Showa Tenno Hirohito, the 124th Japanese monarch in an imperial line dating back to 660 B.C., dies after serving six decades as the emperor of Japan. He was the longest serving monarch in Japanese history.
Made regent in 1921, Hirohito was enthroned as emperor in 1928, two years after the death of his father, Emperor Taisho. During his first two decades as 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 in 1945, Hirohito stood above the Japanese people as an absolute monarch whose powers were sharply limited in practice. After U.S. atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was he 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 postwar 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 succeeded as emperor by his only son, Akihito.