Kerim Friedman was curious about Emperor Hirohito’s famous remark, while announcing Japan’s surrender in 1945, “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” (in the usual translation). So he asked Matt of No-sword to explicate, and the results are enlightening:
…since the speech was in court Japanese (obscure even in 1945), exactly how to interpret this line is not clear. Some modern commentators do accept the “understatement” reading that Krugman uses. Some people claim that that passage…’means “things have definitely not gone well for us” (usage of 必ずしも, the key word corresponding to “not necessarily” in Krugman’s version, has changed slightly over the years), some say it means “[despite everyone’s efforts] things will not necessarily improve for us”.
I lean towards the latter interpretation myself. By the time Hirohito delivered this speech (via a recording broadcast over the radio), central Tokyo had already been burned to the ground; I don’t think that even the Japanese leadership of the time could seriously have written a speech that could call this “not necessarily to [our] advantage”. Implicitly admitting that things are going badly, and then adding “and, contrary to expectations, they are not likely to improve” seems much more likely.
I also seem to recall hearing that the original version of this line was something like “the war situation gets worse every day”, so it could just be the tortured result of a fierce edit war within the bureaucracy.
He also points out that “most Japanese in 1945 would have found the Emperor’s announcement very difficult to understand in the first place.”