Before U.S. visit, Hirohito eyed Okinawa trip: diary

Kyodo

Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) sought to travel to Okinawa before making his first official visit to the United States in 1975, an official’s recently disclosed personal diary shows.

Some experts say the late Emperor’s wish, which did not materialize, signaled his sense of guilt for playing a role in the U.S. occupation of Okinawa following World War II.

Ahead of the U.S. visit from late September 1975, the monarch indicated his desire to visit the prefecture for the first time to a close aide, according to the diary of Okinawa’s governor at the time.

Released in September by the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, the diary of Okinawa Gov. Chobyo Yara (1902-1997) documents his conversation with the then-chief of the Imperial Household Agency, Takeshi Usami, on April 16, 1975.

Usami told the governor that he was facing difficulty as the Emperor had asked the chief, “Could I not visit (Okinawa) before visiting the United States?” according to the entry.

A message from the monarch, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, to the U.S. General Headquarters in September 1947 expressed his hope that U.S. forces continue to occupy Okinawa.

Kazutoshi Hando, a renowned writer and expert on modern Japanese history, said Emperor Hirohito might have felt “sorry for not only taking a toll (on Okinawa) to buy time for a decisive battle on the mainland, but also for the message proposing the continuation of military occupation by the United States.”

Hando said the Emperor’s strong sense of responsibility is evident in the diary.

Emperor Hirohito visited a number of places nationwide after the end of World War II but never visited Okinawa, which was occupied by the U.S. until 1972.

Okinawan civilians suffered massive losses during one of the fiercest land battles in the final months of the Pacific War, and there is still widespread resentment and feelings of having been sacrificed.