On August 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito ordered Japan’s unconditional surrender, bringing about a formal end to World War II. His speech announcing the ceasing of hostilities was recorded secretly, for fear that violent protests would break out once the army and the people realized that their leader was, indeed, surrendering.

Yesterday, the Imperial Household Agency released a digital version of the original recording of Hirohito’s address ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

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Speaking in unique intonation that drops at the end of sentences, Hirohito opens his 1945 address with Japan’s decision to accept the condition of surrender. He also expresses ‘the deepest sense of regret’ to Asian countries that co-operated with Japan to gain ’emancipation’ from Western colonisation. Hirohito also laments devastation caused by ‘a new and most cruel bomb’ dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and asks everyone to stay calm while helping to reconstruct the country.

Its significance is that Hirohito, who at the time was considered a living deity, made the address, said Takahisa Furukawa, a historian at Nihon University in Tokyo.
‘What’s most important is the emperor reached out to the people to tell them that they had to surrender and end the war,’ he said.

‘The speech is a reminder of what it took to end the wrong war.’

Every Japanese knows a part of the speech where Hirohito refers to his resolve for peace by ‘enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable’, a phrase repeatedly used in news and dramas about the war.

But the rest is little known, largely because the text he read was deliberately written in arcane language making him sound authoritative and convincing as he sought people’s understanding about Japan’s surrender.

The emperor’s voice sounds slightly higher and more intense than the familiar recording that was heard on TV and elsewhere as a replica of the 1945 broadcast.

‘The language was extremely difficult,’ said Tomie Kondo, 92, who listened to the 1945 broadcast in a monitoring room at NHK where she worked as a newscaster.

Listen:

The History Channel has provided audio from an NBC News broadcast detailing the timeline of Hirohito’s surrender. It may or may not give you chills, depending on how intensely you nerd out over WWII history:

The Daily Mail has curated an intense collection of photographs from Hirohito’s bunker, and other locations on V-J Day.