Two faces of the Emperor
I was nine years old when Emperor Hirohito passed away. The 64th year of Showa had just begun several days before. It was unfathomable to me that Japan went from the atrocity of imperialism to devastation of two nuclear bombs, then from the post-war poverty to the world’s second-largest economy within the same era.
What was more unimaginable to me than the country’s transformation was the Emperor’s metamorphosis. As a child, I had two images of the Emperor – 1) during the war and 2) after the war. During the war, Hirohito was a possessed destroyer, who mind-controlled soldiers and attacked other countries, while people were starved and killed in the shelling. Then there was the post-war Emperor, an exorcized and distraught human body, mechanically uttering “Ah so” to everyone, including to a boy who responded, “my parents are dead,” when the Emperor inquired after them.