chapter  5
World war and the imperial will, 1941–1945
Pages 30

In early 1941 the Emperor continued to perform the public ritual role of nationalist icon which the government and the people expected of him. The foreign correspondent, Otto Tolischus, observed that during the 11 February Kigensetsu commemoration of the 2,601st anniversary of the founding of the empire, the Emperor and government dignitaries gathered ‘in a severely plain hall built of white, knotless timber, decorated…with branches of the Sakaki tree’. Then ‘the Emperor, clad in ancient ceremonial dress, entered the innermost sanctuary and worshipped his legendary ancestress, the Sun Goddess, and his other Imperial Ancestors from whom he derives his supposed divinity’. Later that day large crowds waving flags thronged the shrines and after shouting ‘banzai’ three times, bowed towards the palace which ‘remained mute-like the heavens’ (Tolischus 1944:18).