The death of Emperor Hirohito on 7 January 1989, followed more recently by the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, has indeed incited a degree of historical awareness among Japanese from all walks of life. In the wake of an enigmatic period of social self-restraint (jishuku) during the final months of the Shōwa period (1926–89), fettered reflections of Shōwa Japan inundated the media. Despite a few outspoken critics at the margins, retrospectives appearing on Japanese television and in mainstream print media after Hirohito's death have largely glossed over touchy subjects such as war atrocities, war responsibility, and the continued existence of the emperor system in the postwar era. No doubt that threats of right-wing terrorism aimed at even the mildest of critics of Japan's involvement in the Fifteen-Year War (1931–45) have done their share in encouraging such self-censorship. By most accounts, such efforts have proved effective in diffusing critical public opinion and in pruning public memory. Yet, the ending of the era has provided an extra impetus and a rhetorical rationale for a reckoning of everyday life in Shōwa Japan by the masses whose lives coincided with it: it is over, so now we can tell its story.

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