[heer-oh-hee-toh; Japn. hee-raw-hee-taw]

Hirohito was the Emperor of Japan from 1926 until 1989. In Japan, he is usually referred to as Emperor Showa. During his reign, Japan became an imperial power and expanded its influence until its defeat by the Allied Powers in World War II. Despite this defeat, Hirohito continued to reign as emperor until his death in 1989.

He was born in Tokyo in 1901 to the Crown Prince Yoshihito, who ascended to the throne in 1912 upon the death of the Emperor Meiji. Hirohito served in the military during his father's reign as well as pursuing his interest in marine biology. In 1921, he became regent due to his father's deteriorating mental illness. He married Nagako Kuni in 1924, and the couple had two sons and five daughters over the next fifteen years.

In December of 1926, Hirohito became Emperor after the death of his father. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Japanese military became increasingly powerful and assumed more control over domestic and foreign affairs. Japan invaded China in 1937 and allied itself with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy after the beginning of World War II. In December of 1941, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which caused the United States to declare war on Japan.

After Japan surrendered to end World War II, Hirohito retained his throne. General Douglas MacArthur, the head of the American occupying forces in Japan, felt that it was important for Hirohito to stay on his throne to serve as a symbol of Japanese unity and acceptance of defeat. While some argued that the Emperor should face trial for war crimes committed during the war, he was successfully shielded from indictment. He continued to serve an active role as Emperor throughout the rest of his life. In 1987, he was diagnosed with duodenal cancer, and he died in January of 1989.

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