Scholars are stunned by the discovery of a trove of handwritten "waka" poems by Emperor Hirohito in his waning years, a number of which dwell on World War II and had never been seen before.

The manuscripts were kept by an individual who was close to the emperor.

A poet who is familiar with the handwriting of Hirohito (1901-1989), posthumously known as Emperor Showa, said there was no doubt about the authenticity of the documents.

The jottings are on 29 sheets of paper, both front and back, on which the characters of “Kunaicho” (Imperial Household Agency) are printed. All the pages, except one side, are filled with poems by the emperor as well as his revisions.

They contain at least 252 poems, all written in pencil. The margins are filled with notes and comments.

It was the first time that such an extensive collection of Hirohito’s handwriting has turned up.

Scholars said the manuscripts are first-class historical materials that provide a strong insight into the emperor's personality.

The individual who had the manuscripts has requested anonymity and is considering offering the papers to a research institute or similar organization to ensure they are preserved.

The Asahi Shimbun interviewed the individual, and others associated with the collection, on numerous occasions and analyzed the manuscripts in cooperation with Isao Tokoro, professor emeritus of law at Kyoto Sangyo University, prior to the 30th anniversary of Hirohito’s death on Jan. 7.

The newspaper also sought the assistance of poet Hirohiko Okano, who had advised Hirohito about his poetry style in his last years, to check the contents as he was familiar with the emperor's handwriting.

Kazutoshi Hando, an expert on the history of the Showa Era (1926-1989), also agreed to analyze the contents.

They all agreed that the 29 sheets of paper were used by Hirohito from around 1985 to autumn 1988 when he became sick.

According to Tokoro, a total of 870 poems written by Hirohito are carried in “Oounabara,” a collection of poems compiled by chamberlains of the Imperial Household Agency, and “Showa-Tenno Jitsuroku” (Fact record of Emperor Showa), compiled by the agency.

Of the 252 newly discovered poems, 41 were at the polishing stage and eventually carried in those two books. The remaining 211 poems had never been published.

The themes of Hirohito’s poems range widely from the Pacific War to visits to local areas of Japan.

One reads, “Aa Kanashi/ Tatakai no ato/ Omoitsutsu/ Shiki ni Inori o/ Sasagetarunari” (How sad/ Thinking/ After the war/ Offering/ Prayers frequently).

Hirohito sent this poem to the memorial service for the war dead held on Aug. 15, 1988, the last official event for him.

He read the following poem during a ceremony to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his reign, which was held on April 29, 1986, his 85th birthday.

“Kokumin no/ Iwai o Ukete/ Ureshikimo/ Furikaerimireba/ Hazukashikikana” (Receiving celebration/ From the people/ I’m happy but/ Looking back/ I’m ashamed)

As the supreme commander, Hirohito declared the start of the war and announced Japan's defeat.

At the age of 60, he read a poem, which in part went, “Ware Kaerimite/ Haji Ookikana” (When I look back/ Many shames).

At the age of 70, he read another poem, which in part said, “Kaerimireba/ Tada Omohayuku” (Looking back/ I just feel embarrassed).

The poems reveal that issues like World War II often occupied the emperor's thoughts.

In the margin of the manuscripts, Hirohito wrote, “Though this ritual is a state event, I wonder if this is good.”

According to Tokoro, nothing in the handwriting contradicts Hirohito’s known signature. There is also a line, “My wife is the empress.” These factors combined suggest the writer was Hirohito. Also, judging from the relationship between Hirohito and the person who was keeping the manuscripts, there can be no doubt about this fact.

Tokoro said the poem, “I’m ashamed,” which was read at the 60th anniversary of his reign, points to Hirohito's state of mind about his role as emperor.

He added that Hirohito came in for much criticism after the war for not having brought an end to the conflict earlier because of the manner in which he ruled as emperor.

“Considering this poem, and those read at the ages of 60 and 70, we find a man who engaged in deep self-reflection throughout his life, pondering whether he had been able to perform his duties for the people,” Tokoro said.