Emperor Hirohito Facts & Worksheets

Emperor Hirohito facts and information plus worksheet packs and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 years old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

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    • Early Life of Hirohito
    • Reign of Emperor Hirohito
    • Japanese participation in World War II
    • Final Years and Death of Emperor Hirohito

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about Emperor Hirohito!

    Emperor Hirohito
    Emperor Hirohito

    • Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, was the 124th emperor of Japan, from 1926 until his death in 1989. He rose to power at a time when democratic enthusiasm was on the rise, but his country soon turned to ultra-nationalism and militarism. Japan invaded almost all of its Asian neighbours during World War II (1939-45), joined with Nazi Germany, and launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Despite Hirohito’s later portrayal as a helpless constitutional king, many experts believe he was an active participant in the war effort. He became a figurehead with no political influence after Japan surrendered in 1945.


    • Hirohito, the eldest son of Crown Prince Yoshihito, was born on 29 April 1901 within the confines of the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo. According to custom, imperial family members were not raised by their parents. Instead, Hirohito was looked after by a retired vice-admiral and subsequently an imperial attendant throughout his early years. Hirohito attended royalty schools from the age of seven to nineteen. He was well-versed in military and religious topics, as well as other areas like maths and science. 
    • Hirohito’s father, Yoshihito, succeeded to the throne after his grandfather, Emperor Meiji, died on 30 July 1912. Hirohito was formally commissioned as a second lieutenant in the army and an ensign in the navy after becoming the heir apparent. The Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum was also bestowed on him. In 1914, he was promoted to the positions of army lieutenant and naval sub-lieutenant. In the army and navy, he was promoted to captain and lieutenant in 1916. On 2 November 1916, Hirohito was formally proclaimed crown prince and heir presumptive. It was not necessary to have an investiture ceremony to confirm this position.
    • Hirohito and a 34-man entourage travelled to Western Europe for a six-month trip in 1921, marking the first time a Japanese crown prince had been outside of Japan. Upon returning to Japan, Hirohito became regent of Japan (Sesshō) on 25 November 1921, in place of his sick father, who was affected by mental illness. In 1923, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in the military and commander in the navy, and in 1925, he was promoted to army colonel and navy captain.
    • An earthquake devastated Tokyo in September 1923, killing 100,000 people and damaging 63 percent of the city’s infrastructure. Following the quake, several thousand ethnic Koreans and communists were killed by raging Japanese mobs, who accused them of starting fires and plundering. 
    • Hirohito escaped an assassination attempt in December and married Princess Nagako the following month, with whom he would have seven children. The daughters who lived to maturity left the imperial family as a consequence of American imperial household reforms in October 1947 (in the case of Princess Shigeko) or as a result of the Imperial Household Law at the time of their subsequent marriages (in the cases of Princesses Kazuko, Atsuko and Takako). He also put a stop to imperial concubinage during the same period. 


    • Following his father’s death on 25 December 1926, Hirohito became Emperor, inheriting the 124th Chrysanthemum Throne. Showa Tenno was his formal name, and he was awarded the title Showa, meaning ‘enlightened peace’.
    • Hirohito was a reluctant supporter of Manchurian occupation, which resulted in the second Sino-Japanese War. Following this, Japan’s military became more aggressive and pursued policies reflecting that position, leading to the country’s adherence to the Axis Powers during WWII and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    • Hirohito was considered to be uninterested in Japan’s participation in the war, yet he was frequently photographed in uniform to show his support. His exact participation in Japan’s armed actions during this period has remained a source of contention.
    • When Hirohito claimed the throne, a universal male suffrage law had just passed, and political parties were close to the peak of their pre-war powers. However, the pro-democracy movement quickly faced a crisis due to a deteriorating economy, growing militarism and a series of political killings. 
    • In 1929, Hirohito, who was the nation’s highest spiritual authority and commander-in-chief of the armed forces as emperor, effectively fired the prime minister. 
    • The next prime minister was shot and killed, and a third prime minister was slain in 1932 by navy officers who were angry over a treaty restricting the number of Japanese vessels. 
    • Since then, practically all prime ministers have come from the military rather than political parties, which were all abolished in 1940. 
    • In 1935, a lieutenant colonel hacked a general to death with a samurai sword, resulting in further political bloodshed. 
    • In Tokyo in 1936, over 1,400 soldiers revolted, capturing the army ministry and assassinating numerous high-ranking officials.
    • Meanwhile, the war between Japan and China was intensifying. 
    • The so-called Manchurian Incident began in 1931 when Japanese army commanders detonated a railway explosion and blamed it on Chinese bandits. 

    Manchurian Incident in 1931

    • They then exploited the incident as an excuse to invade northeastern China’s Manchuria and establish a puppet state there. 
    • Excursions to other parts of the country quickly followed, and war broke out in 1937. 
    • In and around Nanking, the Japanese army killed an estimated 200,000 civilians and prisoners of war that winter.
    • Rape is reported to have been widespread, and women from all across Japan’s controlled territories of Asia were brought in to work as prostitutes. Hirohito did not condone the invasion’s most heinous parts, but he did not prosecute those involved, possibly because he was afraid the military would force him to abdicate.


    • In September 1940, Japan joined the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, agreeing to aid each other if any of them were attacked by a country that was not already at war. In the same month, Japan dispatched soldiers to seize French Indochina, and the US retaliated with economic restrictions, including an oil and steel embargo.
    • Hirohito agreedto his government’s choice to fight the Americans a little over a year later. Japanese bombers bombed the US naval station at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, destroying or crippling 18 ships and killing over 2,500 sailors. One day later, the United States declared war.
    • Japan conquered the Dutch East Indies, British Singapore, New Guinea, the Philippines, and a variety of other Southeast Asian and Pacific areas during the following seven months. However, with the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and the subsequent Battle of Guadalcanal, the tide began to turn.
    • Even though Japan’s military commanders realised victory was impossible by mid-1944, the country continued to fight until August, when atomic bombs were unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hirohito made a radio broadcast on 15 August  1945, proclaiming Japan’s surrender.
    • Following the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in September 1945, Hirohito broke the imperial quiet and proclaimed Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allies. During WWII, Japan lost 2.3 million troops and 800,000 civilians. General Douglas MacArthur, who had been promoted to Allied commander, was dispatched to Japan to supervise the country’s recovery. For years, the country was occupied by the United States, which implemented democratic reforms. 
    • While many wanted Hirohito to be tried as a war criminal, MacArthur struck a deal with the emperor that included the adoption of a new Japanese constitution and the rejection of imperial ‘divinity’. As a result, Hirohito became a democratic figurehead, and Japan eventually achieved political and economic stability.


    Hirohito’s Tomb

    • A post-war constitution retained the monarchy but defined the emperor as a mere symbol of the state. All political authority was transferred to elected officials. Hirohito was not charged as a war criminal, unlike many of his senior military leaders, in part because US officials believed it would throw their occupation into turmoil. Hirohito visited the area and directed rehabilitation operations from 1945 to 1951. After the American occupation ended in 1952, Hirohito remained mostly in the background while Japan experienced remarkable economic progress. After nearly 64 years on the throne, he died on 7 January 1989 and became the longest-serving emperor in Japanese history. Hirohito’s wartime record is still a source of contention today.
    • After months of digestive issues, the emperor underwent surgery on his pancreas on 22 September 1987. He was diagnosed with duodenal cancer by doctors. For several months following the procedure, the emperor looked to have fully recovered. He fainted in his palace a year later, on 19 September 1988, and his health deteriorated over the following few months as he suffered from constant internal bleeding. On 7 January  1989, at the age of 87, the emperor died at 6.33am.
    • He was the longest-living and longest-reigning historical Japanese emperor, as well as the world’s longest- reigning monarch at the time of his death. The emperor was replaced by his son, Akihito, who was formally enthroned on 12 November 1990.
    • The emperor’s state funeral was held on 24 February and unlike his predecessor’s, it was traditional but not purely Shinto in nature. The funeral was attended by a huge number of international leaders. Hirohito is buried alongside his father, Emperor Taisho, in the Musashi Imperial Graveyard in Hachiji.