Hirohito opposed, wary of China war: aide’s diary

Kyodo News

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Emperor Hirohito KYODO PHOTO
Excerpts from the late Kuraji Ogura's diary will hit the stands Saturday in the monthly magazine Bungeishunju's April issue, the publisher said.Ogura wrote 600 pages of words uttered by Emperor Hirohito, posthumously called Emperor Showa, between May 1939 and June 1945.He was quoted as saying on Oct. 12, 1940: "Shina – is stronger than expected. Everybody made mistakes in war projections. Notably, the army of war specialists was wrong in observing the situation.”

On Jan. 9, 1941: he said, “Japan had underestimated China. It is much wiser to cease the war as early as possible and to cultivate (Japan’s) national power for some 10 years.”

During a visit to Kyoto in December 1942, he is quoted as saying: “War cannot be contained midway once it has broken out. We had suffered a bitter experience in the Manchurian Incident,” referring to the conflict between Japan and China that erupted in September 1931 in Manchuria, or northeastern China.

Imperial Japanese Army troops seized Manchuria five months after the Manchurian Incident, known in China as the Sept. 18 Incident. The conflict led to a war with China from 1937 to 1945.

The Emperor went on to say: “What is important is when to end the war.

“I did not want to see the Sino-Japanese War break out. Because, I am scared of the Soviet Union. . . . We must be very careful in starting a war and fight to the last after the start.”

The diary also noted a July 5, 1939, meeting with War Minister Gen. Seishiro Itagaki, who briefed the Emperor about army personnel changes aimed at promoting Maj. Gen. Kanji Ishihara.

Itagaki was hanged in 1948 as a Class-A war criminal.

Ishihara played a key role in the Manchurian Incident as a senior staff member of the Kwantung Army. “The Emperor murmured aloud, ‘How is the army planning to clean up after the war?’ The Emperor would not give his approval of the army personnel reshuffle,” said the diary.

The diary also tells of the Emperor’s desire to live with his two sons — then Prince Tsugu, the current Emperor Akihito, and Prince Yoshi, who is now Prince Hitachi. Before the war, sons of emperors were raised separately from their parents.