For more than 60 years Hirohito was Emperor - a confusing mixture of "absolute" ruler, constitutional monarch and god. Much was done in his name, yet we know little about him or the part he really played in the making of modern Japan. This political history of Showa Japan tests the controversies surrounding Hirohito against the written evidence of his entire reign. The result is a review of that era. It spans enormous upheavals in state and society, identifying broad patterns of cause and effect and relating the monarchy to the complex problem of political power. Hirohito was confronted first with the political ambitions of the military and then with the democratizing reforms of the occupation period. The author shows how the Emperor's character and personal influence were to prove as crucial as his national authority in preserving a significant monarchy.