Twenty-year-old Crown Prince Hirohito (center) visiting British prime minister David Lloyd George (to his right) in May 1921
Emperor Hirohito, supreme commander of the armed forces, 1941
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Kido Koichi, the emperor’s closest aide, acted as the gatekeeper of the palace.
A rare glimpse of an imperial conference attended by top military and civilian leaders in January 1938
Jubilant actors and their audience at the Kabukiza Theater cheer the fall of Nanjing in December 1937.
Rice rationing began in major cities in April 1941. The sign at this distribution center reads INCREASED DISTRIBUTION FROM TODAY.
Well before the de facto total U.S. oil embargo in August 1941, the dearth of petroleum in Japan led to the invention of cars that ran on charcoal.
Prince Konoe Fumimaro impersonates Adolf Hitler at the costume banquet held on the eve of his daughter’s wedding in the spring of 1937, shortly before he was named Japan’s prime minister.
Konoe moderated his hawkish stance in this radio address on November 3, 1938, announcing that Japan was fighting China to build a “New East Asian Order” for the good of the whole of Asia.
At the signing of the Tripartite Pact in Berlin in September 1940 are Ambassador Kurusu Saburo (left), Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano of Italy (center), and Hitler.
Konoe leads banzai cheers at the founding ceremony of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, formed in October 1940.
Early in 1941, Konoe’s government dispatched Admiral Nomura Kichisaburo to Washington, D.C., in the hope of averting hostilities. Joseph Grew, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, sees him off at Tokyo Station.
The Konoe government’s pro-Axis policy was led by Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke (middle), a U.S.-educated eccentric with a flair for publicity. In the spring of 1941, he is welcomed at Anhalter Station in Berlin. Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi foreign minister, is to his left.
Matsuoka negotiated a neutrality agreement with Stalin, signed on April 13, 1941. The two bid farewell at Moscow’s Yaroslavsky Station.
On July 18, 1941, Konoe (first row, right) formed a new cabinet without Matsuoka, including Navy Minister Oikawa Koshiro (second row, far left), Foreign Minister Toyoda Teijiro (third row, far left), Army Minister Tojo Hideki (next to Oikawa), and the general director of the Cabinet Planning Board, Suzuki Teiichi (in the light-colored suit a few steps behind Konoe)
On August 2, 1941, Japanese soldiers march outside Saigon, waving a Rising Sun flag.
The August 1941 meeting between U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland, Canada, to discuss the future of their alliance and the war in Europe culminated in the Atlantic Charter
Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku was opposed to Japan’s Axis alliance. This photograph was taken in November 1940, shortly before he started devising his Pearl Harbor strategy.
The chief of the Navy General Staff, Nagano Osami (left), and the chief of the Army General Staff, Sugiyama Hajime (right), strongly pushed for war preparations in the summer and fall of 1941.
The German newspaper reporter Richard Sorge was a Soviet spy operating in Tokyo on the eve of the war in the Pacific. Shown here is his foreign correspondent ID.
Ozaki Hotsumi, a secret Communist and a well-known journalist, helped Sorge infiltrate Japan’s political elite.
Ozaki profited greatly from his close friendship with Saionji Kinkazu, who, as Konoe’s aide, had access to government information.
In Washington, Ambassador Nomura (left) and the recently arrived diplomat Kurusu are led by Secretary of State Cordell Hull from the State Department to the White House to meet Roosevelt in November 1941.
Togo Shigenori, a veteran diplomat, became foreign minister in the Tojo government following Konoe’s resignation on October 18, 1941.
Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the Japanese attacks, December 7, 1941
An Osaka crowd reads handwritten reports of the Japanese attacks on the United States and its allies.
Imperial Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko addresses the first postwar session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, on September 5, 1945.