Hirohito, also known as Emperor Shōwa, was the emperor of Japan between 1926 and 1989. However, for the first two decades of his reign, Hirohito had never addressed his subjects directly. The first time that the Japanese people heard their emperor speak on the radio was on 15 August 1945, when Hirohito announced that Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration. This signified Japan's unconditional surrender and brought an end to World War II.
However, for the Japanese people, the full impact of the emperor's speech was not immediately realized. Hirohito had spoken in formal Classical Japanese, which few could readily understand, and he had not explicitly stated that Japan had surrendered -- a radio announcer had to clarify this after Hirohito's speech.
By 1945, Japanese forces had mostly been destroyed by the Allied Powers. The use of atomic bombs by the United States and the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan caused the emperor and the Supreme War Council to decide in favor of surrender. Emperor Hirohito stated on the radio: “we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.”
More about Japan and World War II:
- On 7 December 1941, Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor American Naval Base in Hawaii, killing more than 2,000 American soldiers and sailors.
- Three days apart in August 1945, American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 120,000 people.
- The current emperor of Japan is the 82-year-old Emperor Akihito, the oldest son of Hirohito.