740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 590
Briefing Book Paper
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Military Government and Occupation of Japan

Attitude Toward the Emperor


The United States Government has approved the establishment of a Far Eastern Advisory Commission to make recommendations to the participating governments:

“On the instruments to carry out the terms imposed upon Japan as a result of its unconditional surrender or total defeat; and

“On the terms and provisions to be imposed on Japan, including the measures necessary to ensure the complete disarmament and subsequent effective control of Japan.”1

As the attitude of military government toward the Emperor is a problem directly concerned with “the instruments to carry out the terms imposed upon Japan”, it is suggested that if this question is raised, discussion on the matter be referred to the Far Eastern Advisory Commission.

The attitude to be taken by military government toward the Emperor has been formulated and approved by the Department of State and is submitted in general outline in the attached appendix.

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[The Position of the Emperor in Japan]

i. apprehension of the emperor

The Department of State has recommended that immediately upon the unconditional surrender or total defeat of Japan, the constitutional powers of the Emperor should be suspended. It has further recommended that if it is politically practicable and physically possible the Emperor and his immediate family should be placed under protective custody in a detached palace outside of Tokyo. He should be kept in seclusion, but his personal advisers should be allowed to have access to him under reasonable conditions.

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ii. the emperor and instrument of unconditional surrender

The Department of State has also recommended, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have tentatively concurred,2 that:

The Emperor should proclaim that Japan has surrendered unconditionally to the United Nations at war with Japan and should command the armed forces and people of Japan to cease hostilities forthwith and to comply with all requirements imposed by the designated commander for Japan.
The Emperor should also command all civil and military officials to obey and enforce all orders and directives issued by the designated commander for Japan and direct them to remain at their posts and to perform their duties until specifically relieved by the designated commander.
The Emperor, as well as the highest available representative of the Japanese High Command, should sign and seal the instrument of unconditional surrender.
If the several requirements as to the acknowledgment of unconditional surrender by the Emperor are not fulfilled, the designated commander may receive the unconditional surrender of Japan by the highest military authorities of Japan or he may by proclamation take over supreme authority of Japan.

iii. removal of emperor from japan

The Department of State believes that the occupation forces should not threaten to remove the Emperor from Japan, but if for any reason they feel that his removal is advisable, the Department of State should be given an opportunity to express its opinion before such action is taken.

iv. in the absence of the emperor

If the Emperor escapes from Japan or cannot be found, the occupation authorities should:

Notify the Japanese people that, so long as these conditions obtain, the occupation authorities will consider any action of the Emperor without validity.
Make no statement that the Emperor has abdicated unless the Emperor himself makes such an announcement or a regency is set up.
Take no initiative in choosing a successor to the throne.

v. institution of the emperor

Since the Japanese at present show an almost fanatical devotion to their sovereign, an attempt from the outside to abolish the institution of the Emperor, would, so long as the present attitude of the Japanese continues, probably be ineffective. The mere dethronement of the Emperor against the will of the Japanese people would not accomplish the abolition of the emperorship nor could it probably be [Page 887] effectively legislated out of existence so long as the Japanese believed in it and were determined to maintain it. Under these circumstances the indefinite occupation of Japan might be necessary if the United Nations wished to prevent the revival of the institution of the Emperor.

To assure that the treatment of the Emperor by the occupation authorities does not prejudice the continuance of the institution of the Emperor against the will of the Japanese people, the occupation authorities should in all their treatment of and their contacts with the Emperor refrain from any action which would imply recognition of or support for the Japanese concept that the Japanese Emperor is different from and superior to other temporal rulers, that he is of divine origin and that he is indispensable. They should permit absolute freedom of discussion, except where there may be incitement to breaches of the peace, of political as well as other subjects.

vi. attitudes towards the emperorship

There are indications that the Chinese may favor the abolition of the institution of the Emperor and public opinion in the United States increasingly seems to prefer this solution. On the other hand, it is questionable whether the British would support such a policy. As for the Soviet Union, their attitude on the matter is not known.

  1. See George H. Blakeslee, The Far Eastern Commission: A Study in International Cooperation, 1945 to 1952 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1953; Department of State publication No. 5138), pp. 2–3.
  2. The Department of Defense has supplied the information that there is no evidence in the files of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to indicate that the Joint Chiefs of Staff either approved or disapproved these recommendations.