http://www.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_hirohito.html HIROHITO, (1901-1989), 124th Emperor of Japan, who succeeded to the throne in 1926 after a period of five years as regent. The Showa era, as his reign is called, witnessed dramatic transformations in Japanese life, including the status of the Emperor himself. Role in National Life The imperial messages of Aug. 15, 1945, concluding hostilities in WORLD WAR II , and of Jan. 1, 1946, declaring that the Emperor is a mortal, were epoch-making events in the history of Japan. The continued existence of the imperial system was left to the choice of the Japanese people. The constitution of 1947 determined that the Emperor would not have political power but would remain a symbol of Japan; sovereign power would lie with the people, war would be abandoned, and fundamental human rights would be guaranteed. Thus, during the long and eventful reign of the Showa Emperor, Japan emerged from a period of military expansion, culminating in national tragedy, and entered a new period of international cooperation during which it became one of the world's three greatest economic powers. Until the end of 1945, the Emperor was revered as a god. Afterward, Japanese political leaders attempted to bring him closer to the people. The initial step had been taken by the Emperor himself in his dramatic radio broadcast announcing the surrender of Japan. The sole condition sought by the Japanese government had been that the Emperor should retain his throne. In postwar Japan, the everyday life of the imperial family was reported in detail. The marriage in 1959 of Crown Prince Akihito (born 1933) to Michiko Shoda, the daughter of an industrialist, was eagerly accepted by the people.