The Rhetoric of Emperor Hirohito: Continuity and Rupture in Japan's Drama of Modernity.
In this book, the author explores significant transformations in wartime Japan through rhetorical analysis of three rescripts issued by Japanese Emperor Hirohito. Though his inquiry into these rescripts provides significant insights into the language used by the Japanese leadership to convey imperial policy, the bureaucracy surrounding the Japanese emperor makes it difficult to identify the rescripts' specific authors and rhetorical intent. Also, historians may find the author's distinction between historical analysis and rhetorical analysis a distinction without a difference.
Takeshi Suzuki deconstructs rhetorically three wartime rescripts: the 1942 rescript declaring war against America and Britain, the 1945 imperial rescript ending the war, and the 1946 "Declaration of Humanity" rescript, devoting a chapter to each document. He sees these as transformational in Japanese history, describing Japan's national identity and defining the role of the emperor. For his analysis, he employs dramatism, a rhetorical criticism, which analyzes terms and their frequency in discourses to probe human relationships and motives.
The writing is dense and written for someone with background in rhetorical studies. He also introduces the US debate about the future of the emperor and its rhetoric with little introduction. Overall Suzuki's presentation is well organized, and he invokes a debater's style by enumerating his points in careful detail. He also uses a journalistic style for Japanese names, using Western name order with the surname last. The work, however, does not include an index.
The author often overstresses the emperor's involvement in the rescripts' rhetoric. Although Hirohito may have been, as Suzuki suggests, the most charismatic figure in twentieth-century Japan, his charisma was not the same as that of other charismatic wartime leaders. Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, and Roosevelt were also politicians who cultivated their charisma through personal connections with the people from beer hall speeches in Munich to "Fireside chats" from the White House. Hirohito's wartime charisma was not personal, but an institutional construct built on his status as a manifest deity within the emperor system and State Shinto. These imperial rescripts may contain rhetorical devices, but the "chrysanthemum curtain" that surrounded the emperor, even during the allied occupation, makes it difficult to know if and how these devices were intended and who crafted them.
Though Suzuki presents an interesting discussion of the Kyoto School of Philosophy's positive response to the 1942 rescript on war, it is unclear how persuasive the rescripts were for the ordinary Japanese. When the rescripts on declaring the war and terminating the war were issued, the events were faits accompli. Also, it was the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers who ultimately would decide the fate of the emperor. After years of shortages, rationing, and firebombing, the ordinary Japanese response to these rescripts may have been more the result of the Japanese fatalism of shikataganai ("it can't be helped") than imperial rhetoric. Nevertheless, Suzuki's analysis of these three rescripts, which are more often referred to just in passing than examined, does lay the foundation for future research into the role of Hirohito and language in wartime Japan.
R. W. Purdy
John Carroll University
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|Title Annotation:||ASIA AND THE PACIFIC|
|Author:||Purdy, R. W.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2018|
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