Ukraine removes image of Japan’s WWII-era emperor alongside Hitler, Mussolini from video

Japan's Emperor Hirohito of Japan, in September 1967. (AP Photo)
Japan's Emperor Hirohito of Japan, in September 1967. (AP Photo)

TOKYO, Japan — Ukraine’s government has apologized and removed a photo of Japanese wartime Emperor Hirohito from a video showing him with Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini after Japan protested, officials say today.

Japan will continue to support Ukrainians who are defending their country from Russia’s invasion despite the “completely inappropriate” portrayal of Hirohito, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki says.

The video, posted by the Ukrainian government on Twitter on April 1, criticized Russia’s invasion as “rashism.” Underneath the photos of the three World War II-era leaders were the words “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945.”

Japan fought World War II in the name of Hirohito, who was revered as a god until he renounced his divinity, after Japan’s defeat. Historical evaluations of his role in the war remain divided. He is known posthumously in Japan as Emperor Showa.

“Portraying Hitler, Mussolini, and Emperor Showa in the same context is completely inappropriate,” Isozaki tells reporters. “It was extremely regrettable.”

Isozaki says Japan lodged a protest and demanded the removal of the emperor’s image, which Ukraine has done.

“Our sincere apologies to Japan for making this mistake,” the Ukrainian government tweeted yesterday. “We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan.”

Ukraine Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky also apologizes in a tweet today, saying the creator of the video lacked an understanding of history.

Hirohito’s son, former Emperor Akihito, devoted his reign to atoning for the impact of the war in and outside Japan.

The video has been replaced with one without Hirohito’s photo, but many Japanese on social media continue to criticize the original as an insult and say Japan should stop supporting Ukraine. Others say Hideki Tojo, the Japanese wartime prime minister who was later convicted of war crimes and hanged, would have been a better choice than Hirohito for the video.

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