Should "Showa" or "Hirohito" be used in the following context, which is in everyday conversation, rather than formal writing?

before world war 2, schoolchildren went to school on National Foundation Day and made a deep bow to the pictures of Meiji, Taisho and Showa emperors in the gym.

"Hirohito" feels more natural to me, possibly because he was alive at the time being described, and possibly because "Hirohito" is a more well-recognised name than his posthumous name "Showa".

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    Hi, Andrew, isn't it better suited on Japanese Stack Exchange? – user24743 Feb 14 '16 at 5:29
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    In your example, I would use Showa since this usage (the emperor of that named era) is the same as Taisho. And you would say "the Showa emperor", not "the Hirohito emperor". As for what is more commonly used in the English speaking world (where and when?), that is a history question, not an English learning question. In America, the general population more likely knows Hirohito, primarily due to WWII history lessons. – user3169 Feb 14 '16 at 6:13
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    Also where is the audience to which you are writing? If in Japan, definitely use "Showa". – user3169 Feb 14 '16 at 6:15
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    It seems to me that this usage of "the Shōwa emperor" is analogous to an English-language title, not a name. The title seems to mean "Emperor of Japan during the Shōwa period". – Jasper Feb 14 '16 at 6:21
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    @Rathony It would be off-topic on Japanese.SE since it's not about the Japanese language. Andrew Grimm is speaking English here. – snailboat Feb 14 '16 at 13:05

In American English, his name was (and remains) Hirohito. It would require a major propaganda campaign to cause most Americans to change how they refer to such a prominent person -- and I am not aware of such a propaganda campaign having been attempted in the English-speaking world.

  • Yes. This is the kind of answer I want! – Andrew Grimm Feb 14 '16 at 6:03
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    This answer needs some references to back up what you are saying. Otherwise it reads like an opinion. – user3169 Feb 14 '16 at 18:45
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    @user3169 -- You are incorrectly attempting to shift the burden of proof. That the Emperor of Japan during the middle of the 20th century was known to Americans as "Emperor Hirohito" is a widely known fact; it needs no citation. To change the name (as known by tens of millions of Americans) would either require a major propaganda campaign, or for three generations of Americans to die off -- that should be obvious. If there had been such a propaganda campaign, it would have had to have been obvious, and it would be easy for you to cite. – Jasper Feb 14 '16 at 19:05

In your example

before world war 2, school children went to school on National Foundation Day and made a deep bow to the pictures of Meiji, Taisho and Showa emperors in the gym.

Your use of Hirohito would be incorrect.

Meiji, Taisho and Showa are historical periods in Japan

Mutsuhito, Yoshihito, Hirohito are the respective emperors.

Since his death, Hirohito is referred to as the Emperor Showa

The equivalents of using Hirohito (the name) in your list

Meiji, Taisho, and Hirohito emperors

for other countries would be

Edwardian (era), Tudor (era), and Elizabeth II monarchies (Elizabeth II is postwar era) here
40's, 50's, and Kennedy presidents (Kennedy was a president in the 60's)

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    The block quote looks weird. Did you mean it to look like that? – Andrew Grimm Feb 14 '16 at 10:19
  • This answer is unhelpful. The answerer is apparently unaware that in Japanese Showa is not only the name of the era, but is now (since his death) the name of the former emperor. However, this information is known to hardly any English speakers, and so referring to him as Showa would not be understood: it's not a matter of incorrectness, it is a matter of comprehensibility. – Colin Fine Feb 14 '16 at 11:34
  • I see you've now modified your answer. If you want to make a point of using unfamiliar foreign conventions when addressing an English audience, good luck. Sometimes you may be successful. Often you'll either confuse people, or they'll think you're strange or pretentious. – Colin Fine Feb 14 '16 at 15:38
  • @ColinFine Then why would "emperors" be placed after the three names instead of preceding the names? To me, it looks perfectly each name is a noun adjunct modifying the "emperors". – Nihilist_Frost Feb 15 '16 at 16:15
  • @Nihilist_Frost: that's what it looks like in the unsourced passage Andrew Grimm cited. Since we don't know its provenance, it doesn't seem to me to clinch any argument about usage. (I don't actually think it is by a native English speaker because of the lack of article before the names.) – Colin Fine Feb 15 '16 at 18:23

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