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Britain wanted limited restoration of royal family's honors.

LONDON, Jan. 4 Kyodo

British officials believed ahead of the late Emperor Hirohito's 1971 visit to the country that British honors taken away from the Japanese monarchy in 1942 on Japan's entry into World War II should be restored only to the emperor and that he should receive no new awards, according to classified documents recently released by the British government.

Foreign Office officials writing a few months before the emperor's visit in October 1971 also felt it would be appropriate only to restore the Order of the Garter -- Britain's most senior and oldest order of chivalry -- to the emperor.

They said Emperor Hirohito's former honorary rank of field marshal as well as honors given to other members of the Japanese royal family -- such as the Royal Victorian Chain given to Prince Takamatsu (1905-1987), a younger brother of Emperor Hirohito -- should not be restored. The documents also show that Buckingham Palace was opposed to any suggestion that Emperor Hirohito himself should be given the Royal Victorian Chain in the run-up to his visit.

The emperor visited Britain between Oct. 5 and 8 in 1971 as part of a European tour which also included visits to Germany, France, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. It was the first overseas trip by a reigning Japanese emperor.

According to the documents, the visit was regarded as a success. But there were some protests and officials described the British public's reaction to the Japanese royal family as ''cool.'' Former prisoners of war were angry at their treatment at the hands of the Japanese and demanded a meaningful apology.

Queen Elizabeth instructed that Emperor Hirohito's name be formally restored to the list of members of the Order of the Garter shortly after the state visit was announced Feb. 23, 1971. The emperor had been created an extra knight of the Order in 1929 by King George V.

A.L Mayall, head of the Foreign Office's Protocol and Conference Department in London, wrote in a letter dated May 5, 1971, to the British ambassador in Tokyo, Sir John Pilcher, ''There has been no positive move here with regard to the restoration of the emperor's former rank of Field Marshal.''

''We, like you, see serious difficulties in this. Our thinking is that, with the restoration of his name to the Garter Roll, and the possible membership of the Royal Society, we shall have done all that is appropriate and incumbent on us by way of further honors for the emperor. I should perhaps add that the general thinking at the Palace is now that we should not give the emperor the Royal Victorian Chain,'' according to Mayall.

''With the restoration of the Garter, honors would be even since The Queen already has the Necklace and Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum. We would keep the Chain up our sleeve and produce it only if the emperor insisted on giving a further decoration to The Queen. There is no sign of that at present.''

Mayall said that he agreed with Pilcher's view that only the emperor should have his honor restored ''in the context of any suggestion from Japanese quarters concerning a general restoration of British awards.''

Despite the comments made about the restoration of honors, the letter shows the British royal family was happy for Japanese royal family members to wear any of their British decorations or medals while on the visit, although it did not want to make that fact public.

Mayall recounts that when Britain's Princess Alexandra visited Japan in 1961, it was agreed to convey confidentially via diplomatic channels to Japanese royal family members that Queen Elizabeth regarded it as ''appropriate'' for them to wear British honors on British royal occasions.

''It was however made clear that the Queen had not granted formal permission for the restitution of the decorations, and had not expressed any positive wish that they should be worn,'' wrote Mayall.

Emperor Hirohito died in 1989 at the age of 87. He is posthumously known as Emperor Showa.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jan 7, 2002
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