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  #281  
Old 04-20-2013, 02:41 PM
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4. Censorship

As an introduction to this part, I would like to quote what I have written in a blog about a private photo of Princess Kako that had been leaked into the internet some time ago:
Quote:
Japanese media are very cautious with addressing controversial issues in general, but this attitude becomes the more rigid, the closer the subject is situated to the imperial family. This is partly due to the institution of the Imperial Household Agency press club. The journalists registered in this club have exclusive access to briefings by agency officials and imperial family members, and usually prepare their questions collectively before submitting them for vetting, shunning most sensitive issues. Kenichi Asano, professor of journalism at Doshisha University says: “The Japanese media industry in general is hopelessly bad at what it does, but the IHA press club shows the worst aspects of the Japanese media. The journalists there are not doing their job of informing the Japanese public about what goes on.”

Correspondents of foreign newspapers are often observed with distrust by the Imperial Household Agency (IHA) as the agency has no means of keeping them under control. David McNeill, foreign correspondent of the Irish Times in Tokyo, reports that, when the emperor and empress were once to travel to Ireland and Norway, he had been granted the privilege of asking two questions in the routine press conference that had been organized on the occasion: “I wanted to quiz the emperor on his opinion about the compulsory singing of the national anthem at school ceremonies. As I rose to speak, an Imperial Household Agency (IHA) official signaled to the phalanx of TV cameras at the back of the room and they stopped filming and left. “They are worried that as a foreigner you might ask something that might embarrass his majesty,’ said the Japanese journalist beside me.”

At this point, one could ask what it was that IHA officials should have been so very afraid of, as McNeill had submitted the question he was intending to ask weeks in advance and as the emperor’s answer to it had been carefully written down by IHA officials before the news conference started. (This is the regular practice with imperial press conferences, no matter if the questioning journalists be Japanese or foreigners.) But McNeill says that the problem was that, if he had dared to put a different question than the intended, the IHA would have had nothing to punish him with for his trespass. A Japanese journalist could have been kicked out of the press club in a similar case or even get fired for not abiding by the rules.
One might think that such a system, albeit maybe unworthy of a modern democracy, at least gives the royals in question the opportunity to absolutely control which sort of information about them is getting public and which not. But this is, unfortunately, far from the case. There undoubtedly is censorship in operation as far as Japan´s imperial family is concerned. But it is not necessarily executed in the interest of the imperial family members. A famous example would be a speech Emperor Akihito gave in 2001.

You have to be aware that, in the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, Japan had, as part of a very successful attempt to remain independent from Western imperialism, led several wars of aggrandizement. In 1910, it annexed Korea that suffered severely under the occupation. As a result, the relations between Japan and the two Koreas are strained to this day. Accordingly, it raised a lot of attention when, in December 2001, Emperor Akihito spoke in detail about his own Korean roots. He said he read in an eighth-century official history document that the mother of Emperor Kammu (736-806) was a descendant of Muryeong, the 25th king of Baekje, one of three ancient kingdoms on the peninsula. It raised a lot of attention, I said, although that is but partly true. The emperor´s speech was front-page news in Korea. The huge majority of Japanese newspapers, though, completely ignored it. Kenichi Asano, at the time professor of journalism at Doshisha University, commented: “The newspapers here were too worried about the implications of that speech and the reaction from nationalists, so they ignored it.”

If, as this example shows, the emperor himself is not safe from being censured, you will not be surprised to hear that the members of his family enjoy even less freedom of speech. The restrictions begin with the fact that Japanese royals cannot just call a press conference but speak to the media but on certain, very rare occasions, usually birthdays or upcoming trips abroad. As I said in the blog, only carefully selected journalists take part. They submit the questions they intend to ask weeks in advance, the answer of the royal in question are written down by IHA officials before the press conference starts. This is usually sufficient to make sure that no inconvenient truth will get to be published by the media. But in cases when the IHA suspects that their royal “charge” might have a sudden outburst of spontaneous sincerity, they have still other means of controlling his or her communication with the outside world...

I would like to inform you about what the New York Times wrote about Masako´s first solo news conference in 1996. It seems that the princess acknowledged frankly that balancing her public and private life had been something of a chore. Immediately afterward, the IHA put out an English translation of her comments that contained no reference to her acknowledged difficulties:
Quote:
Princess Masako, appearing radiant in a sky-blue suit on the occasion of her 33d birthday, touched only briefly on her personal feelings and on her life with Crown Prince Naruhito, whom she married in June 1993. Foreign reporters were not allowed to attend the press engagement, and it was not broadcast in full, but brief television clips and reports by Japanese reporters who were allowed to attend indicated that the Princess in person was somewhat spontaneous. However, the formal presentation of her news conference came in a 14-page question-and-answer transcript in English. The micro-management of her words by the imperial agency offers a glimpse of the challenges facing newcomers to the imperial family.

''While there are various ways of thinking with respect to how a woman should act, how do I find a proper balance between the traditional role of the crown princess and my own personality?'' the Crown Princess asked, as quoted in conversational Japanese by the Asahi Shimbun, a leading daily. ''I make strenuous efforts.'' The expression she used, ''kushin moshimasu,'' could be translated colloquially as ''It's hard for me,'' although the dictionary translation is closer to strenuous.

But the Imperial Agency's version translated the same comment in this way: ''With respect to myself, the question is probably one of finding a point of harmonious balance between a traditional model of a crown princess and my own self. I do not think it is simply a question of whether or not I am, for example, 'modernist' or 'conservative.' ''
As you see, the scripted IHA version contained no hint to the fact that the princess was admittedly having a hard time in getting used to her life as a royal. This inconvenient truth might have spoiled the immaculate imperial image that the IHA is trying to sell to the public.

The crown princess has not given a press conference for more than a decade now. I am very curious if this will change on occasion of the upcoming trip to the Netherlands.
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  #282  
Old 04-20-2013, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
No, they are certainly not. But there are several factors to be considered:
[*]The emperor is a noble man whom I very much respect and admire. But he has a perspective on these things that notably differs from that any of us would entertain. [*]As you have seen the emperor is operating in a situation that is politically very complicated. He has to carefully watch his steps and has to always ponder how far he can go without disgruntling too much the powers that be.[*]The emperor and the crown prince disagree in a point that is fundamental for the monarchy.
Thank you Chiara for your explanation. I have read your posts with great interest. Thank you for taking the time to write it all down.
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  #283  
Old 04-20-2013, 07:23 PM
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ChiaraC--thank you for those pictures of the Crown Prince and Aiko. They are lovely, especially the one with Naruhito who has his arms wrapped protectively around his daughter's shoulders. Aiko will grow up to be a strong, confident woman who knows that her parents love her, no matter what. Besides I'm happy to see such spontaneous gestures instead of posed, formal pictures.
And in the interest of not starting a flame war, I find the pictures of the Akishino clan to be a bit frozen, and stiff vs. the Crown Prince's clan who are relaxed and happy.
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  #284  
Old 04-21-2013, 12:13 PM
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Thank you very much, SLV, for your kind words and for taking the time to express your appreciation!
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Originally Posted by mjkimura1976 View Post
ChiaraC--thank you for those pictures of the Crown Prince and Aiko. They are lovely, especially the one with Naruhito who has his arms wrapped protectively around his daughter's shoulders.
Yes, I love that photo, too, as it shows so clearly how much father and daughter mean to each other. Here is another that is also very cute (Masako herself made it...) (Obviously, it is not o.k. to directly insert photos as they have been removed without notice. So I will provide here the links to them for everybody who may be interested in what pictures mjkimura1976 is even talking about : The crown prince “protecting his daughter” and “Aiko with her parents”)

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Originally Posted by mjkimura1976 View Post
And in the interest of not starting a flame war, I find the pictures of the Akishino clan to be a bit frozen, and stiff vs. the Crown Prince's clan who are relaxed and happy.
Of course, there are rather formal and stiff pictures of all family members in existence – there have to be, naturally, because that is what is required on official occasions. Regarding the Akishinos, there are very informal pictures of them from before their marriage, and also rather spontaneous photos from when their children were little. (I will have a look what I can find and post them in the Akishino picture thread.) Apart from that, I share your impression.
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  #285  
Old 04-21-2013, 12:30 PM
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5. Isolation

When Michiko Shoda (now the empress) got to know her future husband, she said about the imperial family: “I feel really sorry for them. They are so confined. I wish they could get around to parties more and meet people who are not Gakushuin.” (Gakushuin is the school for children of the former aristocracy and very rich people that imperial children use to attend.)

Robert P. George, Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, was a graduate student at Oxford when Naruhito staid there 1983 - 1985. George´s brother Keith was Naruhito’s best friend at the university. George´s account serves to demonstrate what severe restrictions are imposed on Japanese royals:
Quote:
Keith and the Prince (“Hiro” as he was then known) used to come over to my house sometimes — I was already married by then, and was the only one with a house — and that was considered by the Prince’s attendants (and security people) to be a big step into the outer world. We decided that the next step was to take him out to an old-fashioned English pub. That, of course, was a challenge. In fact, it was pretty clear that it was a cause of controversy among those responsible for looking out for the Prince. In the end, though, the “modernizers” won, and he went out with us for a pint of ale. At the end of the evening, I recall that he very deliberately reached into his pocket and pulled out a ten pound note to cover his share. I suspect that it was the first time in his life he had ever paid for something himself or even had money in his possession. He seemed to enjoy the entire evening, especially the paying!

The next step we had in mind was impossible—or so we were told. We cooked up a plan for him to visit our family at home in West Virginia. Hiro clearly wanted to do it, but this was a decision that could only be made by the powers in Tokyo. Again, there was division. Miraculously, though, the Chamberlain (a wonderful man named Dr. Fuji, who deeply believed that the younger royals should not be excessively sheltered from the world) prevailed and the trip was arranged. It happened in the summer after Keith and Hiro completed their studies. Wonderfully, the Prince and his entourage made a stop to visit my wife and me in Princeton on his way to West Virginia. [...] We all [...] went together, then, to West Virgnia, followed by three busloads of Japanese reporters and photographers.
As a result of this cloistered life, imperial family members can be rather clueless when it comes to things that commoners are naturally familiar with. The emperor´s daughter, former Princess Nori, in the first time after her marriage to a commoner allegedly held up a register line for 30 minutes (to buy relatively few things) because she had absolutely no idea how to buy groceries. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported on an exchange of Nori with a lady-in-waiting after the princess´ engagement. The lady would say, "It's really hard to clean everything up, things like closets and bureaus just after you move into a new place." To which Princess Nori replied: "What, you have to clean up?"

So you will understand why, in 2009, Prince Naruhito said that he and his wife felt a strong necessity to provide their daughter “with so-called social experiences outside the Akasaka Estate and school” and that they “would appreciate it” if more privacy could be allowed to them. They sent Aiko at age four to the “National Children’s Castle”, an institution offering group activities for children, in order to bring her in contact with other children. (But I think that is about all they were ever allowed to do.)

Isamu Kamata, a friend of the crown prince and the emperor, told ABC News, “The police and the security people do not want the imperial family to be close to the common people. They want them to stay in a box safely. The Prince and the Princess cannot buy a book for their daughter; they have to let a servant buy it. It's even hard for them to make a phone call by themselves.”

You may notice that the fact that Japanese royals may not buy their books themselves, also means that, technically at least, their staff is in a position to withhold from them whatever books may not be thought “suitable” for their perusal. What happens if a royal fiercely insists on getting a certain book, we will probably never find out. (It is to be supposed that it depends on the royal´s rank and other factors.) But considering that imperial family members cannot go themselves to browse a bookstore (an activity, incidentally, that the empress admittedly misses), it is to be supposed that, in most cases, they will never get to know that a certain controversial book even exists...
Quote:
Some people have alleged that the Emperor may not take a walk in his gardens without obtaining the IHA’s consent. If that claim seems a bit extreme, another allegation is even more so: that the Imperial Family couldn’t make private, direct-dial telephone calls outside the palace. It’s uncertain if that restriction still exists today; it’s equally uncertain who or what imposed that rule. One Japanese expert, Raymond Lamont-Brown, seems to imply it was the Emperor when he states that Akihito “allowed direct-line telephones to be used at the Kyujo.” But another commentator still insists that “the imperial family reportedly does not even have access to a private phone.” Whatever the truth, and the IHA refuses to answer any questions on the matter, one can only wonder at a situation where a simple telephone call is the subject of debate and a symbol of great change.
(Source)

Journalist Toshiya Matsuzaki commented, ”There are so many restrictions, it's as if the Princess is a bird in a cage.” Kyoto University academic Akira Asada believes the treatment of Masako and the rest of the family is “almost a human rights” issue. "They don’t have a family name, passport, budget, liberty. I think various human rights abuses are going on in the imperial household."
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  #286  
Old 04-21-2013, 12:37 PM
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5. Isolation ...continued

To give you an idea of how these restrictions work, I want to tell you about how Naruhito and Masako one time attempted to disregard them:
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Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
In May 2003, Naruhito and Masako went together with Aiko to a - not very attractive looking - park close by the palace grounds for Aiko´s "koen debut". The "koen-debut" is a sort of ritual for little Japanese children (and their mothers), their first visit to a public playground. Nice conversation (for the mothers – with the other mothers who already "belong" to this place) and pretty clothing (for mother and child) are required. It is something commoners usually do, though, not imperial children. As far as I know, no imperial child, except Aiko, ever did that. So, this action was a statement by the crown prince and princess: It showed that they want to be close to “normal” Japanese people. They do not wish to live "above the clouds". The crown prince does not want to be only a passive symbol and pray for the people behind closed palace doors. He wants to take responsibility, be active, take an influence on society.

Just for this once, Naruhito and Masako were openly defying the will of the IHA officials. This was probably one of the very few occasions when they made an extraordinary effort to act as members of the open, close-to-the-people imperial family that belongs to their vision. And Naruhito – although he really has never been raised for such a role – did it well. To the attentive watchers he gave the impression of being absolutely relaxed and at his ease. Whereas Masako, as some journalists remarked, looked tired, her smile a bit artificial. It could not be overlooked that something was definitely wrong with her, already at that time. (She would be hospitalized with stress-induced shingles a few months afterwards. I have admittedly asked myself if the trouble that she and her husband must have gotten themselves into by this rebellious action was one of the reasons for her breakdown. Of course, I will never get an answer to this question...)

The first time just Masako went with Aiko to the playground, the second time Naruhito accompanied them and they all behaved as if they were but the friendly family next door. It is to be supposed that neither the IHA nor the emperor and empress appreciated these visits. So, it is quite interesting that before the second visit took place, somebody – probably somebody very close to the crown prince and princess – must have informed the media in advance about when they intended to go there again. As a consequence, camera teams, newspaper journalists and lots of housewives living close by were crowding the usually not much frequented park. Instead of a glimpse of normal life and normal interaction with the mothers and children who happened to be at the playground, the crown prince and his family were suddenly the center of a media spectacle. (That is also why there are photos of this visit: 1, 2.) The crown prince and princess had not been kept from leaving the palace - but they had nevertheless been prevented from realizing their plan in a way that proved very effective.

Opposition will take an indirect form in Japan, most of the time. That is why it may often be virtually invisible for an outsider, but nevertheless rather successful...
As you see, there are tough restrictions on the communication with the outer world in general, and this also includes friends and family: Masako can visit her family home only once every two or three years, and she is not supposed to stay overnight, ever. (There was an exception made in spring 2004 because of Masako´s illness. At the time, the princess was completely apathetic and would neither eat nor sleep. She was allowed to spend four weeks with her parents at their holiday home in Karuizawa. This stay considerably improved Masako´s condition at the time, but was too short as to have any lasting effects, and was never repeated.)

The restrictions even apply to the communication within the imperial family, in particular regarding the contact between members of the emperor´s household and the crown prince´s household because they both are organized in a very formal way. Before every visit, a formal request has to be submitted to and approved by the IHA officials on duty who then make the necessary preparations. (30 bodyguards usually accompany and protect the family of the crown prince.)

To be continued
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(Following recent incidents, I would like to refer anybody who may think the emperor´s statement obvious or redundant to this thread, post #682.)
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  #287  
Old 04-21-2013, 01:47 PM
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The most tragic of lives, and would make a fascinating book, if it were not non-fiction. Really my heart bleeds for them.
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  #288  
Old 04-21-2013, 05:34 PM
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When Naruhito comes to the throne will he have the ability to make any serious changes in how the household is run or is, as I suspect, the power of the IHA and the traditionalists too great and too entrenched at this time to ever be challenged?
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  #289  
Old 04-21-2013, 07:19 PM
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When Naruhito comes to the throne will he have the ability to make any serious changes in how the household is run or is, as I suspect, the power of the IHA and the traditionalists too great and too entrenched at this time to ever be challenged?
This question of change in the Japanese Imperial Household is apparently a very controversial one and it would seem that the weight of 2760 years of history is almost impossible to divert towards anything remotely resembling modern norms. The Crown Prince and Princess have a difficult task and one can only hope that their struggle will be supported by Japanese public opinion that, I would think, is also taken into account when the Imperial household decisions are taken
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Old 04-21-2013, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by NGalitzine View Post
When Naruhito comes to the throne will he have the ability to make any serious changes in how the household is run or is, as I suspect, the power of the IHA and the traditionalists too great and too entrenched at this time to ever be challenged?
I think part of the issue is that the current Emperor has no real desire for change, but a bigger part is that, if my understanding is correct, individual family members have no access to either a significant amount of private money or official household funds - it's all funnelled through the household minders. It's difficult to make serious changes if someone else is holding the pursestrings.
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Old 04-22-2013, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by NGalitzine View Post
When Naruhito comes to the throne will he have the ability to make any serious changes in how the household is run or is, as I suspect, the power of the IHA and the traditionalists too great and too entrenched at this time to ever be challenged?
I think that it is impossible to know this in advance, partly because it also depends on the political atmosphere in which he will happen to ascend. You have seen in part one of my answer that Naruhito´s father, for changing a few things, was publicly “punished” by a fierce press campaign against his wife, and that, in a way, he still continues to be castigated by the ongoing media campaign against his daughter-in-law. (Maybe the emperor would be more lenient towards Masako, if he did not feel that members of the imperial family cannot afford to have any personal weaknesses (or at least not to publicly show them) because there are so many critics out there who are just waiting for such an opportunity.)

You would have to also consider that the fact that Akishino is – indirectly, for a long time, and now very directly by Yamaori´s proposal – publicly presented as an alternative to Naruhito, is an attack on the crown prince. Naruhito has raised the anger of Japan´s conservatives because he has, even if he is not yet emperor, already managed to bring about a certain degree of change in Japan´s imperial house by defending his wife and standing up for her. He continues to do this, even if it has been made sufficiently clear by the powers that be that he ought to sacrifice Masako if he wants one day to ascend the throne. It remains to be seen if they have the power and the courage to follow through with their unspoken threat and replace Naruhito by his brother. The problem for them is, probably, that although they are “technically” in a position to do this, it is pretty sure that, if they forced Naruhito to give up his succession right, he would then tell the public that this took place totally against his will (which would create a huge international scandal, of course).

What Naruhito will or will not be able to accomplish when he becomes emperor will also depend, in huge measure, on his and his wife´s popularity. For example, if he should fire half of the IHA employees (which he could do easily in so far as there are much more of them than are practically needed), I think there would be a media campaign against him, claiming that he cruelly lets his loyal servants starve and die on the streets... You will say, he should give them a good pension, but, unfortunately, it is not that easy. 1st he would, in this case, still have lots of enemies out there who know, because of their service in the palace, many imperial secrets (or even, in case they do not, they can make them up, the public has no means of knowing the difference) and 2nd in such a case, the crown prince would be accused of being spendthrift in a time of low economy...

By the present ongoing campaigns against him and his wife, conservatives make sure that the broad public would probably believe such criticism when Naruhito will have become emperor. (As I said in part 1, although the criticism against Masako was there right from the start, it would have been impossible during the nineties to attack her so harshly as she is attacked now, because she was by far too popular.) It is possible that, in such a case, Naruhito might risk “open war” by speaking directly to the people at a press conference. I do believe that, as The Emperor, he would have the authority to call such a press conference, even if the IHA disagreed. But the big question is, what would come afterward? The “empire” would, undoubtedly, “strike back”, like it did after Naruhito´s rebellious 2004 press conference...

In short, the baseline for the answer to your question would be that the real problem is not the IHA, but the political establishment, the bureaucrats and the media. (To say that the IHA is but their henchman would perhaps be a bit exaggerated, but in my opinion not altogether incorrect.) They can be controlled and deprived of their power by the Japanese people only. To ask, “Will the Japanese stand up for Naruhito and Masako?” is, in my humble opinion, as much as asking, “Will they stand up for themselves?”

At present, it does not look like it. But then, you never know...
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mjkimura1976 View Post
And in the interest of not starting a flame war, I find the pictures of the Akishino clan to be a bit frozen, and stiff vs. the Crown Prince's clan who are relaxed and happy.
I have found several photos, please see this thread.

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Originally Posted by gerry View Post
This question of change in the Japanese Imperial Household is apparently a very controversial one and it would seem that the weight of 2760 years of history is almost impossible to divert towards anything remotely resembling modern norms.
In fact, there is no such thing as “2760 years of imperial history“... But it clearly shows the overwhelming success of the nationalist propaganda that has started in the 19th century (and has never actually stopped ever since) that an intelligent informed person like you would never have heard about this being a lie. You are absolutely not alone in that. There are so many myths circulating regarding the imperial family (also in Japan) and they are taken for real, although historical science has already proven them to be clearly wrong (and usually made up for certain political purposes).

For example, you often read in the Western media things like: “a dynasty that has lasted for more than two thousand years”. This – I have said it before in this forum and am aware that I will probably have to repeat it again and again - is clearly a legend. Empirical evidence indicates that the monarchy in Japan originated around the fifth century A.D.. Nevertheless, the (still) official genealogy of the imperial house claims that the first tenno, Jimmu, founded the monarchy in 660 B.C. This 660 B.C. date, though, is made up in a very weird way.. The authors of Japan´s first historical records, the “Kojiki” (712 A.D.) and the “Nihongi” (720 A.D.), quite simply used Chinese astrological and genealogical tables, calculating that 1260 lunar years had passed since the reign of the first (Chinese) emperors. (Imperial China was at the time the much-admired great role model of the budding Japanese monarchy.) Taking 600 A.D. as their starting point and subtracting 1260, they concluded that, to be on a par with the Chinese monarchy, the first Japanese emperor ought to have ascended the throne in 660 B.C. So, they quite simply just maintained that he had... A very convenient way of writing history indeed. You want people to be awed by your noble ancestors? - You just set up a chronicle in which it is clearly “documented” in which way you are descended from Charlemagne... Such things, incidentally, were much the fashion in 17th century Europe. (If I am not mistaken, Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony, ordered historians to do genealogical research regarding his pedigree and it was “discovered” that Augustus was allegedly descended, I think from Achilles (the Trojan War hero ).) Most people would probably be surprised to hear that this sort of “historiography” still works in the 21th century. But regarding Japan´s imperial family, it clearly does.

To put it differently: a lot of the so called historical facts about Japan´s imperial house have been completely made up or at least manipulated, in order to serve political purposes. That was the case in the 7th century when Emperor Temmu ordered the writing of Japan´s first history “with its goal the enhancement of a glorious emperor-centered past” (Jerrold M. Packard), and that happened again during the Meiji restoration at the end of the 19th century. As Kenneth Ruoff wrote, “the imperial institution constructed during the Meiji era was as much a cultural and ideological invention as a political-legal system. Virtually all aspects of the monarchy were reinvented and modernized. New imperial “traditions” or practices “which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past,” were invented, and old traditions manipulated to suit the modern age.” [My bold](The People´s Emperor, page 20)

What is worse, this tendency to believe and maintain whatever seems useful or desirable, is by no means a matter belonging to the past. Conservative politicians like former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma (you may have heard about him, he is the one who once fantasized about Princess Aiko becoming “involved with a blue-eyed foreigner”) assert even today that Japan´s mythical first emperor, Jimmu, began his reign 2,673 years ago although, as I already have stated, this is a legend, and, what is worse, a legend that cannot under any circumstances be true. Japan´s nationalists will always say that they are upholding venerable ancient traditions, but that is but a convenient smokescreen. Actually, this whole issue is about real, down-to-earth political power, and what is worse, about political power that is used in a way that one cannot help but to call undemocratic.

This, incidentally, is also what Prince Mikasa (the youngest brother of the Showa emperor) was talking about in the fifties when he said that, as a member of the imperial family, a former army officer, and a scholar, he had a responsibility to denounce the prewar holiday Kigensetsu as “without historical foundation”. The Kigensetsu was set up to celebrate the founding of Japan by the mythical first emperor Jimmu. As you now know, though, (and as Prince Mikasa as historian knew perfectly well, too), this emperor never lived, and Japan (as a nation) was founded much later. But the holiday was the perfect instrument to rub the 660 B.C. date into the brains of people. That is why nationalists in the fifties proposed to reintroduce this holiday. The prince was very worried about this, not just for academic reasons but because he knew that there was a very real political motive for this con. Before the war, the tenno had been glorified by all possible means, so his authority would be strong enough to justify practically everything, even obvious atrocities. Prince Mikasa was afraid that this could happen again. (For more concerning Japan´s invented traditions and the dislike of the IHA for scientific historical research please see this blog.)

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Originally Posted by gerry View Post
The Crown Prince and Princess have a difficult task and one can only hope that their struggle will be supported by Japanese public opinion that, I would think, is also taken into account when the Imperial household decisions are taken
I could not agree more.

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Originally Posted by camelot23ca View Post
I think part of the issue is that the current Emperor has no real desire for change...
It is quite true that the emperor and the crown princes disagree on how much change there should be. But in some respects, the emperor is very eager to see change (if even but because he wants the monarchy to continue): It was upon the request of Shingo Haketa, at the time grand steward of the IHA, that then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda proposed to enable female members of the imperial family to create family branches. I am not the only one to believe that the emperor himself was behind this request. Princess Mako, his eldest granddaughter, became of age on October, 23, 2011, and I suspect that the emperor wanted to make sure that the law would be changed before she would leave the imperial family by marriage (as did his only daughter in 2005). Political hardliners, though, are so afraid of the prospect of females getting succession rights one day in the far future, in case they should be allowed to retain their royal status, that they are strictly blocking the urgently necessary change. Compared to theirs, the emperor´s views are very modern indeed...

NB: I have part six (“Failure regarding the only important task: to bear a male heir”) not ready yet. I hope I will be able to post it tomorrow.
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Old 04-22-2013, 11:22 AM
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Thank you everyone for this fascinating and interesting thread. From my uninformed western background, I want to ask something. With the pressure from all sites, the intrigues and what seems to me like blatant sexism against Masako and Aiko, knowing that his younger brother produced a successor to the throne, why would Naruhito still accept to be the heir to the throne? He and his family could have a successful, happy life everywhere on this planet, be free after all.

I understand that he was raised to become an Emperor and that obligation fulfillment is very important, but the treatment he and his loved ones have endured for so many years leads me to believe that he is not even wanted as head of the imperal family.
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Old 04-23-2013, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by MissJanet View Post
Thank you everyone for this fascinating and interesting thread. From my uninformed western background, I want to ask something. With the pressure from all sites, the intrigues and what seems to me like blatant sexism against Masako and Aiko, knowing that his younger brother produced a successor to the throne, why would Naruhito still accept to be the heir to the throne? He and his family could have a successful, happy life everywhere on this planet, be free after all.

I understand that he was raised to become an Emperor and that obligation fulfillment is very important, but the treatment he and his loved ones have endured for so many years leads me to believe that he is not even wanted as head of the imperal family.
This is precisely what baffles me, too!
I have sometimes questioned why Naruhito does not step aside, since there is clearly another successor and he already knows that his wife cannot cope. Someone mentioned that she can simply remain at home while Naruhito performs his duties, but how will an absentee Empress fulfill public expectations?

It seems to me that this (stepping aside) is a solution that would make everyone much happier. However, I have been told that he can't do that (although the reasoning why not simply doesn't make sense to me).
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  #295  
Old 04-23-2013, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Mirabel View Post

This is precisely what baffles me, too!
I have sometimes questioned why Naruhito does not step aside, since there is clearly another successor and he already knows that his wife cannot cope. Someone mentioned that she can simply remain at home while Naruhito performs his duties, but how will an absentee Empress fulfill public expectations?

It seems to me that this (stepping aside) is a solution that would make everyone much happier. However, I have been told that he can't do that (although the reasoning why not simply doesn't make sense to me).
I wonder if he feels he will be better able to defeat (or, at least, diffuse) the forces that have caused the probs with his family from within - and not if he quits, since he will then be vilified for giving up his service to the country?
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  #296  
Old 04-23-2013, 03:30 PM
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As we have been discussing the role of the IHA in the treatment of Masako, I would like to quote part of a post from another forum. I think this poster sums it up just perfectly, answering the question “why the IHA has so much power”:

Quote:
There are various different reasons but, imo, one of the most significant ones is the cultural ethos of the bureaucracy. After WWII, the Allied Occupation powers purified many branches of the ultra-right wing loonies, from the military to the govt. to others. But not the govt. bureaucrats. The same people who worked in the Tojo govt. as bureaucrats continued on, including in the IHA. If you've ever seen shows like "Yes, Minister," you will know how much power these small people have. Ministers come and go, but the ones who make the govt. run on a daily basis stayed the same.

As in China, the bureaucracy was the haven for people of a certain background, political perspective and family type. Sons followed fathers who had followed their fathers before them. The pre-WWII nationalistic, rightwing, Emperor-worshipping conservatives burrowed deep into the bureaucracy and their similarly-minded sons followed them. Few places landed more conservatively minded people than the IHA.

When you combine all that with senior govt. leaders who are sons of Tojo bigwigs, and who are committed to protecting the IHA's ethos/philosophy for the Imperial Family, you get a situation where the IHA and govt. leaders are co-conspirators.
[…]

In short, the government will never intervene to do anything against the IHA. At the lower level, the govt. is made up of bureaucrats who are closely associated with the IHA or are drawn from the same pool; at the higher levels, the ministers are either actively working to finalise a joint vision or are using the IHA to ensure their plans for the monarchy are not derailed.

As for the issue of the press, I've actually written about that in detail and the bottom line is that the Japanese people don't know anything about the Imperial Family unless it's fed to them. […]


The public ends up knowing very little of what's really going on. One of my best friends is half-Japanese and he told me that none of his extended family in Tokyo has any idea of what the IHA is really like. He sent them some stuff I'd written as well as various news paper articles from Western papers and they couldn't believe it. They seriously could NOT and would NOT believe it. So, he kept sending them stuff I dug up and finally, they started to question all the things they'd been fed in their domestic papers. One of the more liberal Japanese papers occasionally prints stuff in support of opening up the Imperial Family (and that's as far as they dare go) but my friend's family just thought they were being "troublemakers." Their words, not mine. They really thought that Masako was just being lazy and not following her duty because that was the gist they had gotten from a famous royal observer/journalist (who is the IHA's pet and favorite source to leak to.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by MissJanet View Post
Thank you everyone for this fascinating and interesting thread. From my uninformed western background, I want to ask something. ...
Hi MissJanet, good question, thank you for asking! But while it is virtually impossible to always absolutely stay on topic because everything is so intertwined, I think this would really cross the line to being OT in this thread. So, I have put your question (and my answer) here.

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Originally Posted by casualfan View Post
I wonder if he feels he will be better able to defeat (or, at least, diffuse) the forces that have caused the probs with his family from within - and not if he quits, since he will then be vilified for giving up his service to the country?
I agree. If there is anything he can do at all, it is only from within.

(Sorry guys, part six is still "under construction" ... )
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Old 04-23-2013, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
Hi MissJanet, good question, thank you for asking! But while it is virtually impossible to always absolutely stay on topic because everything is so intertwined, I think this would really cross the line to being OT in this thread. So, I have put your question (and my answer) here.)
Thank you! So well written, so much information and background knowledge. I will certainly read the whole thread, for once I just got an insight into what is going on behind the walls. Thank you again,very much.
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  #298  
Old 04-24-2013, 12:11 PM
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Thank you, MissJanet! I feel very much flattered.

If you have taken a deeper interest in this matter, I can still recommend the book "Prinzessin Masako - Der gefangene Schmetterling"/ "Masako, la mariposa atrapada"/ "Prinses Masako - de gevangen vlinder"/ "Księżniczka Masako - uwięziony motyl" by Martin Fritz and Yoko Kobayashi. It has been published in 2005, before Princess Kiko fell pregnant for the third time, which means that it does not cover these events. Besides, it is vague to the point of incomprehensibility as far as the political background is concerned. (I do not know why - maybe because the authors who both lived in Japan at the time of the publication did not want to get themselves in trouble?)
But apart from that, it is a very good book, the best I know about Masako, and, in particular, offers a lot of interesting information about the internal dynamics of the imperial family. It is unfortunately not available in English, but as the members of this forum come from many various countries, I thought I might mention it.
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Old 04-24-2013, 12:24 PM
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For those members who maybe join this thread just now, here is what has happened so far: I am trying to answer vkrish´s question.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vkrish View Post
Does anyone have even a vague idea how they(IHA) "stress" her [Princess Masako] out?
I have said that, to my knowledge, there are several reasons for the stress the princess suffers from, and that the IHA (Imperial Household Agency) does play an important part in this, but is not the only factor. I have divided my answer into 6 parts.
  1. Masako – a victim of political power struggles
  2. “Denial of personality”
  3. No privacy - even at home
  4. Censorship
  5. Isolation
  6. Failure regarding the only important task: to bear a male heir
Part one is to be found here. Today, we go for the 6th and last part:

6. Failure regarding the only important task: to bear a male heir

''Indeed, being the wife in the imperial family has got to be the No. 1 source of stress,'' said Rihachi Iizuka, a prominent fertility specialist at Keio University. ''That's why caged animals like monkeys and pandas in zoos don't have as many babies as the ones out in the wild.'' (The New York Times) In order to give you an idea of what an immense pressure Masako was under to get pregnant and for what a long period of time this was the case, I would like to quote what I have written about this issue in another thread of this forum:
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Originally Posted by ChiaraC View Post
The child-bearing pressure on Masako had started to build before she was even married. For example, Masako had been given only one and a half month for her „bridal lessons“ (about Shinto, rituals, caligraphy, waka poems etc.), in contrast to Michiko´s three months, because it was thought of the highest importance that the wedding should take place as soon as at all possible. (As Masako was already 29 years when she married, there were concerns that she might be „too old“ to produce an heir.) Already before the wedding, the head gynecologist of the court, professor Shoichi Sakamoto, had been sent to the imperial bride in order to advise her on how to get pregnant quickly – not to exhaust herself and stay relaxed. But, already at that time, it was probably not that easy to stay relaxed... The newspapers (serious as well as yellow press) were full of articles featuring Masako´s “true character”: maternal and home-loving or her presumed ability to change nappies. Even professor Sakamoto himself took the trouble of informing Miss Owada via the media that he would be most happy to deliver her hypothetical baby as early in the future as possible.

And finally, after the wedding, all hell broke lose: the media filled pages and pages with hot tips on how to have a boy. Masako was recommended to eat tofu, shells, octopus, all sorts of dairy, potatoes, almonds… Although the journalists had to admit that there was no guarantee as to the results they still insisted that it was „better than doing nothing”. In addition, Masako could not wear shoes without high heels or put her hands in front of her belly for a moment nor cancel a duty because of a cold without causing media rumours about her being pregnant. Finally, the number and frequency of „pregnancy headlines“ reached a point that made the usually serene crown prince feel compelled to address the issue and ask the media to stick to the facts. When, three years after the wedding, those facts were still not forthcoming, the media turned from giving good advice to speculating about the reasons for Masako´s supposed “infertility”. The American magazine “Newsweek” took up the issue in June 1996 but was not so much interested in the question WHY there was a problem but in how it could be solved – pragmatically, the authors recommended artificial insemination. This advice caused a scandal in Japan. It seemed unbearable to imagine that the future tenno might begin his life in a test-tube! The national shock culminated in a very nasty article I have discussed in detail here (post 81: “An advice to an Asian princess”). Besides, as I have already described, from 1995 on, the crown couple were increasingly kept at home. So they did not even have much of a chance left to get their mind off the matter which probably intensified the feeling of being under pressure even more. Then followed the miscarriage, along with another media hype - not because of an official announcement, incidentally. The IHA in the beginning even refused to confirm the media reports about the pregnancy and said that the princess had simply caught a cold. But the frustrated media that had waited for this moment for years were not willing to heed the IHA officials: romantic pictures of Masako and Naruhito were being broadcast by all TV channels, newspaper headlines would blare: “The stork had been taking his time…” Masako´s parents were interviewed, obviously rather against their will. Her father Hisashi kept repeating that he had not heard anything about the supposed pregnancy. Masako´s mother Yumiko implored the journalists, with tears in her eyes, to please respect her daughter´s feelings: “If the reports were true, there would be no greater happiness on earth. But if they are false, Princess Masako will be only pained by them. I am very concerned about this…”

When the princess was finally recovered from the shock and the heartbreak of the miscarriage, she underwent, in all probability, fertility treatments (that are said to be highly stressful). Aiko´s birth might have given her a short break, but even that was not without a drop of bitterness: while the announcement of the pregnancy had been received with joy by everybody, the birth of „only a girl“, caused, in contrast, a rather disappointed silence.

Accordingly, when, one and a half year after Aiko´s birth, Masako was urged to have her second child, it was clear that she was but being admonished to finally perform a task that she ought to have accomplished already years ago. The pressure that had been on her from her very first days as crown princess and that had already brought a lot of pain and suffering into her life was upon her once again.
Accordingly, at the beginning of 2003, when Aiko was one year, a conflict arose: the emperor, along with the empress and IHA officials, decided that the crown couple should have their second child now. When prince and princess did not react, the pressure exerted on them was gradually being increased: first, in summer 2003, Chief Steward Toshio Yuasa publicly requested them to have another child and finally, in December 2003, he asked the Akishinos to produce an heir. (He needed not have done that in public if it was not intended also as an reprimand towards the crown princely couple.) But the crown prince and princess – although they did want to have more children – felt that they were not yet ready. They were so deeply grateful for the birth of this one precious child, they had been waiting for her so many years that they wanted to make sure that she had all the care and attention she needed to healthily and happily grow up. When Aiko was one and a half years, Masako said in public: “The very first years are said to be very important for a child. Accordingly, I want to carefully watch over Aiko as she grows and support her.” Masako felt deeply grieved that the emperor and the empress seemed to think that it was not worth while to spend so much time on Aiko as she was “but” a girl. Masako felt that her human dignity as well as that of her daughter was being violated by this attitude, and her husband supported her.

Later, the crown princess said that she had been “feeling bad” since spring 2003 – the very point of time when the pressure to have a second child must have started. I even think it possible that all the following problems might not have arisen if only the people surrounding the princess had been a bit more patient. But, as it happened, three days after little Aiko had celebrated her second birthday, her mother was hospitalized with a bout of shingles, an illness that is often induced by severe stress. In the beginning of 2004, the crown princess was so ill that she was, very often, unable to even sleep or eat. Another pregnancy, it seemed, was clearly out of the question. We do not know if during that time the child bearing pressure stopped, and if so, when it did start again. But I´d suppose that the crown prince and princess did not try for another child (which would, in all probability, have meant fertility treatments, that are said to be highly stressful for the woman´s body) at least until the beginning of 2006. What they did afterwards, we have no means of knowing but, obviously, whatever they did, it was not successful.
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Old 04-24-2013, 12:34 PM
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6. Failure regarding the only important task: to bear a male heir ... continued

But it is clear that, at the latest, in the beginning of 2006, after Kiko´s third pregnancy had been made public, the crown princess was pressured again to have a second child. A friend of the emperor, Akira Hashimoto told AFP, commenting on Kiko´s pregnancy, „If the law is maintained for male-only succession, the birth of a boy would mean the imperial line would move to the younger brother's family. This would be unbearable for Princess Masako. She would be branded as useless and disqualified to be the crown princess.“ Hashimoto recommended Masako to "try to have another child" by resorting to any possible medical means. "If she does not want to do it, I would say she should divorce" the crown prince to give him a chance to produce more children, Hashimoto said. It is improbable that Hashimoto was voicing Masako´s true feelings when he said that it would be “unbearable” for her if the imperial line would move to the Akishino family. Rather, he said what she ought to feel, according to him, and, probably, also according to the emperor. It is important to note that Hashimoto made this statement at the very moment when a male heir seemed to be forthcoming.

In the article News.com published last week on occasion of the upcoming trip of Japan´s crown princess to the coronation in the Netherlands, it was said:
Quote:
Masako married Naruhito, now 53, in 1993 and gave birth to their first and only child, a girl, in late 2001 under intense pressure to bear a son in keeping with Japan's male-only royal succession law. The pressure seemingly eased when a boy was born to the family of the crown prince's younger brother in 2006, the first prince born to Japan's royal family in 40 years.
After having been informed about Hashimoto´s demand, you will understand what I mean when I say that the News.com comment is as typical for the Western media as it is clueless. (Please forgive me for sounding rude. ) The pressure on Masako did not stop, in a way you could even say that it was even intensified by Kiko´s pregnancy. If we listen to Hashimoto, it becomes clear that Kiko´s pregnancy was not meant to take the pressure off Masako but rather, make it even worse. Hashimoto (and his kindred spirits) obviously hoped that the ailing crown princess would feel compelled to compete against her fertile and dutiful sister-in-law, no matter what that would mean regarding her own poor health. One could even get the impression that the intention to drive the crown princess to getting pregnant again by putting her to shame was at least as important as the prospect that Kiko herself might actually produce a potential heir to the throne. As Masako is going to turn fifty this year, it is improbable that anybody would expect her now to have another child. But even if the pressure may be gone, so is the hope to make up for her “failure”, ever. And the shame remains...

Women in Japan tend to know what that means.
Quote:
''She married into a position where her responsibility is to give birth to a boy, and I feel for her,'' said Naomi Yamaha, 33, a computer engineer. ''Even as commoners, there is a lot of pressure on you to have a boy if you marry the oldest son.''
And the pressure is a thousand times more intense for the Crown Princess, living in a gilded imperial cage where her every move is watched and evaluated.
Miki Fuda, a 38-year-old homemaker from Tokyo told Hiroshi Matsubara of the Asahi Shimbun in 2006 that Princess Masako was likely under tremendous pressure to give birth to a male heir to the throne:
Quote:
"When I became pregnant with my second child, there was the unspoken understanding that I must have a boy," she recalled. "When a test at the advanced stage of my pregnancy suggested that I would have another girl, my mother-in-law looked very disappointed and immediately asked if the test was really reliable.

"I was shocked by her reaction and started to feel that I had no value as a member of the family unless I give birth to a boy," she said. "The crown princess must have been in a similar situation, but on a much larger scale. I just cannot help feeling sympathetic toward her."
Things do not get any better by the fact that the problems that would have been solved, if Koizumi´s plans to amend the Imperial House Law (and to let women succeed to the throne) had been realized, have by no means been solved by Hisahito´s birth (although his birth was, in fact, taken as a pretext to abandon these plans). It was not just a question of the line moving to the younger brother´s family. Actually, the birth of at least one more prince would have been indispensable in order to give the imperial family a tiny chance of fulfilling their duties in the future, in case no changes of the law should take place. (And it does not look as if this would happen any time soon or even, at all.) I would like to further explain why this is so.
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