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The People’s Emperor

The People’s Emperor

Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy, 1945–1995

Kenneth J. Ruoff

ISBN 9780674010888

Publication date: 02/28/2003

Few institutions are as well suited as the monarchy to provide a window on postwar Japan. The monarchy, which is also a family, has been significant both as a political and as a cultural institution.

This comprehensive study analyzes numerous issues, including the role of individual emperors in shaping the institution, the manner in which the emperor’s constitutional position as symbol has been interpreted, the emperor’s intersection with politics through ministerial briefings, memories of Hirohito’s wartime role, nationalistic movements in support of Foundation Day and the reign-name system, and the remaking of the once sacrosanct throne into a “monarchy of the masses” embedded in the postwar culture of democracy. The author stresses the monarchy’s “postwarness,” rather than its traditionality.


  • Ruoff is a clear-eyed observer of the post-occupation battle for Japan’s soul that pitted left against right over issues such as constitutional revision, the reign-names system and the authenticity of the national foundation myth. In doing so, he breaks down the all-too-prevalent tendency to view Japanese politics, of the immediate postwar and present, as monolithic and staunchly conservative.

    —Victoria James, New Statesman


  • Kenneth J. Ruoff is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University.

Book Details

  • 360 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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