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  #21  
Old 03-06-2008, 09:52 AM
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Post Strong characters

Fritz and Kobayashi make it quite clear that the excellent intentions and the good will to serve their country in the way they suppose to be the most effective cannot fairly be doubted in any of the four persons concerned by the conflict (emperor, empress, crown prince and crown princess). But both couples – or even all four of them because the paths of the women obviously had to be different from those of the men - are pioneers in their own special way. And they all have a pioneer´s hardiness – this quality was and is absolutely necessary to help them get through but, unfortunately, it also can have sometimes a rather provocative effect on others. All of them are that type of person that is sometimes affectionately called “ a rough diamond” – and, sorry to say it, these persons usually do not much appreciate each other (exceptions included). They rather have a longing to be with people who may not have such extraordinarily clear principles but who are a bit more “polished” instead and, accordingly, have a talent to soften human interaction and to smooth it down.

Fritz and Kobayashi quote one of Akihito´s friends, Akashi, who says about the emperor: “He is a terribly serious person. And he wants to confront matters from a direct position. His thoughts are without frills. But that also means that there is no flexibility in his way of thinking.”

Michiko is also famous for her severity upon herself and upon others. Her father has called her “a perfectionist”.

The friends of Naruhito and Masako praise their human qualities. Naruhito´s friend and co-musician, Isamu Kamata, enthusiastically says: “The prince is such an ideal and friendly person without any faults.” A friend of Masako comments: “If you look at Masako´s thoughts she is the most beautiful person I know. She has such a charm of manner. Wherever she is people come to her and want to talk to her.” But an old friend of the couple has to admit: “They both have a pure heart. But the disadvantage that they have in common is that they are awkward.” Concerning Naruhito, this friend says: “As a result from his rigid education the prince does not know any methods to deal with people in a graceful way. His opinion is correct but he is lacking in language to express it.” Masako is, according to her friends, not good at speaking in public and rather shy. On the other hand, she is very honest, unable to hide her emotions and unable to flatter.

A friend of the emperor, Hashimoto, said: “ If princess Masako were as nice and clever as her sister-in-law Kiko and would submit herself like Kiko to the emperor and the empress there would never have arised a problem in the family.”

Although this possibility is purely hypothetical as the crown prince never had wished for a submissive wife – he had publicly declared that he wanted his future partner to have the courage to clearly and directly express her opinion, and he had said that before he even met Masako – it is probably quite true what Hashimoto says. But – and here I stop giving a summary of the book and begin to express - from here until the end of this part - only my personal opinion: it is true for every single one of the four. If only one of them were as “nice and clever as Kiko”, they´d very probably not be where they are now. But that is exactly what is simply impossible. You cannot tell the water to burn nor the fire to freeze.

If you look at Michiko, for example: I am absolutely convinced that her mother-in-law would have disliked in the beginning ANY commoner her son would have chosen to marry. But maybe she would - over the years - have grown accustomed even to a commoner as her daughter-in-law if only she would not have been so absolutely immaculate and perfect as Michiko was. I am sorry to say this but I am quite sure that Nagako did not like Michiko one bit better for the fact that her, Michiko´s, first child already had been a boy while she, Nagako, had had four daughters before Akihito. I am not saying that Michiko could have changed matters. I am sure she did always everything that was right and was much more submissive in her behaviour than Masako ever dreamt of being. But I AM saying that no matter what she did her strong, unbending personality always shone through and constantly provoked Nagako. We cannot help being who we are.

The same can, in a different way, be said of Kiko. Somewhere in this forum I have read an article – I think it was shortly before Hisahito´s birth, one of those that explained why she was thought to be such a paragon – in which it was said that one thing Kiko was exceedingly admired for was the dignified composure with which she took it that her husband had an affair somewhere abroad (in Thailand I think it was). I do not believe for a moment that it was “dignified composure” what she really felt. I am sure she felt more hurt and angry when she got to know this than she would ever show. But: even if she were not a Japanese princess - she is simply not the person to give Fumihito a slap in the face, no matter what he does. (Which is probably a pity because that is what he rightfully deserved on the occasion, in my opinion. He is certainly charming and, I am sure, neither cunning nor malicious, but it seems to me that when he gets bored he has a tendency to be very inconsiderate of other people´s feelings. I do hope that his new status as the father of the future heir will serve to keep him entertained for a good while.)

To be continued.
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Old 03-07-2008, 01:05 PM
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Fascinating. Thank you, Chirac.
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Old 03-07-2008, 02:21 PM
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Poor ChiaraC! You are christianed as the former president of France...Jacques CHIRAC!!!

No, speaking seriously, your tanscription are very useful and interesting. 10.000 thanks!

Vanesa.
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Old 03-07-2008, 08:24 PM
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Ooops! My bad. My apologies, ChiaraC.


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Poor ChiaraC! You are christianed as the former president of France...Jacques CHIRAC!!!

No, speaking seriously, your tanscription are very useful and interesting. 10.000 thanks!

Vanesa.
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Old 03-08-2008, 06:26 PM
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Fantastic translation, probably the best book I've come across talking about the Japanese royal family. Thanks so much, looking forward to more!
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Old 03-09-2008, 03:40 AM
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thanks for the transalation ChiaraC. I love to read your posts, give me more information about one of my favourite royal couple ever.
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Old 03-09-2008, 10:42 AM
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Many, many thanks for your time in translating and posting, ChiaraC. Your efforts are very much appreciated! I'm a big fan of the CP and his family and this book seems to be the most objective, insightful and balanced so far on them. I especially liked the part that the couple seem to have the same personalities (shy, modern, etc.). Looking forward to the succeeding chapters.
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:03 PM
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Post An heir for the chrysanthemum throne? Part I

Thank you very much for your overwhelming support! That keeps me going - although I really like to do it anyway. Concerning the next part I was so fascinated with the story myself that I was carried away and instead of a third part of translation wrote a comment... But the "baby question" IS interesting and, in my opinion, worth to take some time with it. Enjoy!


There is one thing concerning which all persons involved in this conflict were unanimous: the wish that the crown princess might become pregnant. And if during the first years of the marriage of crown prince and crown princess a child of theirs had been born the differing opinions on the role of the tenno that the emperor and the crown prince entertain would in all probability never have culminated in this state of open war that we presently witness. But if we take a look on the way how the emperor and the crown prince dealt with the problem that they both shared – the lack of a male heir – we can already perceive in the way how they set their priorities in dealing with it the differences that exist between them in their view of life, of their duties and of the values that in their opinion are the most essential for the survival of the monarchy in Japan.


One of the things in which the emperor firmly held up the tradition was the absolute necessity of a male heir. Not only because of the famous b...d line (sorry, I cannot write it correctly, it is omitted) that even might be a myth: Fritz and Kobayashi say that a scientist found out that at one point in history an adoptive child inherited the throne… But if this is true it could, of course, never be officially admitted. And there are, in fact, reasons in the tasks of the tenno, as Fritz and Kobayashi point out, that make a male tenno desirable: the tenno is the highest priest in the shinto religion and prays in special ceremonies at certain days in the year for the nation and especially for good rice harvests. Women are in shinto seen as “dirty”. They are associated with b..d because of their monthly bleeding and because of the fact that they are the ones who give birth. Women are not allowed to be present at sacred places during their menstruation. So what would a female tenno do if she, just for example, got her menses on the first day of the year at which traditionally an important prayer (in honour of the gods of the west, the east, the north and the south) is taking place? It is obviously not impossible as we know it was done before (somehow) but it would be difficult and from the point of view of shinto very far from being ideal.


So, from Akihito´s perspective, a male heir was and is absolutely necessary. And it must be said that when the crown prince and the crown princess were blamed for “not trying hard enough” for a boy it was not completely without a reason. The main problem - that obviously is of some medical nature - was, of course, not their fault and if you see how happy they are with Aiko it is to be supposed that they would have liked to have many children (and not only in order to save the dynasty). But they did obviously not want it at any cost. If they saw the human quality of their relationship with Aiko or with each other in danger that was their priority. Two, maybe three instances show this.
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:10 PM
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Post An heir for the chrysanthemum throne? Part II

Fritz and Kobayashi report that in the beginning of Naruhito´s and Masako´s marriage, practically from the first day, everybody expected them to have a child – ASAP! (They even had hurried the wedding for that reason: all the things that an imperial bride had to learn before her marriage about shinto, rituals, caligraphy, waka poems etc. had been crammed into Masako´s head in only one and a half months and 50 lessons – Michiko at her time had been given three months and 97 lessons. Masako was already 29 years old when she married – not a single night was to be lost!) But Masako and Naruhito wanted to give themselves time. Their coming together had been difficult and for a long time Masako had declined to even seriously consider Naruhito´s request. A lot of persuasion had been necessary to convince her. And although she was now very happy with the decision she had taken she had not had much time to prepare for it, and all had come a bit of a sudden. Masako wanted to go slowly and “first build a firm foundation for their love. And the prince accepted that.”


Here I want to give a comment of my own because I am myself not quite sure what Fritz and Kobayashi mean by: they first wanted to “build a firm foundation for their love”. They do not explain this any further but as this “slow going” seems to imply that they could not have had a child nine months after their marriage I can only suppose that one of two things was the case: first, that they used contraceptives to ensure that they would have “quality time” together before they would welcome a new member of their family, or, second, that they did not have a “complete” physical relationship from the day of their wedding but that they were giving themselves some “dating time” to get to know each other better first. (That would have been - if it IS the case - a very wise decision in my opinion. For everybody who wants a lasting relationship it is a good idea to have a time of “slowly getting closer” to each other and if this is for some reason not possible before the wedding why not take your time afterwards?)


But even if the crown prince and the crown princess did NOT try for a child from the very first moment it is not to be supposed that this really made a difference - Fritz and Kobayashi think that the pregnancy that ended with the miscarriage as well as Aiko´s birth were the result of artificial insemination. And if the couple would have tried before “to do it themselves” for 6 years instead of 5 years (which would give them a rather long “dating time” of one year) it very probably would not have changed anything.


The second “not trying hard enough” might not even have happened – maybe, maybe Aiko was really a piece of luck after long waiting. But “according to medical authorities”, Fritz and Kobayashi say, “it is hardly possible that a couple who without using contraceptives did not have children for six years so easily can produce a child without receiving treatment.” There had been only a very short time between the miscarriage in December 1999 and the second pregnancy already in March 2001 – too short for nature. But: if they really made use of artificial insemination to get Aiko why, so Fritz and Kobayashi ask, did they not “design” this child to be a boy? The answer may be, they say, that Masako and Naruhito like many couples who in the end take refuge to artificial insemination were so glad and grateful to have a child at all that they just wanted to accept him/her as he or she is. Masako remembered that her heart had been too full to find the right words when the newborn Aiko was laid upon her breast. And so she simply said: “Thank you for having been born.” If they did not want to manipulate this precious gift and just gratefully accept it as it was given to them this is, of course, very understandable from a human standpoint. But it still might be critized under the aspect of imperial succession…


Their third sin against the rule: “The birth of a male heir is priority no. 1.” Masako and Naruhito committed one year after the birth of Aiko. At that moment, obviously, their time was up. The head of the kunaicho, Yuasa, declared on a press conference that he wanted the crown prince and the crown princess to have their second child. We can suppose that this did not seem to have the desired effect because only a few months later, in December (Masako was not yet fully recovered from the shingles), Yuasa said: “If we think about the prosperity of the monarchy, a third child from prince Fumihito and princess Kiko is, honestly speaking, highly desirable.” Fritz and Kobayashi comment that this gave the impression that the emperor and the empress had finally given up completely upon Masako and officially declared her to be a d..d loss. (Although it can fairly be doubted if the emperor and the crown prince still talk about serious matters directly (and not by a press conference) this is obviously not the case with the emperor and Fumihito. If they only had wanted let Fumihito and Kiko know that they wished them to try for a third child they would not have needed to trouble Yuasa with this, they just could have told them so in private, without publicly attacking Masako.)


A friend of Naruhito and Masako has told Fritz and Kobayashi that they did want to have a second child at the time, they only wanted to wait until Aiko would be two or three years old. When Aiko had been one and a half years Masako had said in public: “The very first years are said to be very important for a child. Accordingly, I want to carefully watch Aiko growing up and support her.” As Fritz and Kobayashi say, it put a heavy burden on Masako´s soul that the emperor and the empress showed by their public pressure that it was not worth while to take so much time with Aiko as she was only a daughter. Masako did not feel respected as a human and she felt the same for her daughter. Her husband supported her. He, too, was convinced that it was very important to give much love to a child especially in the beginning years. Of course, he was fully aware of the problem of the imperial succession but his priorities were clear: He wanted to think about siblings for Aiko “later in the future”. He said: “It is important that the persons surrounding a child make the child feel acknowledged. That gives the child a feeling of being safe.”


Naruhito probably knew what he was talking of. He wanted to give his daughter what he himself had missed. He and Masako had thought a lot on the point of how they could give to their long awaited child of love (ai – love, harmony, ko – child) the very best conditions to grow up healthily and happily. They even wrote their principles down like Naruhito´s mother had done for him in his childhood. But the contents were very obviously far different from those of the former “Naru-chan-constitution”:


“1. It should be taken great trouble to give the child the opportunity to have a merry time in a happy atmosphere.
2. It should be taken great trouble to make sure that the child feels safe, that the child feels acknowledged. In any case, the parents should take care of the emotions of the child.
3. Parents should be attentive to the will of the child and should let her/him have her/his will, except if this would be dangerous.
4. If the child does something good or something that needs courage the parents should express approval. If there are remarkable points the parents should explain them so that the child can understand them.”


To be continued
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Old 03-10-2008, 12:23 PM
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The following is not part of the summary, only a personal comment. As I am a Western woman nobody will expect me to be very much impressed by the necessity of continuing a male b...d line or by the problem shinto (or any religion, for that matter) has with the “impurity” of women. (Too bad, so sorry… )


But there is one argument against Aiko´s succeeding to the throne that actually does convince me to some extent, and that is the obvious fact that there is a heavy burden lying on the crown princess and/or the empress of Japan. It is certainly open to discussion WHY this is so, but, in my opinion, it cannot be denied THAT it is so. And the unlucky custom of blaming the victim makes it very probable that the next generation will have the same problem.


Sure, at present all are impressed by the facts that Masako neither has born a boy nor is able to fulfill her official duties. But Michiko in her time not only had obvious physical and mental problems – if you see pictures taken of her in the seventies she looks to me definitely anorectic and I mean that in the precise medical sense of the word – she also was blamed for them and for being herself. O.k., now, that she is old and has a daughter-in-law to be compared with and who will serve as scapegoat if need be Michiko is seen as a silently suffering heroic woman. But Fritz and Kobayashi report that still in 1993, 34 years after her marriage, a very aggressive press campaign against Michiko was raised, basically saying that she was dictatorial and hungry for power. (Michiko was so affected by it that she lost her voice.) And one cannot help being impressed by the fact that this last heavy attack against Michiko took place in the same year in which she got a new daughter-in-law who was well adapted to become henceforth an ideal target for any aggressions against strong women that the media might feel tempted to express…


So, in my eyes, it is an undeniable fact that a heavy burden is lying on the shoulders of the Japanese crown princess. And if Hisahito becomes crown prince it will be on his wife´s shoulders. Disagreeable but, at least, predictable. But what if Aiko were to become empress? Would the burden be on her – because she is female – or would it be on her husband – because he is the one entering the family? This uncertainty is probably sufficient to make any man run away - loudly shrieking - from the perspective of becoming prince consort of the Japanese empress. And would he be willing to walk three steps behind his wife? Can you imagine how the Japanese media would ridicule him? Or would it still be she who has to do that although she is the sovereign? Just for example.


It will be probably very difficult for Hisahito to find a partner – it would be next to impossible for Aiko if she were to become empress. O.k., she could stay a “virgin queen” and leave the throne to the children of her cousins– we have examples for that in Western history… But what if the burden IS on her because she is the female? An encouraging vision: a single empress who is so depressed that she can hardly go into public!


Of course, all this would not HAVE to happen. As long as we are human nobody knows for sure what the future will bring. But I am afraid that there is too much probability in this future fantasy to make it easy to lightheartedly wish Aiko to inherit the imperial throne, especially if you consider her own happiness.


So, I think the birth of Hisahito is a rather good solution under the circumstances. It is only tragic that this end could not have been gained without conjuring up this war of roses in the family. And that is, to my mind, owing to the fact that none of the parties is able to accept the opinion of the other. Not to agree with them, that would be asking too much, just to respect the other. Akihito and Michiko could have said to Naruhito and Masako: “Well, we see that you have a problem getting children, and we feel with you. We also see how fond you are of your long awaited daughter, and, of course, we are also very glad that she has been born. But we are still concerned about the succession, and, according to our opinion, it is a man´s work and too much for a woman who has, in any case, also to raise and take care of the children. To give you the time you need with your beloved daughter, to set you free from the absolute necessity of having more children and to solve our common problem, would you mind if we asked your brother and his wife if they would be willing to have another child?”


And Naruhito and Masako could have done the same in the other direction, they could have said that they need this time with their daughter but that they understand their parents´ worries, and then they could have proposed to ask Fumihito and Kiko. Of course, for them it would have been much more difficult to do that because Fumihito had publicly attacked Naruhito. (And I think it impossible that this had been an idea of Fumihito´s. I do not doubt for a second that he acted under the direction of his parents.) From that moment, there was hardly anything left to do. I understand that Akihito had been very angry because Naruhito had so brutally removed the curtain that had hidden the family conflict from the world´s eyes. But it was not wise to set up brother against brother. It is asking much, I know, but it would have shown a wisdom and generosity of heart worthy of an emperor of Japan if he could have seen in his son´s action not the blatant disrespect rebelling against parents and tradition but the hopeless despair of someone who has grown up lonely and now is afraid to be left alone once more and, this time, maybe forever. He could have known what his son felt because he himself had felt the same. When he had been told that Michiko and her parents were considering to say no to his proposal of marriage he had threatened to die by his own hand.
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Old 03-14-2008, 04:29 PM
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Very interesting, ChiaraC. I think, too, that the birth of Hisahito has been a big luck for Aiko, who is a child probably carrying those genes with the proclivity to depression, the daughter of two very sensitive persons. It is still necessary a male heir in Japan, a very male-centered society. The geishas are not a so far cultural practice yet. Anyway, now without so much pressure, it would be very nice for Aiko to have a brother or sister, so that her parents are not so focused on her. Hisahito´s parents seem to be a couple less romantic, with both feet on the ground. I like Masako very much, but she is not strong enough or psychologically fit for all the pressures she has had to endure. And Naruhito would be the next emperor, to be succedded by his nephew?
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Old 03-14-2008, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by tan_berry View Post
Very interesting, ChiaraC. I think, too, that the birth of Hisahito has been a big luck for Aiko, who is a child probably carrying those genes with the proclivity to depression, the daughter of two very sensitive persons. It is still necessary a male heir in Japan, a very male-centered society. The geishas are not a so far cultural practice yet. Anyway, now without so much pressure, it would be very nice for Aiko to have a brother or sister, so that her parents are not so focused on her. Hisahito´s parents seem to be a couple less romantic, with both feet on the ground. I like Masako very much, but she is not strong enough or psychologically fit for all the pressures she has had to endure. And Naruhito would be the next emperor, to be succedded by his nephew?
The succession line hasn't changed with the birth of Hisahito. It is still, Naruhito, Akishino and then, Hisahito.
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Old 03-17-2008, 04:43 AM
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Honestly, the whole thing sounds very sad. But I can't help agree a bit with the Emperor and Empress. Not so much with the idea of gender selection (NO!) but with the idea of why not try to have another child right after Aiko.

Honestly, it doesn't hurt a kid if their brother/sister is 2 years a part from them, or one year apart. My brothers and I are all 2 years apart, and it's actually really nice because the closer you are in age, the more built in the playmate is. I think it would have been really nice for Aiko to have a built in playmate at 2 years old...And honestly the older she gets, the less fun having a sibling will be. She won't be able to relate to the sibling growing up as much. Plus it's nice for the parents because the kids can be gone at around the same time...

Besides, psychologically it's actually really good I think for kids to learn they are not the center of the Universe. Although maybe they were worried that Aiko would feel less special if a male heir was born. Who knows.

And really it's not like Masako was getting any younger anyways, and it does get more dangerous the older you are as well. So time really wasn't on their side. Still I don't agree with gender selection.
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Old 03-17-2008, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by tan_berry View Post
Very interesting, ChiaraC. I think, too, that the birth of Hisahito has been a big luck for Aiko, who is a child probably carrying those genes with the proclivity to depression, the daughter of two very sensitive persons. It is still necessary a male heir in Japan, a very male-centered society. The geishas are not a so far cultural practice yet. Anyway, now without so much pressure, it would be very nice for Aiko to have a brother or sister, so that her parents are not so focused on her. Hisahito´s parents seem to be a couple less romantic, with both feet on the ground. I like Masako very much, but she is not strong enough or psychologically fit for all the pressures she has had to endure. And Naruhito would be the next emperor, to be succedded by his nephew?
That is open to discussion if Masako is too fragile... Fritz and Kobayashi say that the emperor´s friends indeed blame her because she is not "like a rice plant that will rise again no matter how many times you have trodden on it". (Which, in my opinion, sounds a bit brutal...). But the special therapist who is taking medical care of her and whose name is a big secret (I´ll tell you more when we come to that point) says, according to Fritz and Kobayashi, that Masako is mentally very, very strong.

And I tend to believe him/her (the therapist´s gender is unknown). If you know Masako´s and Naruhito´s story, in my opinion, it cannot be doubted that they are not "very sensitive", but very strong indeed because they have had the strength to survive all this. (And, bye the bye, does not Naruhito look like a winner on the latest photos – birthday and jogging? I am so glad to see it.) Anyway, I wonder if Kiko would still be alive and laughing in their stead... Although she is certainly much stronger than many people would think who see her ever-smiling face I do not think that she would have been able to sanely and safely go through such an ordeal. And concerning Akishino, I am sure that he would NOT have been able. He is nice but rather soft and a bit spoilt, and, to my mind, should thank God that he has never been put to the test.

And I do think that it would have been nice for Masako and Naruhito to have more children, and that it is a pity that, by now, it is rather improbable that this will still happen. But I do think that Mako and Kako indeed do feel not appreciated because their brother is thought to be so extraordinarily important. You see it in their faces: they only smile a bit when they get some attention for taking care of their brother (Kako when she was pushing the buggy in the park). And even Michiko said that they behave like "little mothers" but also tend to be a bit malicious sometimes... Aiko, to the contrary, looks to me not spoilt, even if she is an only child but like a child who knows that she is valuable and very much loved. Only look how she smiles at her father on the pics of his last birthday!
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Old 03-17-2008, 08:01 AM
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Post A god becomes human

Here we go for the next parts, today all will be about Akihito, his story and his view of the role of the tenno:

We notice that even concerning this – for commoners absolutely private – issue, a couple´s having children, there already exist notable differences between the opinions of the crown prince and the crown princess on one hand and the emperor and the empress on the other. But although it can safely be said that the difficulties existing between them can be explained within the context of modern versus traditional it would be much too simple to say that the crown prince is modern and his father traditional. Akihito has been and partly still is called modern, even too modern by some.

And this seems to me the fundamental problem, we will see this phenomenon several times: that whatever a member of the imperial family does or fails to do a group of Japanese declares it to be end of the Japanese nation or of all values of the Japanese tradition or something of the sort. And another group of Japanese declares the same action to be the first step on a very necessary path that should have been taken a long time ago and that they have nearly despaired to hope for… (In my opinion, it is an interesting phenomenon that the discussions in this international forum often seem to reflect this national conflict like a mirror. Also here we often have very polarized opinions.) So, whatever the emperor does he can be sure of at least one thing: there will be somebody heavily complaining.

If we take Akihito´s marriage, for instance: It is known that his mother abhorred the thought that he should marry a commoner. And with this opinion she was very far from being alone. To give just one example: One of the most influential women of Japanese "high society" of the time, Itsuko Nashimoto, wrote in her diary on the 27th November 1958: "Today we get the news: Michiko Shoda is to become the wife of crown prince Akihito. Excitement and uproar in the whole country. Broadcasting and television are full of the engagement news. I feel angry and sick. Japan cannot be rescued, Japan is rotten."

But although Ms Nashimoto was very clear in her opinion there were a lot of people whose feelings concerning this matter were absolutely contrary to hers. Fritz and Kobayashi explain that after the fall of the feudal class by the end of the Second World War a prosperous middle class had began its rising in Japan. Michiko´s becoming a princess gave them something to dream of. "She ate bread, sat at a fireplace, played the piano, was a pupil of the private Christian school Sacre Coeur and studied English literature. Japanese women sighed when they thought of this life that resembled a fairytale." And Akihito´s marriage was "modern" not only because of the person of the bride. Also his reason for marrying her was modern: "I marry her because I love her", Akihito confessed to his friend Akira Hashimoto shortly before his wedding. Akihito who had in his earlier youth still been raised with the consciousness of being divine (we remember, the tenno is said to be descended from a goddess) and who – after Japan´s defeat – had been re-educated for the new task of becoming "a symbol" for the nation wanted to show by his marriage, that he, too, was, after all, a human being: "I wish that also the people should look upon our marriage from the point of view of humanity."

His old teacher Dr Shinzo Koizumi felt very relieved by the prince´s choice. The prince used to be called "the hope of Japan" by the media (which originally had been the idea of Elisabeth Gray-Vining, his other teacher), and if he had married a daughter of one of the (formerly) noble families that would have been like going back into the past that was still associated with the lost war.

After Japan´s defeat, Akihito´s father Hirohito had been in a very difficult position. He was in danger of being executed as a war criminal. All depended upon his making a good impression on general MacArthur. He succeeded by telling MacArthur: "You can do with me whatever you want. You can even send me to the gallows. But please do not let my people starve." MacArthur WAS impressed and decided that the tenno could help to initiate change and to help his people become democratic. Akihito publicly renounced his divinity and consented to serve in future as "symbol of the country and of the unity of the nation". Only one month after the end of the war, he told American journalists: "In my opinion, a constitutional monarchy like in England is ideal." And, as already mentioned, he found new teachers for his son: Elisabeth Gray-Vining, an American Quaker, author of many children`s books, and Dr. Shinzo Koizumi, a Japanese Christian who had been president of the famous Keio-university.

For Akihito ,the change was difficult. Fritz and Kobayashi report that once in high school during "constitutional science" he gave a scrap of paper to his friend Hashimoto. "Inherited professions are detestable, are not they?" was written on it… "Akihito even critized for a time his father and Vining. He thought at the time that his teacher (Vining) had influenced him too strongly and had made him become too American." But, however that was, Akihito was well aware that he had to take pains to become a good emperor (although he might not have been quite as sure what that meant). And even if he could have forgotten it, if left to himself - he had been given an unforgettable reminder: On his fifteenth birthday, seven Japanese were executed as war criminals by the Allied Powers. The birthday ceremonies were cancelled.

And Akihito obviously was never fully convinced that all this was past and gone and would never return. I quote: "When Akihito in 1958 heard the notice that king Faisal II of Iraque (who was his age and whom Akihito personally knew) had lost his throne by a putsch and had been killed, the crown prince turned pale, let his cup of tea drop and for a few seconds was unable to utter a word. Then Akihito is said to have told a friend who was with him that the story of Faisal would be his fate, too. For a time, Akihito even took pains to practice type-writing. His friend Akira Hashimoto asked him for the reason of this exercise. Akihito responded seriously: "If anything happens I will be able to work as a typist.""

Considering this background, we understand better why it is so important for Akihito to do everything in the "right" way (which, of course, is HIS way, but that is the same with all of us), why he is so concerned that his heir obviously does not share his view of the role of the tenno and why he is insisting so strongly on the necessity of a male heir: he thinks that every mistake, every compromise might be just one too much – and then the monarchy in Japan might cease to exist at all. It is not easy to be flexible under these circumstances (and even the early separation from his parents may have a subconscious influence here). How can he say: "I am doing it this way and the next emperor will do it in another way." if he fears – as this other way, in his opinion, is absolutely wrong - that the tenno tradition will be, shortly after his passing, lost forever?
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Old 03-17-2008, 08:08 AM
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Post Mystic symbol

Fritz and Kobayashi report that the system of the English monarchy that had been so new and fascinating to Naruhito was something that to Akihito was already quite familiar. In his youth, when after Japan´s defeat he had been re-educated to become the "hope" of a new and modern Japan, his teacher Dr Koizumi had read with him a biography of the English King George V. in the original version and in full length - more than 500 pages. He did that in order to give his young pupil an idea of how a sovereign can set an example of stability and serenity for his people in times of change and disquiet.

It is unknown what Akihito thought at the time about the things he read. As already mentioned, it was generally difficult for him to adapt so quickly to the radical changes that had been brought upon him as an important member of the Japanese imperial family. But even if he ever entertained the opinion that the English monarchy could teach him something he could use for the understanding of his own duties he certainly at some point in his life has stopped thinking that. A friend of his, Akira Hashimoto, told Fritz and Kobayashi that the European monarchies, according to the tenno, had exploited their people by high taxes, had conquered countries that were not their own and had taken possession of foreign riches by force whereas the Japanese tennos have never done anything of the sort. The emperor, of course, admits that political quarrel and dissent had existed also in ancient Japan, but the person of the tenno had always stood above these things and had protected and cultivated the Japanese tradition and cultural heritage. (Fritz and Kobayashi leave that accusation uncommented. But I cannot help adding that it is, of course, a bit unfair to compare a political government – that all of the European monarchies were at some point in their past – to a constitutional monarchy that serves as a national symbol but has no worldly power. For the European monarchies it is a comparatively new experience to fulfill only representative functions, for the Japanese monarchy it has been like this for by far the longest time of their history. You can hardly be tempted to use your power for evil matters if you do not have any.) Another friend of the tenno, Akashi, says, that in their youth emperor and empress had been indeed reform-oriented and had felt curiosity to see and learn new things. They were interested in Western ideas and way of life and even tried to adapt to them. But when they grew older they became more and more convinced that the Japanese monarchy has to be strongly and deeply rooted in the tradition and culture of their own country.

But although emperor and empress over the passing years have become more conservative than they used to be in their youth they nevertheless still do things that no Japanese sovereign has done before them, and they do not always strictly keep to the old traditions. For example, in order to give Masako a friendly welcome in the imperial family, on the day of the official engagement of Naruhito and Masako emperor and empress had dinner with the new couple, Fumihito, Kiko, Sayako and Masako´s parents and sisters. From a Western point of view that would have been rather a matter of course. But for the Japanese monarchy this was an absolute novelty: until this day it had never been the custom for members of the imperial family to have close and familiar meetings with commoners. Akihito´s father had never in his life sat to dinner with Michiko´s parents.

Another novelty were visits of the imperial couple to the victims of catastrophes caused by natural forces. Not long after they had succeeded to the throne, in 1991, Akihito and Michiko comforted survivors of the volcanic outbreak of Unzen-Fugen. And in 1995 they supported victims of the earthquake of Kobe. They went to 13 different places, wore informal clothing, and they even bent down to the people they were talking to and went down on their knees to be on the same level with them.

For the more conservative Japanese this was already too much. A famous literary critic, Jun Eto, said: "They should not go down on their knees. They do not have to be on the same level as the people they are talking to." Another journalist, Hideaki Kase, commented: "The emperor is the mediator between heaven and earth. Such sacred persons should not go into public." According to the tradition, the tenno is "okami" – that means as well "God" as "above". Fritz and Kobayashi say that it is precisely at this point that a harsh dissent exists among the Japanese. Some – like Eto or Kase – say that it is this remoteness, this mystic quality that makes the Japanese monarchy so important and special while others, to the contrary, strongly criticize the deep and unconquerable abyss that seems to exist between the imperial family and the common people.

The imperial couple nevertheless continued on this new way of "humanitarian support". In 2004, when the earth repeatedly trembled in the region of Niigata they went there by helicopter and compassionately asked: "What has happened to your house?", " Take care of your health!", "How long have you already been staying in this gymnastic hall?"

But it was also clear that this was as far as they would go. Michiko says that the tradition of the Japanese monarchy consists of praying and following. The master of ceremonies of emperor Hirohito, Tatsuo Takeda, warned: "If the imperial family leads the same life that also the commoners lead the monarchy will be no longer necessary." So, it seems to be very important as well as very difficult for the tenno to be, on one hand, "open" for the people but, on the other hand, still not to lose his mystical aura of remoteness. It is a difficult task anyway but it would become impossible to hold this balance if he were to take action of any sort. For Akihito it is absolutely clear: if the tenno wants to stay above quarrel and dissent and to not take sides, if he wants to stay a symbol of the whole of Japan he has to refrain from taking action and has to remain passive.

To be continued
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Old 03-17-2008, 06:04 PM
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To ChiaraC

I want to thank you profusely for translating this book that we would not have the privilege of reading.

I have just finished reading Ben Hills book.
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Old 03-17-2008, 06:52 PM
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I share your opinion. The work ChiaraC is doing is very worth. Without people like her, we'll never know the content of these kind of books. One must be very rich to purchase all the books one should wants to read!

Vanesa.
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Old 03-17-2008, 07:07 PM
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ChiaraC,
Joining the other Forum members, I would like to thank you for translating this book. I find this book very informative as it has enlightened me a lot in regard of the life of the Japanese Imperial family and reasons/causes behind their actions to a certain extent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
... Michiko says that the tradition of the Japanese monarchy consists of praying and following. The master of ceremonies of emperor Hirohito, Tatsuo Takeda, warned: "If the imperial family leads the same life that also the commoners lead the monarchy will be no longer necessary." So, it seems to be very important as well as very difficult for the tenno to be, on one hand, "open" for the people but, on the other hand, still not to lose his mystical aura of remoteness. It is a difficult task anyway but it would become impossible to hold this balance if he were to take action of any sort. For Akihito it is absolutely clear: if the tenno wants to stay above quarrel and dissent and to not take sides, if he wants to stay a symbol of the whole of Japan he has to refrain from taking action and has to remain passive.
... [snipped and my bolding]
In my opinion, the whole life of the Japanese Emperor and his family can be described by the above sentences.
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Old 03-17-2008, 07:43 PM
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And I do think that it would have been nice for Masako and Naruhito to have more children, and that it is a pity that, by now, it is rather improbable that this will still happen. But I do think that Mako and Kako indeed do feel not appreciated because their brother is thought to be so extraordinarily important. You see it in their faces: they only smile a bit when they get some attention for taking care of their brother (Kako when she was pushing the buggy in the park). And even Michiko said that they behave like "little mothers" but also tend to be a bit malicious sometimes..
Huh? The Empress never said that her grandchildren were malicious, this is what she said:
Quote:
However, each time I see my grandchildren, I think that there is a special feeling that is different from the joy I felt as a mother. While there is also something of the emotions I experienced as a mother, as I now see it from the new perspective of a grandmother, there is a particular sense of joy and satisfaction every time I watch the children interact as they play and take care of each other. Aiko looks so happy when she is playing with Mako and Kako. Mako and Kako, too, while they treat Aiko with such care, at the same time, treat her with the special intimacy that only children themselves can share, which I feel, is different from the way we adults approach children. With Hisahito, also, the two elder sisters are like two little mothers who look after him. To watch them hold Hisahito and change his clothes so attentively but with such ease as if they were experienced mothers, or to see the way little Aiko approaches Hisahito, who is smaller than herself, and gently touches his hand?I feel they are so sweet and seeing them gives me great delight.
No, the Mako and Kako don't smile so much, but if you look at pictures of them well before Hishihito was born, and even when they were Aiko's age, they were never that smiley in general. Perhaps they are shy. But there have been pictures of Mako doing things with her father, and Kako has her skating and gets attention for that, so I wouldn't assume they are jealous or anything. In fact both have a reputation for being well behaved young girls.

Aiko seems adorable and I love her smiles, but in contrast to Mako/Kako, there has been some statements of why Aiko wasn't seen bowing in certain occasions.. Something her father did when she was age/ aunts, uncle, and cousins as well. And which from what I can understand is an expected thing from a Japanese child.

Now, Aiko may be just shy herself, who knows.. And it really wouldn't do to assume any child, unless you get to know them or hear reports of them acting lke brats, to assume they are spoiled.

Honestly, I hope that both sides of the family encourage Aiko to spend time and get to know her cousins, because they could easily serve as "honorary" siblings for her. I know I had a cousin who was an only child and around my brother's age. We lived really close by, and even though my mom had divorced his parents' brother. My mom, Aunt, and Uncle all encouraged us to build a relationship. This cousin is like a third brother to me, and I know he is extremely close with my brothers.

The point I was making in general is the idea that really having a sibling close in age, is not harmful in anyway to a child. (I think it's quite good for them.)
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