The Gyokuon-hōsō record inside the NHK Museum of Broadcasting.
|Other names||Gyokuon-hōsō, 玉音放送|
|Running time||4 minutes, 36 seconds|
|Country of origin||Empire of Japan|
|Narrated by||Japanese Emperor Shōwa (Emperor Shōwa 昭和天皇 Shōwa-tennō)|
|Recording studio||Imperial Palace, Tokyo|
|Original release||August 15, 1945,|
12:00 pm – 12:04 pm
The Jewel Voice Broadcast (玉音放送, Gyokuon-hōsō) (or less literally, broadcast in the emperor's own voice) was the radio broadcast of surrender given by Japanese Emperor Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇 Shōwa-tennō) read out the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the Greater East Asia War (大東亜戦争終結ノ詔書, Daitōa-sensō-shūketsu-no-shōsho). It announced to the Japanese people that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military at the end of World War II. Following the Hiroshima bombing on August 6th, Soviet declaration of war and Nagasaki bombing on August 9th, the Emperor's speech was broadcast at noon Japan Standard Time on August 15, 1945, and did reference the atomic bombs as a reason for the surrender.
The speech was probably the first time that an Emperor of Japan had spoken (albeit via a phonograph record) to the common people. It was delivered in the formal Classical Japanese that few ordinary people could easily understand. It made no direct reference to a surrender of Japan, instead stating that the government had been instructed to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration fully. This created confusion in the minds of many listeners who were not familiar with the declaration and were not sure whether Japan had surrendered. Both the poor audio quality of the radio broadcast and the formal courtly language in which the speech was composed worsened the confusion. A digitally-remastered version of the broadcast was released on June 30, 2015.
The speech was not broadcast directly, but replayed from a phonograph recording. On August 14, 1945, the NHK dispatched sound technicians to the Imperial Palace to record the broadcast. Microphones were set up in an office bunker under the Imperial Household Ministry, and Emperor Shōwa proceeded in between 11:25pm and 11:30pm. During the first recording he spoke too softly, and upon the advice of the technicians, offered to rerecord it. On the second attempt, his voice was considered too high pitched, with occasional characters being skipped. Nevertheless, the second version was deemed the official one, with the first serving as a backup.
Many elements of the Imperial Japanese Army were extremely opposed to the idea that Shōwa was going to end the war, as they believed that it was dishonourable. Consequently, as many as 1,000 officers and soldiers raided the Imperial palace on the evening of August 14 to destroy the recording. The rebels were confused by the layout of the Imperial palace and were unable to find the recordings, which had been hidden in a pile of documents. The two phonographs were labelled 'ORIGINAL' and 'COPY' and successfully smuggled out of the palace, the original in a lacquer box and the copy in a lunch bag. Major Kenji Hatanaka attempted to halt the broadcast at the NHK station but was ordered to desist by the Eastern District Army.
To ease the anticipated confusion, after the conclusion of the speech, a radio announcer clarified that the Emperor's message had meant that Japan was surrendering. According to French journalist Robert Guillain, who then lived in Tokyo, upon the announcement's conclusion, most Japanese retreated into their homes or places of business for several hours to quietly absorb and contemplate the significance of the announcement.
The recording disappeared in the post-surrender chaos, but a radio technician had secretly made a copy, which was given to Occupation authorities and is the source of all recordings available today. The original record was later recovered but is generally believed to have never again been played.
Though the word "surrender" was not explicitly stated, Shōwa instructed his government to communicate to the Allies that the "empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration", which amounted to an acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. He justified Japan's decision to go to war as an act of "self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia" and referenced the setbacks and defeats of recent years, saying "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage". He mentioned the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that had occurred days earlier, calling the atomic bomb a "new and most cruel bomb", but omitted the Soviet invasion of Manchuria as the final impetus for surrender. Shōwa ended with a call on the Japanese people "to be devoted to construction for the future".
The broadcast was translated into English and broadcast internationally by radio presenter Tadaichi Hirakawa at the same time. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recorded the broadcast, and its entire text appeared in The New York Times.
TO OUR GOOD AND LOYAL SUBJECTS,
After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered our government to communicate to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.
But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, or to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia.
The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.
The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of our profound solicitude.
The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.
Having been able to safeguard and maintain the Kokutai, We are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.
Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.
Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the imperial state and keep pace with the progress of the world.
Tokyo, August 14, 1945 (Shōwa 20)
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- "Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender". 1945.
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