(1901-89). The 124th sovereign of Japan in the traditional count (which includes several legendary emperors). Born the eldest male child of Crown Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taishō). In 1921, Crown Prince Hirohito left for a six-month tour of Europe, in the course of which he visited Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. In December 1926, Emperor Taishō died and Hirohito, then 25 years old, ascended the throne, adopting the era name Shōwa ("Enlightened Peace") for his reign. The wish contained in this reign title was not to be fulfilled, however, for Japan was soon to embark on its rapid march to militarism. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, in a New Year's address to the Japanese people on January 1, 1946, Emperor Shōwa renounced the divinity vested in him under the prewar constitution; and under the new constitution, which went into effect in May 1947, the emperor's role was defined as being "the symbol of the state and the unity of the people." On this basis, Emperor Shōwa devoted himself to Japan's postwar recovery and the restoration of its relations with other countries. Emperor Shōwa died after a long illness on January 7, 1989. His reign of 62 years was the longest of any Japanese emperor in recorded history, as was his lifespan. His birthday, April 29, has been named Greenery Day (Midori no hi) and declared a national holiday. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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