Hirohito was the last Japanese Emperor to claim divine status, and his death in 1989 not only saw the end of a 63-year reign, but also brought into question the entire future of the monarchy. Three critical factors in traditional life relating to the role of the Emperor are now open to change. Firstly the extent to which the gods of Shinto determine the fortunes of the nation. Secondly the way in which the goodwill of the gods depends on there being an Emperor, and finally the Emperor's role in the seasonal rites which determine the success of the rice harvest. Thomas Crump's study of Japan at the crossroads assesses the political and cultural decisions that now have to be made and considers the options open to the new Emperor, Akihito.