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  #101  
Old 05-20-2008, 08:14 AM
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Post Masako growing up

Masako was born in 1963 as the first child of Hisashi and Yumiko Owada. Her mother had attended one of the best Japanese universities, Keio-university, where she had studied French. And she – like her daughter – had been a working woman before her marriage: she had been employed by "Air France". Masako´s father after finishing the famous university of Tokyo had joined the foreign office that had sent him then to one of the famous "Oxbridge"-universities. (Exactly like his daughter, much later. The only difference was that Hisashi Owada studied in Cambridge whereas his daughter in her time would go to Oxford.) After finishing his studies there, Hisashi Owada first went back to Tokyo to work for the foreign office. Later, when his little daughter Masako was one year and eight months old, he was sent to work for the Japanese embassy in Moscow. As already mentioned, Masako there at two years and a half entered the kindergarten and learnt to talk Russian in only three months. At this time also her twin sisters, Reiko and Setsuko, were born, and from then on, Masako – who was at the time not even three years old herself – was "the big sister". It frequently happened that their parents had to be absent to fulfill professional duties, and Masako used to ask her mother every day when she came back from kindergarten at 5 o´clock in the afternoon, if the parents had to go out in the evening or not. If so, it was Masako´s task to take care of her little sisters during her parents´ absence. Fritz and Kobayashi report that later in life Masako´s parents asked themselves if they had maybe demanded too much of their little "Ma-chan". In any case, like many children who have to take great responsibility early in life, Masako learnt to deal with her problems by herself and to hide them from the people surrounding her, in order to spare them the necessity to worry about her.

The Owadas stayed in Moscow for two days and nine months. Then Hisashi Owada became first secretary in the Japanese department of the UN. So, the family passed the next three years in New York, and Masako learnt to speak English as her next foreign language. Nevertheless, her mother Yumiko took great pains to help her children to keep in contact with the Japanese culture. Every day she read to her three daughters fairy tales in Japanese, she prepared Japanese meals, and the relatives in Japan put into every parcel they sent to New York a "piece of Japan" for the children – Japanese dolls, books or kimonos. And when Masako came home from school, she was by far not done: then she had to learn Japanese.

But in spite of all these measures there were a lot of things that Masako was not familiar with when they finally did go back to Japan in 1971. For example, she did not know which year it was in the Japanese calendar (Showa 46), and she helplessly asked her mother why little girl.s who had little boys among their good friends were being laughed at? Accordingly, Masako was at first not successful when she took the entrance test for the Denenchofu Futaba-school that already her mother Yumiko had attended. But one year later she tried again, and this time, it worked. Masako was a lively, active schoolgirl who was very fond of animals. As Fritz and Kobayashi report she belonged in primary school to a study group about biology, and later she joined the softball team of her school.

1979, only three months after Masako had entered Denenchofu Futaba-highschool she had to quit Japan again as her father was bound to go to Harvard to teach international law. The family went to Boston, and the change was not easy for any of them. Father Hisashi had to give his lessons in English, and the necessary preparations took a lot of time and trouble. And Masako´s little sisters had difficulties in school because they had been still very small in the New Yorker years and had forgotten a lot of their English. Yumiko was constantly busy helping them. Also for Masako it was not an easy time. But as the problems of the other family members seemed to be so much greater than hers, she tried to deal with her difficulties on her own, and she put a lot of energy into working for school. So, at the American high school Masako was attending at the time, she got the nickname: "hardworker Masako"… But the trouble obviously paid off: on finishing school she got a prize as one of the best pupils, and afterwards she successfully took the entrance tests of several of the best universities in the US and could choose where she wanted to go. She decided to study economics at Harvard, and when her father became Japanese ambassador in Moscow, she staid alone by herself in the US to finish her studies. In 1985, she did her exams with "magna cum laude" (which only the best 15 percent of graduates get). After that, her father Hisashi recommended his daughter to finish her education in the US. She had gotten several very tempting employment offers from leading banks and investment corporations. But Masako did not want that. She told her father that she wanted, more than everything, to return to Japan…

In spite of her constant success in her studies, Masako during the years of her second stay in the US, between her fifteenth and her twentysecond year, was not altogether happy: she had a problem with her identity. She was missing Japan. Like many young people who have spent a lot of time in their childhood or adolescence in foreign countries, Masako was asking herself: "Where do I belong? Where do I come from? Who am I?"

During her time at Harvard she had taken part in a study group about Japanese culture to which Japanese people belonged as well as people of Japanese origin. In her last year she had even been the group leader. At that time, she used to say: "Foreigners know too little about Japan." But, so Fritz and Kobayashi ask, was she not also talking about herself when she said that? Although her mother Yumiko had taken such pains to make her children acquainted with Japanese culture, Masako at that time was not sure if she was really Japanese. She told her parents: "If I continue living in the US I lose my roots. This is about my identity."

Accordingly she went back to Japan, and there – with her usual zeal – she did everything to experience Japanese tradition. She went to first-rate teachers to learn Ikebana, tea ceremony and Japanese cooking. That Masako had had to pass long years of her childhood and youth abroad had given her a clear awareness of her patriotism and of her love for Japan. When talking to her parents about her professional career there was one thing absolutely clear for Masako: "I want to do something for Japan as a Japanese citizen." This is why Masako finally decided to serve her country as a diplomat and why she in summer 1986 after diligent and time-taking preparations took the entrance test for the diplomatic service. As one of only three women she successfully reached the highest level. She would follow her father into the foreign office, and that meant that she would be only the second woman in Japanese history to become a member of the diplomatic service in the second generation.
(If we know this background we understand why it was so especially painful for Masako when on the occasion of the conflict in the imperial family she was accused of being "not sufficiently Japanese". A friend of the tenno, Akira Hashimoto, said for example: "The princess has an American education. She is different from women who have been growing up normally in Japan. If she were a Japanese woman she should bear her situation somehow and try to understand the other side. But she does not have such a Japanese way of thinking." These accusations are for Masako especially painful because she always so strongly wanted to be Japanese and to serve Japan, a long time before she even thought of entering the imperial family. She had suffered in her younger years because she had to live far away from her home country. And she always has tried to learn with intentional effort what other Japanese children simply grow up with. But on the other hand she can - whatever she does - never change the fact that she has been living abroad, and she cannot undo this experience.)
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  #102  
Old 05-24-2008, 07:38 AM
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Thank you so much, Chiarac. Reading your post above, I simply imagine how hard it is for Masako to deal with such situation. She even have to learn hard to do something that what other kids grow up and be familiar with. And after all those efforts, some people judge her as 'not sufficiently Japanese'. It must be very painful for her when people judge her like that while her drive is 'to serve Japan as Japanese citizen'. But despite of all problems, I truly admire her and her efforts to serve her country. Wish her and her family all the best!!
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  #103  
Old 05-27-2008, 11:25 AM
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Thank you, El-Khanz! I am always glad to hear that my translation is providing you with new insights. I admire Masako, too (which probably goes without saying...). Naruhito married her not only for love but also because he thought her the ideal crown princess – but as you will see again in the following parts his idea of the ideal crown princess always differed from the kunaicho´s idea of the ideal crown princess... So, to an attentive watcher it would have been clear right from the beginning that there would be a problem. But then: if I look at the latest pictures where Masako accompanies her daughter to school and looks so good I think she will make it in the end - in spite of everything.
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  #104  
Old 05-27-2008, 11:32 AM
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Post The crown prince in search for a wife, part I

A close friend of tenno Akihito, Mototsugu Akashi, once said that he always had the feeling that prince Naruhito was strongly impressed by the romantic story of how his parents found each other – a love story that at the time had moved the whole country - and that he, too, wanted to live such a romance. But, alas, for a very long time his search for a wife was to be a tedious and absolutely unromantic undertaking…

After the prince came back from his studies in Oxford the kunaicho began to collect long lists of young ladies who might have the potential to make an acceptable future empress. There were several necessary conditions: the future imperial bride should have a Japanese passport, should be healthy, attractive, should be fond of music and share the prince´s interests in general. She should have studied at an university for at least two years and should never have been a pupil of a school or university that is attended by g.irls and boys, mixed (exception: Gakushuin-university, the former university of Japanese nobility). Her grades at school should have been above the average, and she should have a good knowledge of foreign languages. She should come from a family with many children (preferably male children…) with a good social reputation and whose relatives should be without fault socially as well as politically at least three generations back.

The prince himself had a special wish brought back from Europe concerning his future mate. On the press conference on occasion of his return from Oxford he said: “I have learnt in Oxford that I can think and decide for myself and that I myself can put things in action. This attitude I want to keep also in the future if possible.” And he added: ”My ideal partner should have the ability to boldly speak her mind. Another wish is that she should know a foreign language to a certain degree because we will come into contact with foreigners often.” The court journalists were a bit puzzled what to make of this vision. Somehow no Japanese woman matching this picture would come to their mind. And so they remembered that Naruhito, on traveling home from England, had gone via the U.S. and there had had a short meeting with the American actress Brooke Shields... The prince later told journalists the reason for his fascination: “She says things in a clear, fearless way.” But with a sad smile he added: “But, of course, I cannot marry a foreigner…”

The executives of the kunaicho meanwhile took refuge to three important Japanese registers: the “Who is who” where leading personalities of politics and economy are named (with their family), the record of names of the former nobility, “Kasumikaikan” and the record of names of the female graduates of Gakushuin-university, “Tokiwakai”. And they also asked high officials with an excellent reputation if they knew young ladies who maybe would make a convincing crown princess. And it was by the last measure that the came to Masako´s name: Among the important personalities the kunaicho-executives had applied to was the former Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Toru Nakagawa. He had come to know Masako when her father was first secretary at the embassy in Moscow. Nakagawa had met her at the Christmas party of the embassy where he had been Santa Claus… He remembered her to have been a very sweet and intelligent looking little g.irl. (Masako had been only two years by then.) He recommended her to the kunaicho (without informing Masako, of course). After Naruhito and Masako were married he publicly explained his reasons: “Ms Masako is a very intelligent woman. Also, she is pretty. And she is a very gentle and friendly person. She has been living in the U.S.. That means that she also knows foreign languages.”

The kunaicho-executives usually invited the candidates to concerts or tea parties and the like to bring them into contact with the prince without raising general attention. Masako´s turn came when princess Elena from Spain came to visit the Japanese imperial family. The Spanish princess who is an enthusiastic horsewoman was to be shown two examples of traditional Japanese horsemanship, “Dakyu” and “Horobiki”.
As the grand chancellor of the kunaicho, Hisashi Yasujima, later tactfully described it: “The riding location is gigantic. We thought if the presentation should be only shown to princess Elena and the members of the imperial family they would be only ten persons and that would be very sad.” And so, they invited some more people to fill the space and – by sheer chance, of course ;-) - among them was Masako Owada with her father… As someone who had been present at the occasion described it later to Fritz and Kobayashi, Masako seemed to “bear a shining light in her heart” on that day. She had only recently successfully taken the entrance test for the foreign office. Accordingly, she glowed with happiness and - although she never had been a classical beauty - on that day a lot of people found her very attractive. The prince, usually rather shy and held back when dealing with women, quickly and directly accosted her: “Great that you had success in taking the diplomatic test!” And Masako impressed not only the young man who was to be her future husband (he called her afterwards a woman “of sky-high standing” – I suppose that sounds rather funny in English but it also sounds funny in German – it was probably an expression difficult to translate from the Japanese) - but also experienced Shigemitsu Dando, a former constitutional judge and counsellor of the kunaicho. He wrote in his diary: “Ms Masako was very gracious but also happy and outgoing.”
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  #105  
Old 05-27-2008, 11:38 AM
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Post Complicated courtship

Part of Masako´s attraction might have been that she was fully unaware of her charms and that she had taken absolutely no pains to impress anybody. After her success in the entrance test for the diplomatic service she had told the biggest Japanese daily, Yomiuri: “I do not think of marriage at present, work is for me everything.” So she afterwards had not a very clear memory of her first meeting with the crown prince. She only remembered having been nervous and that the prince was “an outspoken and considerate person”. (Fritz and Kobayashi do not comment this but I cannot help remarking that although the prince is certainly a man of much consideration the openness and liveliness that he showed Masako were not so much part of his character but the effect of his fascination with her – but, of course, how could she have known that?)

The prince, though, was already very much interested, to say the least, and he took pains to organize several carefully prepared meetings with Ms Masako. Obviously, he was trying to win her over slowly but surely. First, eight weeks after the presentation for princess Elena had taken place, Masako was invited with her parents to dine at the imperial palace, in a very small group of guests, only ten persons altogether. Four months later, in April 1987, the crown prince asked Masako to come to the house of his cousin, prince Takamado (for the close relations between the crown prince and prince Takamado see also “Wind of change”). In order to entertain Masako Naruhito had brought photos of his stay in Oxford and of a official trip he had taken to Nepal, Bhutan and India. When Masako arrived Naruhito was already there and welcomed her at the entrance. Then they had dinner with prince and princess Takamado and afterwards Naruhito showed his photos, and they had a lively conversation. And a rather long one – Masako returned home at one o´clock in the night.

Then again, six months later, in October 1987, the prince invited Masako to the palace to drink tea with him and a friend of his. This same friend, Masanori Kaya, said afterwards: “He was telling non-stop one story after the other. I had never before seen the prince like this. This is why his behaviour surprised me a lot.”

A bit later the yellow press became aware that there was something going on between the young diplomat and the crown prince. And so they set off to find out more - in a very direct way: one morning when Masako as usual left her parents´ home to go by foot to the train station she suddenly found herself in front of twenty or thirty photographers who were taking pictures of her and “bombarding” her with their flashlight. In shock, Masako turned back into the house. Her parents soothed her and convinced her to “brave the attack” and to go to the train station and then by train to her working place like she was used to do every day.

Several days after that a man whose identity is unknown to the public until this day came to Masako´s parents and told them: “There are people thinking of making your daughter the crown princess. Would you be able to appreciate this idea?” Well, they definitely were not able… They knew that their daughter had no plans to marry. She was doing her work in the foreign office with much enthusiasm, and she had been just selected to be sent abroad to Oxford for a two-year graduate study as a trainee of the Japanese foreign office.

We do not know by whom exactly this man had been sent and we do not know if ever Naruhito was informed of the answer that Masako´s parents had given. Maybe not, as on a press conference in February 1988, on occasion of his birthday, he said optimistically: “I have climbed 70 or 80% of the mountain Fuji if you take mountain-climbing as a metaphor for my marriage.”

But it were not only Masako´s parents who did not share the crown prince´s cheerful hopes. The kunaicho meanwhile had found out that Masako´s grandfather, Yutaka Egashira, had been working for Chisso, a company that had caused the biggest environment scandal in Japan after the second World War. Egashira could not personally be held responsible for the scandal in any way as he had become president of Chisso only when all had already happened but still – it did not sound so well. So the grand chamberlain of the kunaicho informed the crown prince that it was not acceptable for the future empress to have her name associated with this scandal… The crown prince hid his emotions and composedly said: “I agree.” (But afterwards he did not fail to ask Shigemitsu Dando, a specialist in law (who had also been charmed by Masako on the presentation for princess Elena) if it was really impossible… But he got the same answer: from the point of view of law it was not a problem but socially it was).

Fritz and Kobayashi discuss at this point if it really was only the career of Masako`s grandfather that displeased the executives of the kunaicho. They explain that from the point of view of ancient tradition there were several points that went against Masako: 1. She is a bit taller than the crown prince. (She is 1,63 m, he is 1,61 m – I know that is not the English measurement but I do not know how to translate this.) 2. She comes from a family with only daughters. 3. Even worse, her sisters are twins. 3. Conservative journalists criticized Masako because in her public appearances (when the yellow press photographers had taken her by surprise as she wanted to go to work, see above) she had shown too much self confidence. This lady, to their mind, seemed to have too strong a character for a Japanese princess.

Anyhow, Masako was certainly not sorry that she was not thought suitable as crown princess. According to her, the crown prince was a nice guy, softly spoken, accomplished, sensitive, good to look at. But the main thing for her was her planned stay in England where she would study “International relations” for two years. And so Naruhito and Masako in summer 1988 parted ways – seemingly for ever.
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  #106  
Old 05-27-2008, 03:48 PM
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I know I've said this before, but thanks so much for the translations ChiaraC. This is a really insightful book and I'm always looking forward to each new translation.

In the second paragraph you posted where it talks about the conditions for the future crown princess... whoa! Talk about some stringent requirements! I was wondering, why was it necessary that the future crown princess had not attended a co-education school? I can understand the reasoning for the other conditions except that one. Do the authors give an explanation?
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  #107  
Old 05-27-2008, 07:16 PM
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I absolutely agree with the kunaicho executives: Masako was not a suitable crown princess. Too brilliant and educated for being happy in that post. She did not choose well. Now, she should be allowed to teach in an university or work in a research agency, some hours a week, where she can find people like her and get intellectual stimulation. She is bored to death.
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  #108  
Old 05-29-2008, 09:01 AM
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Thank you, Emi and tan berry.
I am aware that it can feel a bit funny to keep repeating yourself when you say that you appreciate my translation. I am sure that in your place I would feel the same. But, being in my place, I find it very valuable to hear your opinion or just the statement of your interest. I always appreciate your interest very much.
Still, in the next weeks I will have to go a bit slower because I will be busy. Maybe I will have a little time to write but maybe not so much time as to go out and post it. I do not know yet. But sooner or later I will get it finished. (We are now in the middle of the second chapter, so we have to do still the second half of it and then the third chapter, and then we will be done.)

Concerning the co-education: Fritz and Kobayashi do not explain it. But we have the same phenomenon in „Masako growing up“: little Masako, coming home to Japan from Russia and the US, asks her mother innocently why people mock little gir.ls who play with little boys. There is obviously a cultural difference, at present. But although Fritz and Kobayashi do not explain it - if I look back in our (German) history I do not have such a problem to imagine a culture where „nice“ gir.ls do not play with boys... In former times, not so long ago, it was also the custom here that „nice“ gir.ls did not play with boys nor go to school with them. I do not know when it changed, probably gradually but I think that even in the fifties there were still some people who thought that co-education is something nasty that only communists do...

tan berry, I know what you mean. I agree with you in that it is absolutely necessary for Masako´s recovery that she do things that fit her abilities ( I think that also the crown prince said something like that on his last press conference.) This is not about her getting recovered to make her fit into the system, like a puppet. But I would not agree that she is not a suitable crown princess because the kunaicho says so. I would not leave the right to define what a suitable crown princess is to the kunaicho (at least, not without fight......). It certainly is open to discussion if the kunaicho´s definition of an suitable crown princess is more valid than the definition of the crown prince - who is the future tenno. In a monarchy, it is not unreasonable to expect that the sovereign´s opinion should be of higher importance than the opinions of the bureaucrats...

And there is one more thing: I have got the impression that some kunaicho-executives did in fact appreciate Masako – Sadame Kamakura, for example. (You find him in the story around the beginning of trying artificial insemination and the birth of Aiko.) He thought that she could help the monarchy get a modern face – and for that, as I report in „Jealousy“, page 4 - empress Michiko did not like Kamakura AT ALL...
What I want to say is that the kunaicho is certainly a very conservative institution. But: it also consists of individuals – who also may have opinions of their own about what will be in the best interest of the monarchy they are serving...
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:45 PM
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I see now, thanks for the explanation. I get the feeling that some of the more conservative views of the kunaicho are similar to what society was like in the 1950s (you can see this in how the royal ladies dress), almost as if time froze and the last 50 or so years have not happened. Though as you say there are a differing views among individuals in the organisation. Good luck with whatever you have coming up!
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Old 05-29-2008, 07:09 PM
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The american actor Geena Davies, who has an extremelly higy I.Q., had three children from 40 to 48 years old. And to choose the sex of the baby and have tweens for finishing pregnancies earlier, is nowadays regular practice among the rich and powerful. I think it would be excellent for Japanese monarchy to have a heir, a boy, with a mother so brilliant and nice like Masako.

I do not think kunaicho executives must have the last word about who is a suitable crown princess, but I understand their point of view. They know well the conservative institution they represent. That is why I do not think Aiko should be an empress. Not yet. That society and that institution are not prepared yet for it. They look to me like a good couple and to preserve that marriage should be the last word for everyone involved.
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Old 05-30-2008, 06:39 PM
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You said it Tan Berry. For me, it should be no problem in Princess Aiko being the next Japan Empress. She will not be MY Empress, but Japanese Empress. If Japanese people is not yet ready to have her as an Empress we can't force the country to change it's costumes only for they are not modern any more. A forced modernization could be a bad thing, since it couldn't be sincere at all and it could bring not desired troubles in the country. New ways are introduced little by little. Otherwise, the nation could feel something strange to them is making violence toward them . THings must to mature.

This is my reason tosay - without being contradictory at all that Infanta Leonor could be promoted as the next Queen of Spain, as there isn't any problem in England for having a real Queen, but I do not approve Princess Aiko as Japan Empress. Every country has its own rythm to accept certain ways of living. And some f them are never able to let them enter. It sounds sad, I know, but the truth will never be sad. Only the truth.

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Old 05-31-2008, 01:26 AM
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Until a few years ago a majority of the Japanese people approved Princess Aiko becoming of Empress Japan after her father. That is until the IHA began their negative campaign against the Crown Prince Couple.

Thank you so much ChiaraC. Everything is becoming so much clearer now. Poor Masako was backed to the wall on three fronts, a jealous mother-in-law, the kunaicho, and whoever was pushing her to have another child. Meanwhile, her only desire was to serve her country. It's no wonder she was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder.
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Old 05-31-2008, 07:26 AM
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Thumbs up Ooops, a discussion! How very, very nice!

I have been thinking again about the co-education question – and as usual I have been thinking at home, so I have not taken into account the last postings (welcome! ) when I wrote it:

Concerning co-education, I think that from a traditional standpoint it makes sense that a future female member of the imperial family should have had as little contact with boys as possible. The ideal wife in their eyes is not required to love and respect her husband as her equal but to serve and worship him like someone superior. And if a gir.l sees boys on a regular basis in her everyday life – which is inevitable if she attends a co-educative school - it is rather probable that she will find out sooner or later that the male of the human species are not mysteriously superior but just normal people “like you ´n´ me” - which will prevent her from being able to honestly worship her future husband.

Masako´s sober reaction when she was offered the chance to become crown princess and the obvious lack of something like a “Cinderella-moment” (“Oh my God, the CROWN PRINCE wants to MARRY me!!!”) are probably at least partly owing to the fact that in her young life she already had seen a lot of the world and also of men. (I am personally quite sure that – for example – Lady Di DID have such a “Cinderella-moment” - several of them, probably.) And maybe (that is just a thought of mine) it was the lack of this “Cinderella-feeling” that the conservatives could never forgive Masako: it is all well and good if a young woman is ambitious and a hard worker and following in her father´s footsteps - as long as nothing better comes her way. But then: if a member of the imperial family (the IMPERIAL FAMILY!) offers himself as her husband she should, of course, at once forget all her past ambitions and be dutifully overwhelmed with gratitude and joy - and be aware that she never did anything to deserve this great luck and happiness… But if she – instead – just coolly says: “No thanks” and without doubts or regrets insists on continuing her career - that shows that she was all the time not acting as a dutiful daughter but that she did what she did because she WANTED IT HERSELF. So she is – horrors! – actually having a will of her own... In the eyes of the conservatives Masako was probably showing ingratitude in a highly provoking degree, she seemed to overrate her own value and to be completely unaware how to justly appreciate the greatness of the opportunity that was offered her and to recognize her own unimportance. (And again: that was probably one of the things the crown prince especially appreciated in her.)

And they are right at least in so far as Masako obviously never was very wild about the glamour of being a princess. This may be a nice trait of character as it shows a lack of vanity. But on the other hand, it means that she in fact is unable to appreciate one of the very few rewards the hard job of being Japanese crown princess has to offer...
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Old 05-31-2008, 08:37 AM
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tan-berry, I also think that it would be great to have a son of Masako´s on the throne (if we cannot have her daughter- and I also see the problem of this, the problem to so radically change tradition in so short a time as I have explained already earlier in this thread). But although I know that it is scientifically possible something inside tells me that this is not going to happen. I do not know why... Maybe it is Masako´s destiny to show her nation and the world that a woman can be a great and unforgettable empress who brings much bliss to her people - although she is not the mother of the heir... To bear an heir was once seen as the first (and in a way even: only) duty of the crown princess/empress. They were/are not expected to be good for anything else. It seems to even raise aggression if they have other abilities. To understand that an empress without having a son can have a very positive impact and can be a great blessing for her people would obviously mean an incredible change of the national mind. If Masako will be able to help her fellow citizens see this she will have rendered her country a great service indeed. I hope she´ll get there.

Mandy, I think, too, that there are several reasons for Masako`s suffering and that every single one would have been sufficient to cause a breakdown. And I indeed have got the impression that her mother-in-law has not been very supportive to her during the last years. But, on the other hand, I am quite convinced that Michiko had in the beginning the best intentions to receive the bride of her eldest son with a warm welcome and that she did her best. In a way, like she did her best when she gave the future emperor an education based on nazi-principles... I think she has never really understood what the problem was, and in a way maybe this is hardly to be expected. She has been treated so meanly and unfairly herself by the conservatives and the court that she probably had to suppress much of her tender and soft feelings. She had, to a degree, to become hard in order to survive. And although Akihito loved her I doubt that he knew how to support her emotionally, considering his loveless childhood. She made a good game with very difficult cards and although I would oppose her judgement on Masako I still think we should make allowances for her situation and her story. In Michiko as well as in Masako we see that as human beings we are always limited. We may be ever so strong and intelligent but there is always a point where we have given all we had and can do no more.
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Old 06-10-2008, 05:45 PM
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Aiko

Aiko, such a perfect beauty, perfect like the children of love. The writer of a beautiful novel: " East wind, west wind", Pearl S. Buck, an american woman who lived in China for many years, says that the chinese think the children born out of love are perfect. This was her first novel, published in 1930. Eventually, she would be a Nobel laureate.

It has to be a tough life that of a queen, so full of duties and responsibilities. I would like a sweeter life for little princess Aiko. Sometimes I watch with pity to princess Victoria from Sweden. Usually men enjoy more that kind of life. It does not have so many restrictions for them.

I know it is important there are more women with power in the world, because men are too prone to war. But women president or CEO are not in the job for a lifetime. They can get some rest now and then, to take a sabbatical year, to retire. But a job for a lifetime is a tough destiny.
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:39 PM
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VERY NICE of you / Very nice!

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Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
Part of Masako´s attraction might have been that she was fully unaware of her charms and that she had taken absolutely no pains to impress anybody. After her success in the entrance test for the diplomatic service she had told the biggest Japanese daily, Yomiuri: “I do not think of marriage at present, work is for me everything.” So she afterwards had not a very clear memory of her first meeting with the crown prince. She only remembered having been nervous and that the prince was “an outspoken and considerate person”. (Fritz and Kobayashi do not comment this but I cannot help remarking that although the prince is certainly a man of much consideration the openness and liveliness that he showed Masako were not so much part of his character but the effect of his fascination with her – but, of course, how could she have known that?)

The prince, though, was already very much interested, to say the least, and he took pains to organize several carefully prepared meetings with Ms Masako. Obviously, he was trying to win her over slowly but surely. First, eight weeks after the presentation for princess Elena had taken place, Masako was invited with her parents to dine at the imperial palace, in a very small group of guests, only ten persons altogether. Four months later, in April 1987, the crown prince asked Masako to come to the house of his cousin, prince Takamado (for the close relations between the crown prince and prince Takamado see also “Wind of change”). In order to entertain Masako Naruhito had brought photos of his stay in Oxford and of a official trip he had taken to Nepal, Bhutan and India. When Masako arrived Naruhito was already there and welcomed her at the entrance. Then they had dinner with prince and princess Takamado and afterwards Naruhito showed his photos, and they had a lively conversation. And a rather long one – Masako returned home at one o´clock in the night.

Then again, six months later, in October 1987, the prince invited Masako to the palace to drink tea with him and a friend of his. This same friend, Masanori Kaya, said afterwards: “He was telling non-stop one story after the other. I had never before seen the prince like this. This is why his behaviour surprised me a lot.”

A bit later the yellow press became aware that there was something going on between the young diplomat and the crown prince. And so they set off to find out more - in a very direct way: one morning when Masako as usual left her parents´ home to go by foot to the train station she suddenly found herself in front of twenty or thirty photographers who were taking pictures of her and “bombarding” her with their flashlight. In shock, Masako turned back into the house. Her parents soothed her and convinced her to “brave the attack” and to go to the train station and then by train to her working place like she was used to do every day.

Several days after that a man whose identity is unknown to the public until this day came to Masako´s parents and told them: “There are people thinking of making your daughter the crown princess. Would you be able to appreciate this idea?” Well, they definitely were not able… They knew that their daughter had no plans to marry. She was doing her work in the foreign office with much enthusiasm, and she had been just selected to be sent abroad to Oxford for a two-year graduate study as a trainee of the Japanese foreign office.

We do not know by whom exactly this man had been sent and we do not know if ever Naruhito was informed of the answer that Masako´s parents had given. Maybe not, as on a press conference in February 1988, on occasion of his birthday, he said optimistically: “I have climbed 70 or 80% of the mountain Fuji if you take mountain-climbing as a metaphor for my marriage.”

But it were not only Masako´s parents who did not share the crown prince´s cheerful hopes. The kunaicho meanwhile had found out that Masako´s grandfather, Yutaka Egashira, had been working for Chisso, a company that had caused the biggest environment scandal in Japan after the second World War. Egashira could not personally be held responsible for the scandal in any way as he had become president of Chisso only when all had already happened but still – it did not sound so well. So the grand chamberlain of the kunaicho informed the crown prince that it was not acceptable for the future empress to have her name associated with this scandal… The crown prince hid his emotions and composedly said: “I agree.” (But afterwards he did not fail to ask Shigemitsu Dando, a specialist in law (who had also been charmed by Masako on the presentation for princess Elena) if it was really impossible… But he got the same answer: from the point of view of law it was not a problem but socially it was).

Fritz and Kobayashi discuss at this point if it really was only the career of Masako`s grandfather that displeased the executives of the kunaicho. They explain that from the point of view of ancient tradition there were several points that went against Masako: 1. She is a bit taller than the crown prince. (She is 1,63 m, he is 1,61 m – I know that is not the English measurement but I do not know how to translate this.) 2. She comes from a family with only daughters. 3. Even worse, her sisters are twins. 3. Conservative journalists criticized Masako because in her public appearances (when the yellow press photographers had taken her by surprise as she wanted to go to work, see above) she had shown too much self confidence. This lady, to their mind, seemed to have too strong a character for a Japanese princess.

Anyhow, Masako was certainly not sorry that she was not thought suitable as crown princess. According to her, the crown prince was a nice guy, softly spoken, accomplished, sensitive, good to look at. But the main thing for her was her planned stay in England where she would study “International relations” for two years. And so Naruhito and Masako in summer 1988 parted ways – seemingly for ever.
THANK you for this, ChiaraC.

Now, does the book simply leave off at 1988? I am referring to the last sentence of this translation as I see it, here.

I don't see the rest of the translation, or did I just skip over it?

Thanks,

-- Abbie
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Old 06-25-2008, 06:42 AM
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Smile

Last time I was in such a hurry to get across my thoughts (as I had not much time) that I forgot to thank you, Emi and Mandy, for your support and your encouraging words. Thank you!!!

Tan_berry, you are right, Aiko is really special and will have a very special life, empress or no empress. I do not doubt this in the least. Maybe for her it is better if she can stay free from the imperial burden.
But for the Japanese people I still think it is rather a pity. We know from our European history what a positive impact female sovereigns in a male-dominated society are able to provide. I think, for example, of Elizabeth I and Victoria of England, Maria Theresia of Austria and Wilhelmina and Juliana of the Netherlands.
Most of them „should“ have been boys as well. It would even have saved Anne Boleyn´s life if her child had been a boy, in all probability she would then have lived to see him reign. But, on the other hand, this son could easily have become just another one of the insignificant English kings that are hardly remembered and not such an outstanding personality as Elizabeth.
And if you look at the Dutch queens you perceive that women may indeed have a different style in dealing with power: when they were getting old Juliana as well as Wilhelmina gave up the throne to their daughters. They obviously did not feel the necessity to cling to power until their dying day... Very wise. Women can learn from men to answer to a challenge and to hold a position of power when their time has come. But men can learn from women how to give up power when their time is over at last. The world would be a better place to live in if they learnt that.
(I am, too, very fond of Pearl S. Buck. I admire the love and care for people and especially for children that is expressed in her books and in her life – which was not an easy one...)

Abbie, no, the book does not leave off there. What a disappointment this would be for all of us! It is only that I am completely disrespecting the chronological order in doing this translation – I began this thread with chapter six about the conflict in the imperial family because I thought that would be the most interesting information for everybody. Then I did the circumstances of Aiko´s birth, then Masako´s illness. And now I have gone back to the very beginning, of Masako and Naruhito getting to know each other. And I will continue this story until they are finally married... Is it now clearer?
Or maybe you are just being irritated because I did not continue the translation for several weeks? As I said I am presently very busy so I have to go a bit slower but if you have to go slow for a time that does not mean you will stop altogether...
But thank you in any case for showing your interest! Very fortunately, I have just now a bit more of the translation ready to be put here. Here we go!
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  #118  
Old 06-25-2008, 06:55 AM
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Post The crown prince in search for a wife, part II

In September 1988, emperor Hirohito was diagnosed with cancer. The leading kunaicho-executives decided that he should live to see his grandson Naruhito married. And as they had, of course, no possibility to influence the tenno´s health the solution to this was obviously: to hasten the crown prince´s marriage.

The next candidate they presented to the prince was the daughter of a close friend of emperor Akihito. (Fritz and Kobayashi do not give his name. But they several times quote a friend of the tenno with pretty critical views about Masako – you will find some of them (with his name) also in my summary… I suspect that this friend might have also personal reasons for his critique that are to be found in the following story – but, of course, I cannot prove this and I may be wrong.) This said young lady was a twenty-eight-year-old fragile beauty. Like her father, tenno Akihito and prince Naruhito she had attended Gakushuin-school, the school of the former nobility. The families were close and met often so that she and Naruhito had been knowing each other already since they had been children.

Fritz and Kobayashi report that Naruhito and the young lady had met several times and had just begun to be interested in each other when the kunaicho found out that a great-grandfather of the lady had belonged to the Japanese colonial government in Korea and that, accordingly, she was not acceptable as wife for the crown prince as he could never travel with her to Korea where the great-grandchild of the former suppressor would not be welcome. Fritz and Kobayashi comment that experienced watchers of the Japanese monarchy secretly ask themselves why the kunaicho could not have found out this before the meetings of the crown prince with this young lady took place.

At this point, I want to present an alternative view of the facts that disagrees with the interpretation of Fritz and Kobayashi. I have read somewhere – I am sorry that I absolutely do not remember where but I remember it because to me it seemed to absolutely make sense (Judge for yourself if you think that, too!) – I have read that the executives of the kunaicho have always something in store to give as the official version (some great granduncle or mother´s cousin who did something unacceptable) just in case if a young lady is rejected for a reason that ought not to be published – for example, because the crown prince does not like her (or because the young woman seems to have too strong a character for a Japanese princess… ). So, to ask if the kunaicho could not have found out about the great-grandfather before the meetings took place, would, maybe, be putting the wrong question. Maybe they DID know before, and when their knowledge was required - as the prince did not like the lady - they came up with it as the good servants they are meant to be...

Could it be possible that this is the correct version of the story? In my opinion, yes. Sure, Fritz and Kobayashi report that the crown prince DID like this young lady and that, accordingly, the colonial great grandfather was not just a pretext. But who was it that gave them this information? (Fritz and Kobayashi do not say where they got that story from - which is not unusual in this book. They got a lot of their information only on condition that they consented to not mention their source – they inform the reader about his at the beginning of the book.) But I think that in this case it is very probable that they got the story from the father of the young lady, tenno Akihito´s friend. And maybe the truth of the tale was that the crown prince, after all, did not want the beautiful, traditionally raised young lady for his wife – although, maybe, she had been patiently waiting for the crown prince to tear his heart from Masako until she was already nearing the (traditionally) dangerous age of thirty... (Only supposing, of course, but it IS possible). And if it was so - then it is quite clear that the father would under no circumstances ever have admitted it. (Maybe not even to himself.) It would be no surprise then that he would prefer to name the great grandfather as the real problem and to blame the kunaicho for having neglected their duties… And it would be quite understandable as well that he never would be able to forgive Masako for having taken the place that he had wanted for his daughter...

I leave it to you to decide which version you think to be more probable.
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Old 06-25-2008, 07:00 AM
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Post The crown prince in search for a wife, part III

The next two stories were similar: Naruhito met the young lady several times and was said to be interested but soon was stopped short. In the first case because of the kunaicho finding out about an uncle having been in prison, in the next case the father of the young woman died. (Both parents of a young woman marrying into the imperial family have to be alive.)

Again, I would comment: in the first case we do not know if it was really the uncle who was the problem or if Naruhito after three meetings found out that he was no longer interested in the young lady, and the kunaicho had to give an official explanation of some sort. Even more so, as, obviously, the crown prince at the time could hardly say “Hello!” to a young lady without raising speculations of the press about his being charmed by her and about her views of becoming Japanese crown princess soon. Fritz and Kobayashi report that about 100 women were mentioned by the media as potential candidates for this position (usually not by their names, but as Ms A, B or C). If, for example, a young woman attended a concert in the imperial palace or had a close contact to princess Sayako she was risking to find herself mentioned some day in a newspaper… The journalists were “hunting” these young women with eagerness, broke with cameras and helicopters into their daily lives – like they had done before, with Masako in autumn of 1987. (See: “Complicated courtship”) And – among others - they attacked Masako again – at Oxford! Crowds of Japanese reporters tried to stop her in the streets there with questions about her relationship with the crown prince. (At the time there was no contact whatsoever between the future couple. Naruhito may have been secretly thinking of Masako but that was all.) Masako tried to escape, walking several hundred meters without answering. She obviously hoped to get rid of the journalists without having to make a comment. (Not probable though - if they had followed her as far as Oxford…) Then she gave up and said – but without slowing down her pace: “I have nothing to do with this. I want to work as a diplomat. I have heard nothing like that from the prince. This is none of my business.”

And the women-hunt went on. Some of the young ladies did not even leave their home for weeks because in front of their door-steps a crowd of journalists was waiting for them night and day. It grew so bad that even tenno Akihito gave a comment: “There are women suffering because something is been written about them that is absolutely not based on facts.” But not even the tenno could stop the media. Some of them intentionally hurt the dignity of the women in question and also of the prince. In order to put a cynical smile on the face of the readers they published, for example, pictures of the prince on which he looked especially unattractive or they gave him advice concerning a new haircut that would make him look a little bit better… And their efforts turned out to have considerable success: in a poll, 75% of young Japanese women said they would decline a marriage offer from the crown prince. (We see, again, although this example is not quite so cruel as the “advice to an Asian princess” (see there): it would be too simple to say that the Japanese media treat the members of the imperial family with politeness and respect at all times.)

But it were certainly not only the slanderous articles of the media that reduced the crown prince´s attraction as a husband. The times had changed. As one of Naruhito´s teachers, Minoru Hamao, put it: “Thirty years ago, it was seen as a honour to become a member of the imperial family. But now many young women no longer care about it. They do not want to lose their freedom.” At the end of the eighties/ beginning of the nineties, the time we are presently talking about, Japan was in a “gold rush” mood. The economical circumstances of the day made it possible to dream of becoming a millionaire overnight. For the more traditional of the young women: to marry such a millionaire and to lead a life in luxury. And for the more modern or ambitious of the women it had become possible to attend one of the top universities and have a career of their own, as a lawyer, doctor or a diplomat. Compared to that, becoming crown princess was only second best, if that.

(Here I think of your comment, Emi, as the conditions for a crown princess-to-be being stringent: in case that becoming crown princess is the dearest wish of the most attractive and intelligent of Japanese young women I would not call them stringent. But, as it is, you are, IMO, right: those who match these conditions, who are charming, intelligent, beautiful, with a perfect family background – which still counts a lot in Japanese society – may nowadays be not very interested in wasting their qualities on the imperial family who, after all, will not appreciate all the advantages they bring with them but will only require them to produce a male child or two and then hold their tongue… And those who still may have entertained illusions concerning this state of things in the nineties certainly know better now, after having witnessed Masako´s destiny… I repeat that if things should not radically change, Hisahito will have a big problem to find a wife, may he even grow to be the handsomest and smartest prince ever seen. And concerning the kunaicho-conditions for a crown princess: they should in future be willing to put up with much less if they want to have a chance at all.)
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Old 06-25-2008, 12:40 PM
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Smile ChiaraC, let me explain, please

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
Last time I was in such a hurry to get across my thoughts (as I had not much time) that I forgot to thank you, Emi and Mandy, for your support and your encouraging words. Thank you!!!

Tan_berry, you are right, Aiko is really special and will have a very special life, empress or no empress. I do not doubt this in the least. Maybe for her it is better if she can stay free from the imperial burden.
But for the Japanese people I still think it is rather a pity. We know from our European history what a positive impact female sovereigns in a male-dominated society are able to provide. I think, for example, of Elizabeth I and Victoria of England, Maria Theresia of Austria and Wilhelmina and Juliana of the Netherlands.
Most of them „should“ have been boys as well. It would even have saved Anne Boleyn´s life if her child had been a boy, in all probability she would then have lived to see him reign. But, on the other hand, this son could easily have become just another one of the insignificant English kings that are hardly remembered and not such an outstanding personality as Elizabeth.
And if you look at the Dutch queens you perceive that women may indeed have a different style in dealing with power: when they were getting old Juliana as well as Wilhelmina gave up the throne to their daughters. They obviously did not feel the necessity to cling to power until their dying day... Very wise. Women can learn from men to answer to a challenge and to hold a position of power when their time has come. But men can learn from women how to give up power when their time is over at last. The world would be a better place to live in if they learnt that.
(I am, too, very fond of Pearl S. Buck. I admire the love and care for people and especially for children that is expressed in her books and in her life – which was not an easy one...)

Abbie, no, the book does not leave off there. What a disappointment this would be for all of us! It is only that I am completely disrespecting the chronological order in doing this translation – I began this thread with chapter six about the conflict in the imperial family because I thought that would be the most interesting information for everybody. Then I did the circumstances of Aiko´s birth, then Masako´s illness. And now I have gone back to the very beginning, of Masako and Naruhito getting to know each other. And I will continue this story until they are finally married... Is it now clearer?
Or maybe you are just being irritated because I did not continue the translation for several weeks? As I said I am presently very busy so I have to go a bit slower but if you have to go slow for a time that does not mean you will stop altogether...
But thank you in any case for showing your interest! Very fortunately, I have just now a bit more of the translation ready to be put here. Here we go!
ChiaraC, I am not irritated with you, nor angry at you.

I was merely asking why what I read left off when it did.

The lack of book chronology had me confused. As the book appeared to jump around so, it became hard for me to follow.

Thank you,

-- Abbie
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