Two years after the death of his father, Michinomiya Hirohito is enthroned as the 124th Japanese monarch in an imperial line dating back to 660 B.C. Emperor Hirohito presided over one of the most turbulent eras in his nation’s history. From rapid military expansion beginning in 1931 to the crushing defeat of Japan by Allied forces in 1945, Hirohito ruled the Japanese people as an absolute monarch whose powers were nevertheless sharply limited in practice.
After U.S. atomic bombs destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was Hirohito who argued for his country’s surrender, explaining to the Japanese people in his first-ever radio address that the unendurable must be endured. Under U.S. occupation and post-war reconstruction, Hirohito was formally stripped of his powers and forced to renounce his alleged divinity, but he remained his country’s official figurehead until his death in 1989. He was the longest-reigning monarch in Japanese history.