Japan Vigil for a Failing Emperor

A nation prays for Hirohito

Misty autumn rains fell on Tokyo late last week as millions of Japanese waited anxiously for news of their most important cultural symbol. Emperor Hirohito, 87, the world's longest-reigning monarch and the last surviving head of state of the World War II era, lay gravely ill, and at week's end was running a fever.

The Japanese had known for 18 months that the Emperor's health was failing. Nevertheless, the news that Hirohito had vomited blood and was experiencing internal bleeding came as a jolt to many of his subjects. The Emperor's doctors diagnosed his condition as "obstructive jaundice" and said the...

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