill himself in a painful way. He smiled when he told him about his vitamin injection of that day. “There was no way that I could say that I no longer needed it because I was about to die, right?”. It was customary that someone who commited seppuku left a last message behind. Anami had thought about that long and hard. In his gracious handwriting he wrote the following poetry: I no longer have words now that I have experienced the greatest mercy of the Emperor. On another piece of paper, he wrote: through my death, I ask for forgiveness for my greatest crime. And on the back he noted: I believe in the holy eternity of Japan. He wrote on both notes the date of 14 August, while it was already the 15th. “The speech of the Emperor will be broadcasted at 12”, is what he said to Takeshita. “I would not be able to hear it”. Takeshita realised that Anami considered losing the war to be his “greatest crime”.

The uprising of the Guard officers went according to plan, but one regiment commander considered the order to surround the palace that strange, that he decided to check it with the commander of the East army first. The chief of staff, general-major Tatsuhiko Takashima, immediately understood that something bad was going on. He called his superior, the feared general Shizuichi Tanaka, sent several officers to explore the situation and warned the military police. The rebels started to doubt major Hatanaka as well. He told them that general Anami supported the coup, while nothing confirmed this. When two officers of staff of the East army found Mori’s dead body, it was clear that an uprising had been going on. Several minutes later, general Tanaka ordered every soldier of the Imperial Guard to clear the palace, and he confirmed that Mori had been killed by insurgent officers. The Imperial Guard was now under Tanaka’s command.

The chamberlains in the library above the underground shelter were now convinced that the rebels could come in any minute. They closed the shutters and blocked the doors. Around four in the morning, the East army started to get a grip over the situation. General Takashima called the head quarters of the Imperial Guard and demanded to speak to Hatanaka. “You find yourself in a hopeless situation”, he said to the leader of the uprising. “You have to obey the Emperor”. Hatanaka, however, was not willing to stop. He demanded ten minutes on air before the speech of the Emperor, in order to “make our point of view clear to the population”. Takashima ended the call. However, the uprising was not only aimed at the radio speech. A department of the Yokohama-guard, accompanied with several young civilians, went to the home of premier Suzuki and started firing with machine guns. When they found out Suzuki was not there, they were so angry that they tried to burn the house down. Afterwards, they headed to the real home of the premier, who had already been warned and fled the house. They burned this house down as well. Hatanaka rode a motorbike as fast as possible to the building of the state broadcast. The guards in front of the entrance recognized him and let him in. Hatanaka declared that he wanted to speak on the radio.

However, the announcer Morio Tateno made clear that this was not possible. He told him that nothing could be broadcasted during a bomb alarm and that a national broadcasting had to be planned in advance. “That is a technical issue”. Hatanaka waited in the studio until the alarm stopped. It was 5 A.M. when a small army column arrived at the Imperial Palace. General Tanaka, commander of the East army, stepped out and let the guards at the Inui-gate be arrested by the Kempetai. Afterwards, he went in to convince the regiment commanders to leave the palace and release all the prisoners. Furthermore, he wanted to apologise to the Emperor for the tragic developments shortly before the capitulation.

The two chamberlains at the entrance of the underground shelter in the library of the palace decided that they could no longer postpone their duty. They woke the Emperor and told him that he was a prisoner in his own palace. Hirohito seemed unaffected by the news. “Is there a coup?, he asked them, tell me what happened”. After they informed him, he proposed to speak to the guards in order to explain his decision. He asked his chamberlains to get his deputy, but he was locked up in the building of the Ministry. General Tanaka was just heading to the library when he found one of the chamberlains. “Is the Emperor in the library?” he asked. The chamberlain did not know if he belonged to the rebels and was afraid to answer. “Stop shaking, said Tanaka, we stopped the uprising”. He told him his name. “I regret the unease that has occurred”.

The uprising had now been limited to major Hatanaka and some officers and soldiers in the building of the state broadcasting. Shizuto Haruna had been set free by the guards and returned to the building. Later that morning, he saw chamberlain Okabe arriving, “dressed shabby, almost as a beggar”. The chamberlain hid the precious tapes in his bag and dressed this way on purpose, in order not to get any attention of the rebels. Behind Hatanaka’s back, the broadcasting of Hirohito’s proclamation was prepared. Tateno later remembered that someone called major Hatanaka in the building. It must have been someone of the East army, maybe general Tanaka himself, because the major stood up straight and said several times: “at your command”. When he hung up, he said: “it has happened”. Afterwards, he left the building with his comrade, lieutenant-colonel Shiizaki. He took his sword and let his anger out on a tree.

As a last sign of protest, the Yokohama-guard had set the house of baron Hiranuma on fire and returned to its home base. Hatanaka and Shiizaki were eventually arrested while they were handing out pamphlets in front of the Imperial Palace, motorbike and horse in their hands. It said the following: It is our goal to protect the Emperor and the national system against the plans of the enemy. We pray that the Japanese population and members of the army forces recognise the importance of our action and will join us to save our country, to eliminate the traitors surrounding the Emperor and stop the enemy. The few people who passed by only looked at the pamphlets quickly. After their arrest, Hatanaka shot himself, while Shiizaki committed seppuku with his sword. On Hatanaka’s body, the military police found a goodbye poem: “I cherish no offences any longer now that the dark clouds above the Emperorship have disappeared”.

An official wake was organized for the two men that night, which was attended by most officers of staff of the Ministry of War. In all of Japan, the radio announced with some interruptions that around 12, a message of the Emperor would be broadcasted. Everyone had to listen. In companies, offices, hospitals and at village squares, people gathered to listen to the radio: the population was encouraged everywhere by street committies to listen to this unique occasion. Some disagreement occurred in the radio building when Haruna tested the quality of the recording by playing the tape for a couple of seconds. The minister disapproved and another servant protested: “It is improper to test the voice of the Emperor”. The Emperor was considered a living God back then, and no one could doubt his qualities. The director of the radio decided and told the minister: “let the boy do his job”. Several seconds before 12, the speech was announced by a announcer. “A very important speech will follow. Every listener has to stand up”. After a short break, the national anthem Kimigavo was played. “His Majesty will now read his Imperial proclamation to the Japanese people”, the announcer said. “We will broadcast his voice with the uttermost respect”.

Almost fifty million Japanese heard the voice of the Emperor for the first time, who spoke to his population in the language of the Imperial Palace. His Majesties ‘voice of crane’ was a high, monotone head voice, which hardly any of his simple civilians could understand. But they did recognize the voice of an almost alien creature whose will was holy. Almost five hundred Japanese could not bear the shame of the lost war and took their lives, while the Emperor told them not to.

Amsterdam, August 2008 Hans Liesker. Sources: Pacific Research Society: Japan Longest Day – Kodanska 1968 David Bergamini Japan’s Imperial Cospiracy – Heineman 1971 Edward Behr: Hirohito: Behind the Myth – Edw.Behr 1989