The meaning behind this picture of Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur
This is a picture of Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting on the 29th of September, 1945, after Japan surrendered at the conclusion of World War 2. At the time, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and rehabilitation of the Japanese state.
Emperor Hirohito was a living god to the Japanese, and MacArthur found that ruling via the Emperor made his job in running Japan much easier than it otherwise would have been. Therefore, this picture was taken to show the Japanese that MacArthur had more power than Akihito.
MacArthur is much taller and more muscular than Hirohito. Moreover, MacArthur seems relaxed, putting his hands on his waist and standing with his feet shoulder-width. On the other hand, Akihito looks anxious, standing straight and wearing a suit.
What is most important here is the standing position. From the Japanese traditional perspective, men always stand to the right of women.
However, in this picture, Hirohito is to the left of MacArthur. It signifies nonverbally that MacArthur is more powerful than Hirohito.
When you examine historical pictures, it is crucial to interpret them according to the way in which the photographers intended the picture to be seen. These days, it is not important where women stand relative to men.
Additionally, there are two other pictures that were not shown to Japanese people at the time. In one MacArthur is closing his eyes, and in the other Hirohito is standing with his feet shoulder-width, which belies his feelings of nervousness.
Based on the lecture by professor Naoto Ogawa(緒川直人）at Nihon University.