Japanese Emperor Hirohito was born on April 29, 1901, in Tokyo, Japan. Installed as the crown prince at age 15, he was Japan's longest-reigning monarch, ruling from 1926 to 1989. During World War II, he led Japan's military and the country's surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945. After the war, the new constitution drafted by the United States transformed Japan into a constitutional monarchy so that sovereignty lay with the people instead of the emperor. Hirohito died in Tokyo on January 7, 1989. His son, Akihito, succeeded him.
Japan's longest-reigning monarch, Emperor Hirohito, was born Michinomiya Hirohito on April 29, 1901, in the Ayoma Palace in Tokyo, Japan, the first son of Crown Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taisho) and Princess Sadako (later Empress Teimei). As a child, Hirohito was separated from his parents, as was custom, and given an imperial education at the Gakushuin School (also known as the Peers School). He later attended a special institute for the crown prince, which conditioned him to become emperor, and was formally given the title of crown prince on November 2, 1916. Not long after, in 1921, he became the first crown prince of Japan to travel abroad and study.
In November 1921, shortly after his return to Japan, Hirohito was appointed acting ruler of Japan due to his father's failing health. On January 26, 1924, he married Princess Nagako (later Empress Nagako), a distant cousin of royal blood. The couple would eventually have seven children.
On December 25, 1926, following the death of his father, Hirohito succeeded him as emperor, taking the 124th Chrysanthemum Throne. He was given the title "Showa" ("Enlightened Peace"), and was formally known as Showa Tenno.
Shortly after Hirohito's induction as emperor, Japan found itself in a state of unrest. While his reign saw an incredible amount of political turmoil, he remained a gentle man with little influence over the military and it's politics. Soon, the military began to revolt, resulting in the assassination of many public officials, including Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai.
Hirohito was a reluctant supporter of the occupation of Manchuria, which led to the second Sino-Japanese War. Japan's military susbequently became more aggressive and implemented policies reflecting that stance, which eventually led to Japan's involvement in World War II, beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Hirohito was said to be unenthusiastic about Japan's involvement in WWII, but was often pictured in military uniforms to show his support.
In September 1945, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hirohito broke the precedent of imperial silence and announced Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces. Japan lost 2.3 million soldiers and an estimated 800,000 civilians in WWII, and General Douglas MacArthur, chief of the U.S. Army, was sent to Japan to oversee the country's rehabilitation. Japan found itself occupied by the United States, who introduced the country to democratic reforms.
While many wanted Hirohito to be tried as a war criminal, MacArthur made a bargain with the emperor that included the implementation of a new Japanese constitution and the denouncement of imperial "divinity." Thusly, Hirohito became Japan's first democrat. By playing this role, the emperor was finally able to lead his country into political and financial stability.
Until his death, Hirohito remained an active figure in Japan, even after his divinity was revoked. He acted as head of state and played an import role in rebuilding Japan's image to the rest of the world. He also focused on his love of marine biology, a subject on which he wrote several books.
On January 7, 1989, Hirohito died of cancer at the place of his birth: Tokyo's Ayoma Palace.