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  #41  
Old 02-20-2006, 01:19 PM
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Charlotte, I appreciate your insights into Japanese society on this thread. I do have some points to raise about some of the things you write, though. I am a person who respects the traditions of various societies to a point but when individuals are hurting, like clearly has been happening to Michiko and Masako, then I think there needs to be a serious re-evaluation. I believe you cannot overlook the "individual" good if you are talking about the "communal" good. In other words if you look at the family unit as one small communal group, then you have to weigh how well individual needs are or are not being met and how that impacts the functioning of the family. There is no doubt that having two consecutive Crown Princesses struggling with mental health issues is not good for the the "communal" good of the family. From that starting point, I think you can extrapolate to the entire Japanese society: how are various sectors functioning in order to create a healthy society? About 8 years ago either Newsweek or Time magazine had an article saying Japan had the highest teenage suicide rate in the world -- what is that saying about the stress on youngsters from this society? It means there is something seriously wrong with teenage individuals trying to grow up in their family units and that the family units are somehow not functioning healthfully because of pressures from the larger society. (I am not saying this would be the case if suicide levels were at a "normal" level, but when they are that high, clearly there is a problem larger than just with a family.) Although the teenage suicide rate has different origins than Masako and Michiko's problems, I wonder what things they have in common? My guess is one thing they have in common is some level of denial of the individual. You cannot have a healthy family/community/society without honoring - to a degree - the needs of the individual. I do believe my own country could be criticized for the rampant individualism that exists and I think people are just beginning to question that individualism and what it has done to the community. I think Japan would benefit from some self examination coming from the opposite angle: what has sacrificing for the communal good meant to individual lives.
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  #42  
Old 02-20-2006, 01:54 PM
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A couple of additional thoughts I didn't make clear. Charlotte, you wrote that "negative things are not spoken about. Controversial topics are not discussed." I imagine a Psychology major on this board would articulate my thoughts more clearly, but basically, there has to be a mechanism for negative feedback in order for a system - however large or small you define that system - to function healthfully. If, as you suggest, Japan doesn't believe in negative feedback, is it any wonder teens have expressed their negativity in such a sad and harsh way? Naruhito has said the IHA "denied Masako's character" or something to that effect -- well, perhaps there needs to be a system for negative feedback to be constructively dealt with. I highly doubt Masako will divorce but as I posted earlier somewhere, at the time of the wedding there was one comment saying basically that the only way out the system for her once she was married would be suicide. I remember it because it seemed such a harsh statement but as I have learned more about the culture, I begin to wonder how much truth there was to that statement. If -- if -- Masako is that miserable, let us hope divorce is the route she is bold enough to take.
Second, I don't know if it's fair to say whether Michiko or Masako has "had it worse" -- both have had their characters denied to a degree and both have suffered mightily. Although Michiko "fought" to raise her children, I do wonder what "fights" Masako has endured that we simply don't know about.
Finally, let me reiterate what I wrote in my first post, your insights are very interesting and I truly am appreciative of them. I have had weekly contact with a very smart, and in most cases, wealthy, segment of Japanese families who are here while the men are pursuing advanced education degrees and their wives/children attend a Suzuki school my kids go to. Much of what you write resonates with what I have observed and the rest of what you write has given me food for thought. Please continue the dialogue!
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  #43  
Old 02-20-2006, 02:27 PM
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i really hope its a girl also, maybe all the old men pulling the strings will have a collective stroke, die and be done with this evil iha.
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  #44  
Old 02-20-2006, 02:28 PM
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I think comparisons of whether Michiko or Masako had the worse time of it are, while interesting, somewhat beside the point. Michiko had the same problems that many commoners in the west had when they were the first to marry into a royal family; it sounds as though they were more institutionalised and more cruel, but it was still not that unusual. On the other hand, she wasn't a professional woman nearing her 30th birthday like Masako, who has had to come to terms with basically a wasted career. It also sounds as though it was Naruhito who made all the running in the relationship, although I'm not familiar with the details of the courtship of Akihito and Michiko. And Michiko, as the mother of two sons, would have been seen as at least worthwhile from that point of view.

The fact remains that for basically the same reason - an outsider who wasn't considered suitable by the Establishment for one reason or other - two consecutive crown princesses have ended up mentally damaged. Some Japanese friends of ours, talking about the situation with Masako, have expressed the attitude "Princess needs to get over it." I suppose if that's a microcosm of the general attitude in Japan, we shouldn't expect to see things improve (by our standards) any time soon. I doubt very much that Masako would try to divorce her husband, since she seemed to marry him in spite of his position rather than because of it and there's no question that she'd be allowed much if any access to her daughter. It seems to me that the only alternatives are for Naruhito, under pressure from the IHA, to divorce her; for her to be a good little cooperative lady and commit suicide so that the "problem" goes away; for Naruhito to remove himself from the royal family (which might be difficult since he probably doesn't have any really marketable skills and since the IHA hold all the purse strings so he doesn't have a private fortune); or for her to grin and bear it like her mother in law did and to live a life as a puppet of the IHA (an increasingly worthless one if Kiko has a boy) doubtless with recurrences of her mental problems just like Empress Michiko.

No wonder she was so reluctant to get into this marriage. She probably had a fairly good idea of where it would take her.
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  #45  
Old 02-20-2006, 06:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msleiman
I really hope that the new baby will be a girl. :)
The baby could also be adjusted to be a boy by causing a partial abortion to remove the females. Two of my friends years ago were having trouble to have kids, both pushing 40 something already. I remember that one of them expained to me she was going to have triplets because she was using the injections to increase fertility, thus causing multiple babies. One of the babies died inside and was removed but the other two, girls, were born full term. She said that in dangerous multiple births you doctor could do a partial terminatation of the gestation to allow the safety of everyone.

So, this sounds too sci fi but considering the desperation about male progeny in the Imperial Household, I won't be surprised if the princess is to have multiple births they could make her just to have the one needed, the boy. Sounds almost cruel, but look at how this two couples are being cruelly treated now just for giving birth to females. So if Princess Kiko was made or 'convinced' to put her body through this procedure, let's hope every baby inside is a female!
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  #46  
Old 02-20-2006, 07:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toledo
The baby could also be adjusted to be a boy by causing a partial abortion to remove the females. Two of my friends years ago were having trouble to have kids, both pushing 40 something already. I remember that one of them expained to me she was going to have triplets because she was using the injections to increase fertility, thus causing multiple babies. One of the babies died inside and was removed but the other two, girls, were born full term. She said that in dangerous multiple births you doctor could do a partial terminatation of the gestation to allow the safety of everyone.

So, this sounds too sci fi but considering the desperation about male progeny in the Imperial Household, I won't be surprised if the princess is to have multiple births they could make her just to have the one needed, the boy. Sounds almost cruel, but look at how this two couples are being cruelly treated now just for giving birth to females. So if Princess Kiko was made or 'convinced' to put her body through this procedure, let's hope every baby inside is a female!
This is horrid speculation and it goes to the "poor Masako" mentality I mentioned before. We don't know if the baby was conceived naturally, which is possible if PK and PA have been trying, or through IVF and there is nothing wrong with the couple using IVF, isn't that how Masako had Aiko? I hope Kiko has a boy because she wants a boy and she deserves to have whatever she wants. :)
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  #47  
Old 02-20-2006, 09:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elspeth
It seems to me that the only alternatives are for Naruhito, under pressure from the IHA, to divorce her; for her to be a good little cooperative lady and commit suicide so that the "problem" goes away; for Naruhito to remove himself from the royal family (which might be difficult since he probably doesn't have any really marketable skills and since the IHA hold all the purse strings so he doesn't have a private fortune); or for her to grin and bear it like her mother in law did and to live a life as a puppet of the IHA (an increasingly worthless one if Kiko has a boy) doubtless with recurrences of her mental problems just like Empress Michiko.
...or maybe Kiko is the surrogate mother and Naruhito and Masako are having twin boys and all are happy. Just kidding.
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  #48  
Old 02-20-2006, 10:22 PM
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Problem with that is that if she has a boy it will become a pawn of these chauvinistic politicians and palace insiders who seem to be in control of the Imperial family. These prince and his wife Kiko don't strike me the kind to fight back and stand up for themselves the way the Crown prince did to protect Masako.
And everyone remembers when this all came out in the open? when the crown prince went solo to the royal wedding in Denmark and spoke out about the stress his wife was going through. That was a long time ago and seems every step they advance finds a new obstacle placed for them and their daugther.
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  #49  
Old 02-20-2006, 10:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toledo
Problem with that is that if she has a boy it will become a pawn of these chauvinistic politicians and palace insiders who seem to be in control of the Imperial family.
I think you've made a really good point Toledo. On the surface it seems that having a son will ease the pressure for Masako, even if there are some bumps such as whether Naruhito should step aside in favour of his younger brother and his son, etc. But I think that a son in the hands of the IHA would only be perceived as an "object" to the IHA and not as a boy, a human being.

I think that a son would also run the risk of glazing over the issues that the IHA needs to address, such as the strict rules and customs which, as others have said, have led to problems by two Crown Princesses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toledo
These prince and his wife Kiko don't strike me the kind to fight back and stand up for themselves the way the Crown prince did to protect Masako.
I think that even if there was such an attempt, little would be accomplished by it. It seems to me that Naruhito's public criticism did little to change or improve things for Mathilde.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toledo
And everyone remembers when this all came out in the open? when the crown prince went solo to the royal wedding in Denmark and spoke out about the stress his wife was going through. That was a long time ago and seems every step they advance finds a new obstacle placed for them and their daugther.
One step forward, two steps back ...

I do feel very sorry for Aiko and her female cousins in all this. A son for Kiko would mean that her daughters matter even less and place them even further down the family hierachy for the IHA.

And for Aiko, who certainly has the potential to be as intelligent and capable as a male cousin, might be pushed aside in favour of him, when other royal babies born to parents in similar positions will succeed to their respective thrones (eg. Elisabeth of Belgium, Ingrid Alexandra of Norway, Amalia of the Netherlands). What a cross to bear your entire life, to feel like you're second best.
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  #50  
Old 02-20-2006, 10:50 PM
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The situation exposed in Japan by the Crown Prince reminds me of a form of domestic violence. In domestic abuse situations no one oustide of the home knows what goes on inside of the house. In this case, it was the crown prince who spoke up on this form of political domestic abuse against him and his wife for not having a baby boy.
I did not have an idea such a modern nation was so behind in women's rights.
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  #51  
Old 02-20-2006, 10:55 PM
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I know it's an awful thing to wonder, but Kiko is getting on in years for a mother-to-be; what if she does something like producing a Downs Syndrome son? Would he be considered better Emperor material than Aiko simply by virtue of being male? Emperor Taisho wasn't all there mentally, apparently, and had to have a regency (and, what's more, he himself was the product of a lady other than his father's wife, who had no sons of her own, and his father was also a product of a lady other than his father's wife - this business of producing sons with ladies in waiting seems to have been the rule rather than the exception by the looks of things).
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  #52  
Old 02-20-2006, 11:02 PM
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Toledo, things are different in Japan; they aren't necessarily worse for women as a general rule. From what my husband told me after several longish trips to Japan where he spent time with Japanese colleagues and friends, it seems as though life is more compartmentalised and that men and women have different spheres of influence. Wives in Japan have much more autonomy over decisions about the home (including, sometimes, which home to buy) whereas in the west a lot of these decisions would be expected to be shared. Wives also tend to be in charge of household finances even though the husband may be the only wage earner in the family. At least, that was the case in the early 1990s when he was over there; things might have changed with the problems in the economy over the last decade or so.

Unfortunately this rather rigid division of labour means that nonstandard arrangements are rather hard to accommodate tend to be regarded with suspicion; that must be the case even more so for the imperial family.
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  #53  
Old 02-21-2006, 04:56 AM
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I feel sorry for Masako
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  #54  
Old 02-21-2006, 06:04 AM
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Hi emily,
to continue the dialogue and some questions you raised. I'll preface what I'm going to say that Japanese society is changing quite rapidly and the main thing that has caused that change is that since the early 1990's the Japanese economy has been in a deep recession. For the first time Japanese have lost jobs and that has changed how they view the collective being more important than the individual. Before, with lifetime guaranteed employment, it was understood that the individual would be looked after if they gave their all to the company and the country. Now young people are traumatising their parents as they go from one job to another instead of being loyal to one company until they retire.
Past attitudes and it can be still found now is that a worker's first priority is the company ( the collective good) and then the family ( individual good). Family life as defined in the west isn't what could be found in Japanese homes where the father in most cases only saw his children on weekends due to the long hours he worked and commuted. Many men too are posted to cities away from their families, their wives and children remain in their home towns and the fathers visit infrequently. A few years ago the Japanese government ran a campaign "Fathers spend time with your children" The reason for this campaign was that research had shown that the average time a father spent with his children was 17 minutes a week!
Japan does have a very high rate of teenage suicide but the cause of this is more the enormous pressure students are placed under to succeed in exams. Beginning right from kindergarten where 4 year olds sit exams to enter a selective kindergarten. Something else to note too, is that for Japanese suicide is an honourable death. There are no religious prohibitions to it. While all unexpected deaths are sad there's not the same shame that suicide has in western society.
Not giving negative feedback or speaking negatively is very difficult to deal with as a westerner. I can't tell you how frustrating it was playing the 'guessing game' with Japanese as I tired to work out what the subtext was of what they were saying. Here's an example: a Japanese friend was confused about an American co-worker. They both were working for an English language school, the American teacher was teaching English to young children but was not relating well to them so a Japanese teacher was placed in the classroom with him. Eventually the American teacher was fired and complained it was unfair the Principal of the school finally explained it was because he wasn't relating well to the children. His response was
"why didn't anyone say something and I would have worked on it" My Japanese friend said to me "but didn't he realise that there was something wrong when the other teacher was placed in the class" I explained no he didn't, to a westerner you would have actually had to say this is what is wrong. They don't know the subtext. There is a word for 'no' in Japanese but it's never used except by rude westerners! A Japanese would say 'maybe' or 'perhaps' when they meant no. Difficult to grasp at first as in English at least 'maybe' and 'perhaps' have a positive connotation rather than negative.

OK Administrators to bring it back on topic. I thought Michiko had a far more difficult time when you look at when she entered the Imperial Family in a historical context. It may look archaic now and there have been changes, many actually bought about by General MacArthur during the Occupation after WW2. Still it was a very fossilised institution and very isolated. ( When the Emperor spoke to the Japanese people for the first time after the war most Japanese couldn't understand him as he spoke an archaic form of Japanese, think like Shakespearan English) Also Michiko had the mother-in-law from hell. The Empress Nagako was truly an old battleax.
Masako went into an institution that had actually modernised to a certain degree, the Emperor Akihito had even gotten rid of the 'Emperor's official food tester' when he became emperor in 1989. Until then someone actually had that job! What has been extremely difficult for Masako was that she had a career, had she come straight from a Japanese university then it would have been easier. Also Masako spent a lot of time outside of Japan and that itself makes life difficult. The adjustment disorder she is suffering from is something that usually is suffered by children who spend time living outside of Japan they have a tough time readjusting to Japanese society when they return.
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Old 02-21-2006, 10:31 AM
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My husband said it was very difficult to know, when working with his Japanese colleagues, when "yes" meant "yes" and when it meant "no," since the word "no" was hardly ever heard. He said some of the younger scientists he worked with were more attuned to Western needs, and some found the directness appealing while others found it impossible to come to terms with.

As far as Masako and Michiko are concerned, it seems as though Michiko was a young woman of the 1950s having to come to terms with a system that was downright medieval whereas Masako is a modern woman, having worked outside the country in a real job, not just a secretarial place-holder job, having to come to terms with a system that's stuck in the 1950s.

I'd heard that Empress Nagako was pretty ghastly to Michiko when she was Crown Princess, but I thought that was part of the way the whole Establishment treated her, not just that the Empress was particularly off the scale in her behaviour.

As to whether Masako might initiate divorce, it seems to me that she wouldn't, mostly because of being separated from her daughter; it does seem possible, however, that pressure is being put on Naruhito to divorce her.

Even with the history of emperors getting heirs from ladies in waiting rather than their wives, I'd be surprised if he did that.
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  #56  
Old 02-21-2006, 03:22 PM
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A couple of thoughts - Elspeth, I was thinking about this thread yesterday and my mind went to the exact thought you had -- I wonder what they would do with a young male who had Down's Syndrom? I have no idea.

Second, someone mentioned the lack of public displays of affection, which I have noticed also. Yet, do you all remember when the Emperor and Empress visited Ireland and Norway last year? There was a torrential downpour at the arrival ceremony in Oslo and not only did the Empress put her arm around Mette-Marit's waist at one point, she also made some physical gesture toward the emperor -- I just can't recall what it was. I just remember being very surprised at the PDA.

Finally, Charlotte, while suicide may carry no stigma like it does in the west -- it is still not normal that so many young people felt pushed to that point of no other choices. Not that I am surprised -- my own take on the pressures of Japanese children from observing at this Suzuki school is that there are some seriously depressed children in that group who are being pushed very hard by their parents. Five year olds performing the Bach double is downright abusive.
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  #57  
Old 02-22-2006, 02:23 AM
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Imperial affection

Quote:
Originally Posted by Emily
Second, someone mentioned the lack of public displays of affection, which I have noticed also. Yet, do you all remember when the Emperor and Empress visited Ireland and Norway last year? There was a torrential downpour at the arrival ceremony in Oslo and not only did the Empress put her arm around Mette-Marit's waist at one point, she also made some physical gesture toward the emperor -- I just can't recall what it was. I just remember being very surprised at the PDA.
Here's a pic for Emily, and to add some colour to the thread. :)
Pic courtesy Corbis.

Emperor & Empress & Mette Marit, Norway 2005

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  #58  
Old 02-22-2006, 05:01 AM
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Let's hope those rumours about Masako & Naruhito divorce are not true. Maybe it's another story cooked by tabloids?
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  #59  
Old 02-22-2006, 05:45 AM
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I don't think it's true.
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Old 02-22-2006, 01:11 PM
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I haven't seen a picture of Masako and Naruhito being physically affectionate, but you can see in their eyes how much they care and love each other. When a feeling is that deep, you don't need physical displays to show your love for each other, it just shines through.
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