January 7, 1989OBITUARY
Hirohito, 124th Emperor of Japan, Is Dead at 87
By SUSAN CHIRA, Special to the New York TimesEmperor Hirohito, the last of the World War II leaders and Japan's longest-reigning monarch, died today at the Imperial Palace. He was 87 years old.
In his 62-year reign, the Emperor presided over the most tumultuous era in Japan's modern history, although like most of the 123 emperors before him, he watched more than he acted. During his reign, his nation embraced militarism, conquered much of Asia, waged war on the Allied Powers, suffered the world's first atomic bombing, and painfully rebuilt, rising in just four decades to become the world's most vibrant economic power.
Hirohito's death came at 6:33 A.M. (4:33 P.M. Friday, Eastern standard time) after more than a year of declining health. He had been confined to his bed for more than three months.
Akihito Becomes Emperor Because Japanese tradition decrees that the Chrysanthemum Throne may not be empty, Crown Prince Akihito, Hirohito's 55-year-old son, became Japan's 125th Emperor. In a ceremony as ancient as his title, Akihito received two of the Imperial treasures - a sword and a jewel - and received the Imperial seal and the seal of state.
Shoichi Fujimori, the grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, announced the Emperor's death at 7:55 A.M. and revealed for the first time that Hirohito had been suffering from cancer of the duodenum, a section of the small intestine.
''The whole nation is deeply saddened by his death,'' the steward said, using a special honorific verb reserved for the death of an emperor. ''Despite the concerted efforts of medical treatment, finally today His Majesty passed away from a tumor in the duodenum.''
The Emperor's chief physician, Akira Takagi, told reporters this morning that doctors had known Hirohito had cancer in September 1987, after they had operated on his pancreas. But, he said, the doctors lied about that fact to prevent the Emperor from learning that he had cancer. In Japan, cancer patients are usually not told that they have the disease.
Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, dressed in a black suit with black armbands, said: ''The sad news of the passing of His late Majesty the Emperor has left me grief-stricken. Our sincere prayers for his recovery were in vain, and I am at a loss for words.''
There has been no official announcement of the date of the funeral, but Government officials have decided that it will be held 40 to 50 days after Hirohito's death. This morning, the Cabinet decided to call a six-day official mourning period, during which all Government agencies will refrain from music and dancing and will fly flags. For private citizens and private companies, the Government is suggesting a two-day mourning period. This morning, the flags outside the Imperial Household Agency were draped with black bunting.
As news of Hirohito's death spread, many Japanese throughout Tokyo put flags outside their homes and businesses. An elderly woman hoisted a flag to half-staff outside a sushi shop, radio stations played classical music and a crowd gathered near the Imperial Palace. A large contingent of riot police officers were deployed to guard against anti-imperial demonstrations or the possibility that avid followers might commit suicide.
No Shinto Rites Planned According to the Japanese television network NHK, the state funeral will not follow the Shinto rituals performed when the Emperor Taisho, Hirohito's father, died. Because Japan has since adopted a new, democratic Constitution, the Government wants to distinguish all the ceremonies surrounding Hirohito's death and Akihito's ascension from the past, when Shinto was the state religion.
But many traditions are being honored. This morning at the Imperial Palace, Mr. Takeshita, members of his Cabinet, the speakers of both houses of the legislature and other officials, clad in morning coats, watched the brief and ancient ritual that passes to the new Emperor two of Japan's three sacred treasures.
As Akihito stood on a white rug in front of a white and gold throne, Imperial Household Agency chamberlains bowed twice, then held up a sword and a jewel, wrapped in embroidered cloth and tied with a purple cord.
Another chamberlain then placed the Imperial and state seals, wrapped in purple coth and stamped in gold with the Chrysanthemum crest, before Akihito. He bowed, and then stood as Mr. Takeshita and other Government officials bowed deeply before him. Then a chamberlain picked up the sword with both hands and walked out, followed first by Akihito and then by other chamberlains bearing the jewel and the imperial and state seals wrapped in purple cloth and stamped in gold with the chrysanthemum crest.
Japanese are now mourning the end of an era: Showa, or Enlightened Peace, the title by which Hirohito will henceforth be known. That was the title chosen for Hirohito's reign when he succeeded his father, the Emperor Taisho, at the age of 25 on Dec. 25, 1926.
This afternoon, the Government said the new era name will be Heisei, which roughly translates as ''the achievement of peace.'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi, explaining the choice, said the new coinage expressed the hope that ''both within the country and outside, on heaven and on earth, peace will be achieved.''
When Hirohito ascended the throne, his subjects revered him as a descendant of Amaterasu, the sun goddess who, according to Japanese mythology, created the Japanese archipelago from the drops of water that fell from her spear. Fueled by militarist propaganda that drew on these myths, more than two million soldiers died in his name. 'Endure the Unendurable' But on Aug. 15, 1945, that myth was shattered as his subjects heard Hirohito's voice for the first time. He announced Japan's surrender on the radio and called on the Japanese to ''endure the unendurable.'' Now, he told his countrymen in a second precedent-shattering announcement five months later, the people were sovereign and the Emperor was not divine.
Thus Akihito becomes the first Emperor to be installed since Japan was transformed into a constitutional democracy under the American Occupation at the end of World War II. Eleven years old at the end of the war, the young Crown Prince diligently prepared himself to become Emperor in the new democratic era, studying English with an American tutor and becoming the first heir to the throne to marry a commoner.
The new Emperor is only the fourth in 120 years since Japan opened itself to the world, abandoned feudalism and began its industrial drive under his great-grandfather, the Emperor Meiji.
Hirohito's long illness left his nation prepared for his death. Until the last two years, he had been vital, pursuing his avocation as a marine biologist, walking in his garden, and waving at the public a few times a year from the balcony at the Imperial Palace. Surgery in 1987
But in September 1987 he underwent surgery on his pancreas, the first operation ever performed on a Japanese emperor. He appeared to rally from the operation successfully. But last year, he began to grow thinner and had to cancel several public appearances. On the night of Sept. 19 he vomited blood, and the nation began a tense, televised vigil. Crews of reporters camped out at the Imperial Palace, reporting his temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate throughout his final illness.
As the Emperor's condition worsened, Government officials canceled trips abroad, public figures put off weddings and other celebrations, and cities around the country canceled autumn festivals. For a while, Japan seemed suspended in time, forced to face the prospect of life without the only emperor most of the nation had ever known. As Hirohito lingered, receiving blood transfusions almost daily, his erratic blood pressure and other vital signs dutifully reported several times a day, the public's initial wave of emotion subsided somewhat.
This morning, Mr. Takeshita said: ''Our country has since pursued the realization of peace and democracy under the new constitution. It has achieved remarkable progress by virtue of the untiring efforts of our people and has now become an important member of the international community. I feel most keenly that these achievements have been made possible by the presence of His Late Majesty as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people.''
REAGAN SENDS CONDOLENCES WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (Special to The New York Times) - President Reagan tonight extended condolences to the Emperor's family and to the people of Japan after Hirohito's death was announced.
''His Majesty's 62-year reign spanned one of the most tumultuous, and yet at the same time constructive, eras in the history of mankind - an age of unprecedented economic collapse, and most vicious war, astonishing scientific achievement, and dramatic political and social changes throughout the world,'' said Mr. Reagan, who added that he had enjoyed several meetings with the Emperor, most recently in Tokyo in 1986.
Saying the Emperor played a ''truly heroic role'' in bringing an end to the war, Mr. Reagan added, ''We shall long remember him for his contributions which strengthened the United States-Japan relationship and set a future course of continued close and friendly relations.'' The statement was issued after the President entered Walter Reed Army Medical Center for surgery.
Marlin Fitzwater, the White House press secretary, said no decision had been made on who would represent the United States at the Emperor's funeral. He noted that the funeral would probably be scheduled for ''some period that would take us into the next Administration.''