JAPAN: Plucking the Thorn

Awkwardly mounted on a large black horse, a Tokyo university professor spurred up to his assembled students crying, "Today even the heavens are rejoicing." In the imperial palace near by, a slight, myopic man periodically stepped onto a balcony to acknowledge 100,000 voices raising a roar of banzai (ten thousand years). Less than a dozen years after renouncing the legend that he is a descendant of the gods, Hirohito, the 124th Emperor of Japan, was again the object of something close to religious veneration.

The outburst of devotion that greeted Hirohito's 56th birthday last...

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