When the Emperor was Divine


Julie Otsuka

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Emperor Hirohito Character Analysis

The Japanese Emperor during the war. According to Japanese traditions, the Emperor was the divine embodiment of a god. The boy repeats his name over and over as an act of defiance against the prison guards. At the end of the war, the Emperor repudiates his divinity, signaling the end of a period of Japanese pride and self-determination.

Emperor Hirohito Quotes in When the Emperor was Divine

The When the Emperor was Divine quotes below are all either spoken by Emperor Hirohito or refer to Emperor Hirohito. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of When the Emperor was Divine published in 2003.
Chapter 3 Quotes

Whenever the boy walked past the shadow of a guard tower he pulled his cap down low over his head and tried not to say the word. But sometimes it slipped out anyway, Hirohito, Hirohito, Hirohito. He said it quietly. Quickly. He whispered it.

Related Characters: The Boy, Emperor Hirohito
Related Symbols: The Japanese Emperor
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

In the dream there was always a beautiful wooden door. The beautiful wooden door was very small—the size of a pillow, say, or an encyclopedia. Behind the small but beautiful wooden door there was a second door, and behind the second door there was a picture of the Emperor, which no one was allowed to see. For the Emperor was holy and divine. A god.

Related Characters: The Boy, Emperor Hirohito
Related Symbols: The Japanese Emperor
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Emperor Hirohito Character Timeline in When the Emperor was Divine

The timeline below shows where the character Emperor Hirohito appears in When the Emperor was Divine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: When The Emperor Was Divine
Racism Theme Icon
Imprisonment and Freedom Theme Icon
Assimilation and Loss of Identity Theme Icon
...the guard towers, pulls his hat down over his head, and whisper the Emperor’s name: Hirohito. Hirohito. Hirohito. (full context)