national

Japan releases master recording of emperor's war-end speech

41 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2015 AFP

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
Login to comment

Great! A stark reminder that war is a lose-lose game.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

and the effort by his father, Hirohito, to end the war has captured national attention

Hirohito was just about the luckiest war criminal in history. His tacit and direct approval of the expenditure of millions of civilian and military lives throughout Asia was a heinous, heinous crime.

This should precede any memory of his efforts to halt the war, in my opinion.

17 ( +24 / -8 )

6 ( +6 / -0 )

and are the progeny of those young officers who tried to block the speech in the LDP today? I wouldn't be surprised

13 ( +15 / -2 )

The thing I hate about this speech is, after his ambition and greed started a war which resulted in the deaths of countless innocents, he tried to sound like a victim.

14 ( +20 / -8 )

I don't know what he's saying in his obscure Kyoto kuge dialect. But I guess it goes something like, "I don't want the third nuke getting dropped on my house. It's over."

0 ( +8 / -8 )

What an awkward thread title. 'Sound' should be 'recording'.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

People literally thinks Hirohito was effective on WW2.... Really... Open some books and read history.Emperors are demi-god figure for all Japanese people thats all, Just like in Shogun- Era, Japan is ruled by a Fascist regime in WW2.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

JT please replace 'original sound' with 'original recording' in the title as you've made recordings, not sounds. The emperor wasn't paraphrased by someone else during the speech and not what you want to mean in English.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The biggest problem with that famous speech was not only was the recording of relatively poor quality (considering the dangerously trying conditions it was recorded in!), but the language spoken was kobun, a very old and very formal version of the Japanese language few could understand unless the person was a university student studying classical Japanese literature.

The story of the decision to make the speech, how it was recorded, and how the recording was secretly moved to the broadcast studio is something literally out of a wartime spy novel. Especially more so given the threats by Imperial Japanese Army officers to overthrow the monarchy between August 6 and 14, 1945.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

The thing I hate about this speech is, after his ambition and greed started a war which resulted in the deaths of countless innocents, he tried to sound like a victim.

@sensei258

In the Emperor's surrender speech, the "gyokuon hoso" ("Jewel Voice Broadcast" 玉音放送), one of the sections that really set the stage for Japan to take on the role of the victim, while playing down its role as the aggressor, is this part:

"The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we (I?) have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable."

Modern Japanese translation; "何よりこれから先、日本国の受ける苦難はきっと並大抵のことではなかろうと思う。 あなたがた国民の本心も私はよく理解している。 しかしながら私は、時の巡り合せに逆らわず、堪えがたき思いに耐え、忍びがたき思いを忍んで、未来のために平和な世界を切り開こうと願い続ける。"

That part about resolving for the people of Japan to "[endure] the unendurable and [suffer] what is unsufferable" always gets me. The people of Japan (and those Japan fought against and occupied) "endured the unendurable and suffered the unsufferable" during the war. After the war, Japan experienced decades of peace and the most prosperous decades in its history. Certainly life post-surrender and during the occupation was completely the opposite of the hardships the Emperor suggested the people would endure.

12 ( +12 / -1 )

I guess when it's internationally proven that you suck at making war, you pretend to worship peace.

5 ( +9 / -5 )

One part of the speech that is somewhat lesser known than the "enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable" phrase is this:

"the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization."

Modern Japanese translation: "敵は新たに残虐な爆弾(原子爆弾)を使用して、膨大な数の無実の人々までをも殺傷しており、惨澹たる被害がどこまで及ぶのか全く予測できないまでに至ってしまった。 ことここに至ってまだ戦争を継続しようとすれば、最終的にはわが民族の滅亡を招くだけでなく、ひいては人類の文明をも破滅しかねないであろう。"

Even if you argue that the U.S. should not have used the nuclear bombs, this part of the speech makes it pretty clear that they did play a significant role in enabling the Emperor to put an end to the war earlier than he otherwise might have. They gave him the excuse he needed to surrender.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Considering the predicament that the immense stupidity of its leaders had gotten Japan into over the previous 20 years, and the situation the Emperor had let himself be placed in, I would say in this speech he pretty well nails it. It's definitely one of the most important speeches of the 20th century, and the Japanese people by and large followed his instructions, the country going almost overnight from being the Daesh of its day to one of the best citizens of the international community. The change in attitude is very difficult for anyone who wasn't alive then (I wasn't) to wrap their heads around. I notice, however, a rumbling in the background about two thirds of the way through the speech; was there an air raid going on while he was recording this? And was NHK called 'NHK' then, or was it still 'Domei', the propaganda outlet NHK is in danger of becoming again today?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Wonder if the black van yahoos will be playing it?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

just another attempt to make Hirohito look like a victim, when the only person that is actually showing some remourse for his fathers wrongdoings is Akihito, he has my respect for that.

3 ( +7 / -6 )

SensatoAUG. 02, 2015 - 10:57AM JST Even if you argue that the U.S. should not have used the nuclear bombs, this part of the speech makes it pretty clear that they did play a significant role in enabling the Emperor to put an end to the war earlier than he otherwise might have. They gave him the excuse he needed to surrender.

They were the excuse he used. We cannot conclude without some other evidence that no other excuse would have worked as well.

SensatoAUG. 02, 2015 - 10:20AM JST That part about resolving for the people of Japan to "[endure] the unendurable and [suffer] what is unsufferable" always gets me. The people of Japan (and those Japan fought against and occupied) "endured the unendurable and suffered the unsufferable" during the war. After the war, Japan experienced decades of peace and the most prosperous decades in its history. Certainly life post-surrender and during the occupation was completely the opposite of the hardships the Emperor suggested the people would endure.

Yes, it's a fascinating contradiction between expectation and what actually happened. I guess all I can say is with hindsight, it's easy to think of the Imperial Japanese surrender as a no-brainer. But Japanese people living in that moment had no way of knowing what the future would hold. Given the brutality Japanese Imperial troops were committing against other Asians who surrendered to them, it almost seems reasonable that they might expect to get a dose of the same when they in turn surrender to a stronger power. When your whole world view is wrapped up in "the powerful do to the powerless", it's gotta be pretty damn terrifying to realize suddenly that you are now the powerless.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

But the rest is little known, largely because the text he read was deliberately written in arcane language making him sound authoritative and convincing as he sought people’s understanding about Japan’s surrender.

Little has cahnged about the way the Imperial Hosuehold agency runs, or for that matter much of the Japanese bureaucracy in 70 years. Still the masters of "arcane language".

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The Emperor was prepared to surrender when Russia entered the war - which it did on Aug 9th.That is well documented, and it's also documented that Truman knew it.

Truman, in his own handwriting in his diary, said that he knew Japan was asking for surrender earlier through Russia. Stalin told him about it before Potsdam, but Truman was more interested in scaring Stalin and said that the uncondtitional surrender coupled will come after he "lit up the sky" with the atomic bombs.

Sure, Hirohito used the bombs as a reason. He was speaking to Japanese and not to the world. But, Japan was already defeated and everyone knew the war would close in September. Five of the six 5-star officers in the US military said the atomic bombs were unecessary, that Japan was already defeated. Truman made up the "million casualties" saved by the bombing number at a speech in Washington about a year after the war ended. He was hounded by the press for a year that it was genocide and civilians were targeted, since everyone knew there were no military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's interesting to note that the final terms of surrender were exactly the same as the terms offered earlier. The surrender was transmitted through the Swiss on August 10th, the day after Russia entered the war and Tokyo had little or no knowledge that Nagasaki had been destroyed yet.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

there were no military targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Better check again

Hiroshima was a city of considerable military importance. It contained the 2nd Army Headquarters, which commanded the defense of all of southern Japan. The city was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops.

The city of Nagasaki had been one of the largest sea ports in southern Japan and was of great war-time importance because of its many and varied industries, including the production of ordnance, ships, military equipment, and other war materials. The narrow long strip attacked was of particular importance because of its industries.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

The only military facility near Hiroshima was the naval base across the bay that was undamaged.

If these cities had been important military targets, they would have been hit long before. They were virtually untouched.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

If these cities had been important military targets, they would have been hit long before. They were virtually untouched. they used targets that were untouched so they could gauge the damage caused by the bomb, the whole purpose of the A bomb was to avoid a ground invasion and force Japan to end the war. which they did

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wasn't this the speech that had to be approved by Gen McArthur first?

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

@darnname, I believe the US military--in order to test the effect of the atomic bomb--originally chose the following targets for use of the atomic bomb: Hiroshima, Kokura (the port region what is today's Kitakyushu city), Niigata, Yokohama and Kyoto. However, due to Henry Stimson's personal lobbying, Kyoto was taken off the target list and Nagasaki substituted. In the end, Hiroshima went right to the top of the list for the first use of the atomic bomb because its geography made it a perfect target to test the effects of the bomb.

But getting back on topic, the story of how the Emperor Showa decided to record that speech, the dangerous circumstances on how the speech was recorded, and how the transcription disc was moved from the Imperial Palace to the NHK broadcasting studio was worthy of an wartime spy novel story. Remember, after the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, there was real fear in the Imperial household that there would be a military coup against the Emperor, since many Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) officers guessed correctly the atomic bombing would force the Emperor to accept the surrender terms of the Potsdam Declaration. As such, much of the work to get the Imperial Rescript to accept the terms of the Declaration recorded and eventually broadcast had to be done with GREAT secrecy. It was sheer luck that the recording survived the attempt by a thousand IJA officers overrunning the Imperial Palace on 14 August 1945 to find the recording, since the layout of the Imperial Palace grounds made it very difficult to find the discs. Smuggled out of the Palace by hiding the disc in a film can that was hidden in a basket of laundry, there was still a LOT of concern at the NHK broadcast studios in regards to safekeeping the disc the day the recording was finally broadcast.

The Emperor chose to make the speech using the old kobun dialect of classical Japanese, because he personally felt it gave the speech more authority. Unfortunately, speaking in kobun also made it nearly impossible for the average Japanese to understand the speech on first hearing, since only a very small group of Japanese could understand this version of classical Japanese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

pease is the only cure for the wounds and sufferings of wars, peace is the only memorial for those who lost their lives in the war.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Emperor was prepared to surrender when Russia entered the war - which it did on Aug 9th.That is well documented, and it's also documented that Truman knew it. even if the Emperor wanted to, many in the IJA didnt, they were the ones with the weapons not the emperor, it also took 3 weeks for Japan to surrender after the Hiroshima bomb was dropped even after America told them to surrender. If the US didnt use the bombs it would have taken a massive ground invasion by the US/Soviets, Okinawa had 250,000 deaths 150,000 of those civilian. The main island of Japan had a population about 60million in 1945. Its well documented how fanatical the IJA were fighting to the last man and the suicides of the J civilians caused by the IJA brainwashing. Anybody who thinks that a ground invasion was avoidable without the A bombs is just plain deluded.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've been reading all the comments and wonder how this recording will be put into a context.

The things that spring to my mind range from minor details to the (or a) big picture, BUT all of them are questions!

A. It's doesn't matter that most people couldn't understand him. Japan was a strictly hierarchical society. (?) He could rely on a top-down system to make his "views" clear. (Furthermore it was a "total war society", since Manchuria, at least.). Is this correct? B. Will there be a comparison between the number of deaths through the atomic bomb and the fire / carpet bombing that took place previously? C. If much of the Japanese war machine (in manufacturing) took place is small semi-domestic suburbia, was the firebombing morally or otherwise justified? D. If the emperor saw for himself the devastating effects of firebombing (and knew the number of deaths, which I understand is documented), and still persisted in the war, then were the allies justified in dropping the bomb, having no other choice? (For example it was considered to invite the Japanese to observe the testing of the bomb but there was a fear that the bomb wouldn't work. So where would that lead the Americans? Anyway I've lots of questions and would like to know more about the war-culture, context and processes were leading up to this speech. Perhaps this could be a role for Japan Today?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Trying to assess the historical significance of Emperor Hirohito's 60-year reign has always placed the Japanese in a delicate but undeniable quandary. Since the end of World War II, many Japanese have accepted the vogue of dismissing Hirohito as a mere figurehead whose role was more of a pawn's than a king's in the chess game of 20thcentury history. More traditional thinkers have opposed that trend, seeking to attribute a deeper significance to the emperor's admittedly limited powers. The problem with the latter train of thought is that it makes it difficult for traditionalists not to lay a portion of the blame for the catastrophe of World War II on Hirohito's doorstep.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kokura was target but due to unclear weather Nagasaki was chosen, the report Only we guessed was the end of us. Nagasaki was known as Kakure Kirishitan (Christian pretending none Christian) and if America destroyed Christian area Ichioku gyokusui or not America will kill all of Japanese. But after the war, we suddenly learned freedom of speech.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So what? Original record and its copy sound like no difference.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would say that this war was something the bankers wanted to happen and was planned many years from the time Commodore Perry forced his way into Japan. The bankers, (through their puppets, the elected officials), coached Japan into becoming a colonial power with ambitions parallel to Germany's. The end result would be to impose a system of central banking which brings the country to full servitude of the bankers. Do not believe it? Watch Marin Corps Maj Gen Smedley D Butler's "War is a Rackett" in You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3_EXqJ8f-0

Or, "Real Reason for all Wars": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHcUMd7rctA

or, "The Money Masters": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bh9d0nnxxU

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wtfjapan: Japan surrendered in August 10th, the day after the Sovoet Union entered the war. It took weeks for the diplomatic wrangling and paperwork. Actually, Japan sued for peace a month beofre Potsdam, but it was rejected. Politics and posturing is more important than lives.

US high school history books aren't a good source for the truth.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

oh dear another one that seems to think that Japan was the victim and that the A bombs werent justified. there were 78 million fatalities during WW2 2/3 of those civilian. Soviets lost the most with 25million, Germany about 9 million. these deaths were almost all caused by land based battles. The US wanted to avoid a land invasion of Japan at all costs. The vanquished really dont have the right to point fingers, especially since they were the aggressors in the beginning. One things for sure, if Japan was the first to develop the A bomb be it one or ten, theres not much doubt they would have used every single one of them on America and its allies. I never went to US high school and have never read a US HS text book, and I certainly didnt get my info from official Japanese government documents at the time, many of which were conveniently distroyed. I suppose you got your info from Japanese HS text books LOL

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Five out of the six US 5-star officers at the time said the bombs were not justified and there would be no mainland invasion - Japan was already beaten.

You moniker gives away your predisposition against a mature conversation.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

He clearly cites the atomic bombs as one of 2 reasons for an immediate surrender, and hence end of World War 2, in case you revisionists missed that.

Attempts to control the narrative is one thing (ie, Hiroshima's "Peace Education"). Irrefutable facts backed up by clear and extant evidence (a recording of his actual statement) is another.

"Five out of the six US 5-star officers at the time said the bombs were not justified and there would be no mainland invasion"

They thought the job could be done with incendiaries. So we likely would have the horror of the Tokyo firebombings repeated over and over and over and over a prolonged period. Yeah, nice option.

"Actually, Japan sued for peace a month beofre Potsdam"

And yet they ignored the Potsdam Declaration in late July. Go figure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing . . . to use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting negotiations, was a double crime.” -- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. My own feeling is that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.” -- Admiral William Leahy

“the true question was not whether surrender could have been achieved without the use of the bomb but whether a different diplomatic and military course would have led to an earlier surrender. A large segment of the Japanese cabinet was ready in the spring of 1945 to accept substantially the same terms as those finally agreed on.” -- Secretary of War Henry Stimson

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Re comments critical of the atomic bombings made by Americans like Eisenhower, Stimson, and Leahy--context matters. When Americans publicly made such comments years later in the late 1940s or into the 1950s, were they speaking sincerely or were they strategically cultivating and building up support for the new US-Japan alliance meant to counter communism and the Chinese communists in particular?

There is just no way to really know for sure. I certainly wouldn't put much stock into anything that Eisenhower said. He was a believer in American supremacy who as US president cheerfully signed off on the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala and even had the gall to deliver his "military industrial complex" speech on the same day (17 January 1961) that Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba was murdered with US complicity.

So when Americans in government and the military spoke publicly in circa 1949, 1953, or 1958 about how wrong and barbaric the atomic bombings of Japan were...just take those statements with a grain of salt. These people weren't a bunch of Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn fans. They believed in exercising American power and keeping the Japanese from defecting to communist China--believe it or not, this was a huge worry among American strategists at the time.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Actually, Eisenhower told Truman that in person two weeks before Hiroshima when Truman told him about the Manhattan Project and his plan to use the bombs.

I don't have time for this anymore. It's wasted energy anyway. How can I discuss this with someone who thinks all of the quotes (there are volumes more by volumes of more people) were couched in some consistent political contingency? Did they all have a meeting to review their words?

I used to think the same way as most people here, but I read, studied, searched and eventually changed my mind, even though I wasn't looking to do that. I realize also that I'm a minority. Most people are too stuck to change their minds about anything.

I have a real job with real consequences for my decisions, so I like to stay in the real world and out of the world of what I wish was real.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What many people don't realise is this wasn't a live broadcast. The "speech" was pre-recorded and played later. Even at the last minute there were attempts by hardline right-wingers to prevent the broadcast - but fortunately they failed. It is one of those little events in history that could have gone either way

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites