Photo/IllutrationIn the April 7, 1987, diary entry, Shinobu Kobayashi noted that Emperor Hirohito was vexed by talk about his war responsibility. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Shortly before his death in January 1989, Emperor Hirohito confided that he was much vexed by talk about his war responsibility.

Entries from a diary kept by his late chamberlain, Shinobu Kobayashi, illustrate the deep anguish Hirohito felt when people raised the issue.

He is known posthumously as Emperor Showa.

The entries released Aug. 23 cover April 1987 when the emperor was 85 years old and in failing health.

"There is no point in living a longer life by having my workload lessened," the emperor said. “It would only increase my chances of seeing and hearing a trying thing. I have experienced the deaths of my close relatives, including siblings, and hear (people) talking about my war responsibility.”

By that time, the emperor was showing signs of frailty and close aides at the Imperial Household Agency were pondering ways to reduce his official duties.

Hirohito's younger brother, Prince Takamatsu, died in February of that year.

Kobayashi’s diary was preserved by his family.

Kyodo News released part of the content to media outlets on Aug. 23 after it obtained the diary.

Kobayashi, a former bureaucrat at the government’s National Personnel Authority, kept a regular journal from April 1974, when he became a chamberlain, to June 2000, when Hirohito’s wife, Empress Nagako, died.

According to the diary’s April 7 entry, the emperor was in residence at the Imperial Palace the previous evening when he lamented talk about his war responsibility.

The entry shows that Kobayashi tried to assuage his anguish.

“Only a handful people are talking about (your) war responsibility, not a large majority of the public,” the diary reads. “It is now only part of history, given how the country has developed today after the rebuilding in postwar years. You do not need to worry.”

Takahisa Furukawa, a professor of Japanese modern history at Nihon University, called the diary an “invaluable piece of material” for researchers of the Showa Era (1926-1989), given the detailed descriptions of Hirohito in his final years.

“The description that the emperor was concerned about the talk about his war responsibility also appears in the diary kept by late chamberlain Ryogo Urabe and a memo written by Tomohiko Tomita, a former Imperial Household Agency grand steward,” he noted. “(Kobayashi’s diary) provided additional material to support their writings.”

Furukawa called for the release of Kobayashi’s original diaries.