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2014年9月10日 (水)

社説:昭和天皇実録 国民に開く近現代史に

September 09, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Emperor Showa's annals important material for modern history
社説:昭和天皇実録 国民に開く近現代史に

The Imperial Household Agency has released the annals of Emperor Showa that records his words and deeds throughout his 87-year-long life. The official record has provided an important temporal axis for research on the history of Emperor Showa, but it is still necessary to clarify the true meaning of, and evaluate the significance of his words and deeds. The release of the annals should be an important step toward fruitful research on the history of the Showa Era that is open to the public.

Modern history, including the history of the Showa Era, is complex just like a maze in a deep forest. The annals of Emperor Showa were expected to shed light on how he made decisions at various stages of that era, what he said and how he changed, or was unable to change, certain situations.

However, the 60-volume annals contain nothing that could overturn what are regarded as established historical facts.


Based on constitutional monarchy under the Meiji Constitution, Emperor Showa was wary of the military's tyrannical behavior and had some feuds with the military because he hoped for peace, according to the annals. As such, the record confirms the well-established image of Emperor Showa.

Still, it may be somewhat disappointing to those who expected the annals to reveal Emperor Showa's anguish and wavering as well as other details.

The annals quote Emperor Showa and describe how he expressed his views in a restrained manner.

None of Emperor Showa's words were blacked out, as opposed to the annals of his father Emperor Taisho. However, some researchers have pointed to the possibility that the editor of the annals of Emperor Showa may have chosen to use non-committal descriptions instead of blacking out any of his words it quotes.

Regarding this point, the Imperial Household Agency explained, "Once the details of his remarks are written in his annals, the words have wings. We cautiously considered each of his words and chose mainly to write the points of his remarks instead of directly quoting him."

However, the editor could have made up for a lack of direct quotes from Emperor Showa by explaining what he said in notes. Moreover, some of what are widely regarded as his well-known words are omitted in his annals.

Some critics say that the standards for selecting historical materials and deciding whether to record events in his annals remain obscure, with one of them saying, "The selection appears arbitrary and is hard to understand."

There are problems with the way the sources of information are identified. The annals do not show the dates, pages and chapters of books from which it quotes information, making it difficult for researchers to assess the official record or conduct further research on the history of Emperor Showa.

One of the most important achievements in the annals is the discovery of new historical materials, which will certainly contribute to future research activities.

A total of 3,152 historical materials were used to compile the official record, which took nearly a quarter of a century to complete, according to the Imperial Household Agency. About 40 of these materials are believed to be documents that had not been publicized before the release of the annals.

For example, the diary and other materials kept by former Grand Chamberlain Saburo Hyakutake, who served Emperor Showa during World War II, can be important research objects. Moreover, diaries kept by other chamberlains shed light on Emperor Showa's daily activities.
Measures to release these materials to the public and effectively use them for research should be implemented without being bound by precedent. The Imperial Household Agency intends to withhold chamberlains' diaries without designating them as official documents. Still, the annals are important records.


The Showa Era is already part of history. What happened in that era has been regularly discussed in the past, and the annals of Emperor Showa have drawn extensive attention from the public.

Why do we look back on the history of the Showa Era and try to learn from that period? It is because many challenges we face now are rooted in that era. The challenges involve not only politics, diplomacy and the economy but also a wide diversity of matters including lifestyles and values.

Moreover, we must continue to ask why Japan was unable to avoid the catastrophic war. In the annals, one of the important points that have drawn special attention from the public is the change in the situation concerning Japan before and after the war broke out. However, the matter is far from being clarified.

The annals should be open to the public as a source that allows people to learn lessons from the Showa Era and put them to good use in the future all the more because the number of those who were involved in or experienced the war, which brought unprecedented hardships and changes to both Japan and the world, have significantly decreased.

The process of Japan snowballing from crisis to crisis and eventually collapsing in the war is complex and difficult to clarify. However, clarifying this process would provide important lessons for us.

There are various ways of utilizing the annals.

It records the names of those who were allowed to meet with Emperor Showa as well as the details of their meetings. Although the purposes of their meetings are summarized or omitted, the names of individuals who met with Emperor Showa, the timing of their meetings and the frequency and how much time was spent on the meetings could be a clue to in-depth research.

The writings of Emperor Showa in his childhood, as well as the wide variety of Japanese and overseas films he enjoyed, which the annals introduce to its readers, shed more light on his human side. This is also an important achievement of the annals.

It goes without saying that journalism has the responsibility to ensure that information recorded in the annals is open to the public so that researchers study the Showa Era from various angles and people can share the information as common property.

毎日新聞 2014年09月09日 05時15分(最終更新 09月09日 06時48分)


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