Hirohito (1901–1989), emperor of Japan, 1926–89. His Japanese title, Tenno, means “heavenly sovereign”; the name of his reign, Showa, means “light and peace.” During Hirohito's reign, Japan came under military rule, entered World War II, and suffered defeat—and then developed into a democracy and became one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

Despite misgivings by Hirohito, Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931, invaded China in 1937, and attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The emperor was considered a divine being and had absolute authority, but, most historians agree, on the advice of his aides remained aloof from the conduct of the government to avoid compromising the institution of the monarchy. Finally, in 1945 when Japan faced defeat, Hirohito did assert his authority and brought about his nation's surrender. The victors permitted him to keep his throne in exchange for his public denial of his divinity. In the postwar years, Hirohito reigned as a constitutional monarch.

As crown prince, Hirohito broke tradition in 1921 by traveling abroad. From 1921 to 1926 he was regent during the illness of his father, Yoshihito. In 1924 he married Princess Nagako. Hirohito became a noted authority on marine biology. He was succeeded by his son Akihito.