Between God and Man

As Britain prepares to receive the Emperor Akihito on his first state visit, we look at two aspects of the relationship between Japan’s past and its present. In this first article, John Breen examines the Japanese paradox of a constitutional monarch.

Akihito’s visit to Britain at the end of this month is his first as emperor of Japan, and only the second ever by an incumbent of the Chrysanthemum Throne. He can anticipate a welcome warmer by several degrees than that accorded his father, Hirohito, in 1971. Hirohito’s reticence about the war, his evasiveness about his own responsibility for it, ensured a hostile British press and silent crowds at every turn. Akihito, though, was a child of twelve when the Pacific War ended in 1945, and the war question, if it arises at all, is unlikely to dominate.

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