Memoirs of an Emperor: Hirohito’s Account of World War II Sells for $275,000

TOKYO — A transcript of the memoirs of Japan’s wartime emperor, Hirohito, in which he explained his country’s reasons for entering World War II, sold at auction in New York on Wednesday for $275,000.

The notes, handwritten in pencil and black ink by an imperial court official, cover the period from 1928 to 1945, and include the emperor’s account of the events leading up to Japan’s entry into World War II, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the country’s surrender.

Katsuya Takasu, the winning bidder, said on Twitter that he intended to bring the transcript back to Japan and return it to the royal family.

On Thursday, Mr. Takasu, a cosmetic surgeon who is well known for his right-wing political views, particularly about history and Japanese aggression during the war, announced he was the winning bidder, linking to a news story about the auction on Twitter, and writing, “It’s me!”

The memoirs, also known as the Emperor’s Monologue, suggest that Hirohito believed Japan’s entry into the war could be traced to the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference’s rejection of a statement on racial equality and limits on Japanese immigration to the United States.

According to a description of the memoirs by Bonhams Auction House in New York, which handled the sale, the emperor feared that if he had vetoed the decision to go to war, the country would have plunged into a civil conflict and “Japan would have been destroyed.”

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The memoirs are written in the form of answers given by the emperor to questions posed by five court officials over eight hours after the end of the war.

Hidenari Terasaki, a bilingual diplomat married to an American, transcribed the emperor’s answers into two notebooks that were auctioned on Wednesday.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Allied powers’ supreme commander during the postwar occupation of Japan, encouraged the emperor to write the memoirs explaining the roots of Japan’s war, according to Bonhams.

Historians have long debated the emperor’s culpability in the war, and General MacArthur helped shape the postwar narrative absolving Hirohito of direct responsibility.

The memoirs were sold by descendants of Mr. Terasaki. The buyer, Mr. Takasu, posted photos on his blog showing him directing an agent in New York during the bidding.

“I won!” he wrote. “I will return it to the Imperial Family. Now.”