Sound of Ja­pan em­peror’s war-end speech re­leased

The China Post - - LIFE - BY MARI YA­M­AGUCHI

The 4 1/2 minute speech that has re­ver­ber­ated through­out Ja­pan’s mod­ern history since it was de­liv­ered by Em­peror Hiro­hito at the end of World War II has come back to life in dig­i­tal form.

Hiro­hito’s “jewel voice” — muf­fled and nearly in­audi­ble due to poor sound qual­ity — was broad­cast on Aug. 15, 1945, an­nounc­ing Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der.

On Satur­day, the Im­pe­rial House­hold Agency re­leased the dig­i­tal ver­sion of the orig­i­nal sound ahead of the 70th an­niver­sary of the speech and the war’s end. In it, the em­peror’s voice ap­pears clearer, slightly higher and more in­tense, but, Ja­panese to­day would still have trou­ble un­der­stand­ing the ar­cane lan­guage used by Hiro­hito.

“The lan­guage was ex­tremely dif­fi­cult,” said Tomie Kondo, 92, who lis­tened to the 1945 broad­cast in a mon­i­tor­ing room at NHK public broad­caster, where she worked as a news­caster.

“It’s well writ­ten if you read it, but I’m afraid not many peo­ple un­der­stood what he said,” she said. Poor re­cep­tion and sound qual­ity of the ra­dio made it even worse.

“I heard some peo­ple even thought they were sup­posed to fight even more,” she said. “I think the speech would be in­com­pre­hen­sive to young peo­ple to­day.”

Ev­ery Ja­panese knows a part of the speech where Hiro­hito refers to his re­solve for peace by “en­dur­ing the un­en­durable and suf­fer­ing what is in­suf­fer­able,” a phrase re­peat­edly used in news and dra­mas about the war.

When peo­ple heard that part 70 years ago, they un­der­stood the sit­u­a­tion, Kondo says. But the rest is lit­tle known, largely be­cause the text Hiro­hito read was de­lib­er­ately writ­ten in ar­cane lan­guage mak­ing him sound au­thor­i­ta­tive and con­vinc­ing as he sought peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing about Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der.

Amid grow­ing con­cern among many Ja­panese over na­tion­al­ist Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s push to ex­pand Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary role, the cur­rent Em­peror Ak­i­hito is in­creas­ingly seen as lib­eral and paci­fist, and the ef­fort by his fa­ther, Hiro­hito, to end the war has cap­tured na­tional at­ten­tion.

Speak­ing in unique in­to­na­tion that drops at the end of sen­tences, Hiro­hito opens his 1945 ad­dress with Ja­pan’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept the con­di­tion of sur­ren­der. He also ex­presses “the deep­est sense of re­gret” to Asian coun­tries that co­op­er­ated with Ja­pan to gain “eman­ci­pa­tion” from Western col­o­niza­tion.

Hiro­hito also laments dev­as­ta­tion caused by “a new and most cruel bomb” dropped in Hiroshima and Na­gasaki, and asks ev­ery­one to stay calm while help­ing to re­con­struct the coun­try.

Its sig­nif­i­cance is that Hiro­hito, who at the time was con­sid­ered a liv­ing de­ity, made the ad­dress, said Takahisa Fu­rukawa, a his­to­rian at Ni­hon Univer­sity in Tokyo.

“What’s most im­por­tant is the em­peror reached out to the peo­ple to tell them that they had to sur­ren­der and end the war,” he said. “The speech is a re­minder of what it took to end the wrong war.”

On the eve of the an­nounce- ment, Hiro­hito met with top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to ap­prove Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in­side a bunker dug at the palace com­pound.

Amid fear of vi­o­lent protest by army of­fi­cials re­fus­ing to end the war, the record­ing of Hiro­hito’s an­nounce­ment was made se­cretly. NHK tech­ni­cians were qui­etly called in for the record­ing. At al­most mid­night, Hiro­hito ap­peared in his for­mal mil­i­tary uni­form, and read the state­ment into the mi­cro­phone, twice.

A group of young army of­fi­cers stormed into the palace in a failed at­tempt to steal the records and block the sur­ren­der speech, but palace of­fi­cials des­per­ately pro­tected the records, which were safely de­liv­ered to NHK for ra­dio trans­mis­sion the next day.

The drama of the last two days of the war lead­ing to Hiro­hito’s ra­dio ad­dress was made into a film, “Ja­pan’s Long­est Day,” in 1967, and its re­make will hit Ja­panese the­aters on Aug. 8.

(Left) In this May 19, 1988 file photo, then Em­peror of Ja­pan Hiro­hito waves as then-Crown Prince Ak­i­hito, left, looks on dur­ing the im­pe­rial gar­den party at the Akasaka Im­pe­rial Gar­dens in Tokyo. (Right) In this Aug. 15, 1945 photo, peo­ple kneel and lis­ten to the ra­dio in Tokyo, as Em­peror Hiro­hito an­nounces that Ja­pan has been de­feated in World War II.

AP

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