There's something about Japan that I love.

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Sep 10, 2006
Warner Robins
United States
I've read up alot about the Imperial Family of Japan. I wish we in the US were as interested in them as we are in the British Royal Family. I find the Japanese to be much more interesting. Their culture, architecture, the style of the imperial robes is very beautiful.

I'd like to see more folks talk about it and have it in the news more often.:flowers:
Yes. I agree. I find all the not-Western Royal or Imperial families more than the Western ones. Not for I like more other cultures than mine (Far from it! I'm very nationalist! :D), but for they have different conceptions on things and don't shows any shame to be themselves. I easily bored when things begins to ressemble each other and when people speaks like cloned daughters and sons of globalization...So, long live these ones who are different and likes to remain so! :flowers:

Japan Imperial family is very interesting and few persons are concerned about it, here at the West. But I'm sure that in this Forum, you can find all you wants to know about them...You can't certainly complain! :)

Paul, what aspect of the Imperial Family are you interested in? History? Current Imperial Family? The whole Japanese culture? I am curious to know. I am a fan of the current Japanese Imperial Family. I think they have many talented, intelligent and cultured individuals in it and I wish we could come to know more of them. They strike me as very thought filled individuals. At the same time, I become impatient with Japanese culture and the Imperial Household Agency, in particular, for their reluctance to embrace aspects of change within the Imperial Household, while also retaining important traditions. I do not think change and retention of traditions are mutually exclusive concepts. While I appreciate the subtlety of actions, the concept of thinking about the group over the individual and many other aspects of Japanese society I am also very concerned that these concepts are preserved to an extreme by those handling the Imperial Family and it is coming at a cost to the latters mental health.
One more thing. I find the Empress really nice. In all the photos I've seen of her, she seems to be a very warm and gentle person. I've read stories about her being stressed and how she'd have conflicts with the late Hirohito and Kojun, the late Empress.

Do you know of any video or audio sources? I'd like to know if the Emperor or Empress speak English?
The Emperor was taught English as a boy by an American tutor, Elizabeth Gray Vining, who wrote a book about her time with the Imperial family after the war. Have you read it?
Do you know of any video or audio sources? I'd like to know if the Emperor or Empress speak English?

Hey PaulG! I'm pretty sure that the Emperor speaks English. After the war, he, along with his siblings, was tutored by an American Quaker Ms. Elizabeth Gray Vining in English. She was awarded the Third Order of the Sacred Crown for her work. In fact there is a very good book written by her about her experience in post-war Japan and some good insights on the royal family (at least from back then) called 'Windows for the Crown Prince'. I would highly reccomend reading it, I found it very informative and fascinating.

Hope that helps. :flowers:

ETA I saw Elspeth beat me to it.
Yes. Elspeth gave you the correct advice. Besides all Royals speaks different languages. And English being very widely spoken , I think most of our current Royals would speak it.

The Empress has a degree in English literature from Sacred Heart University ( in Tokyo) from where she graduated even before she met Akihito.

Akihito was taught English from childhood, his original tutor was British ( a long time Japan resident) during the occupation MacArthur had his British tutor changed to an American as he wanted some American influence on the young crown prince. Elizabeth Vinning was then chosen to be his tutor, she taught Akihito and his sisters and brother for 3 years.

The book "Windows for the Crown Prince" is excellent as it really illustrates well the life of the Japanese royals post WW2 and also post WW2 Japan in general. Elizabeth Vinning arrived in Tokyo in the late 1940's.

Her other book about Japan is well worth reading too. It's called "Return to Japan" the last few chapters deal with her return for Akihito's wedding and meeting with Michiko. They spoke English as Elizabeth Vinning knew basically no Japanese.

Youtube has a number of videos of the Empress speaking, but in Japanese. To find them you may need someone to help as they're listed in Japanese.
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I'm kind of curious about an issue.

Now, that there is Western influence (and most EUA's one), every Monarch speak English, and Japan's Emperors must speak it since WWII. But BEFORE WWII ...Did the Imperial House learn some foreign language? I mean an Eastern one, as Mandarin, just to give a little example...For I know that Emperor Pu Yi of China was forced to learn Japanese when he was erected as Manchukuo Emperor. Of course Japan was the more prominent Eastern-Asia country, and China has lost most of its influence at the area...So, it's normal to think that Manchukuo Emperor must have to learn Japanese, but not that Japanese Emperor was obliged to learn Mandarin...:D

Of course, I read that Emperor Pu Yi was not very bright in foreign languages...His English (even if he had a longtime British teacher, Sir Reginald Johnston) was pretty poor, the only word in Manchu that he could learn was "chili" (Stand up!) to use in protocolar audiences, and he never really knew Japanese.

Emperor Hirohito was really bright, but I don't know if he could speak Mandarin or any other Eastern language.

Emperor Hirohito's brother Prince Chichibu attended Oxford, he arrived in 1925, he didn't graduate as he had to leave in 1926 as his father Emperor Taisho was seriously ill and Chichibu was second in line to the throne after Hirohito. ( Information on this can be found in his wife's book "The Silver Drum a Japanese Imperial Memoir" By Princess Chichibu.) I think it would be safe to assume that Chichibu had been studying English for several years before he went to England. English was considered quite important as both Prince Chichibu and his brother Prince Takamatsu married women ( arranged marriage) that had studied in the US. Princess Chichibu had graduated from an American High School and Princess Takamatsu spent a short time at school in the US.

English was the main language of royals long before recent time. Charlotte Zeepvat has written an interesting book "From Cradle to Crown, British nannies and governesses at the world's royal courts" Royals employed British nannies and English was the language of the nursery, the nannies never learnt the local language so royals were fluent English speakers from a young age. The royal courts extended to non European courts, these nannies were an adventurous lot. They worked for the Egyptian royal family, the Iraqi royals and also in Japan. In the early 1900's an English woman was a nanny to a cadet branch of the Imperial family, those children spoke English.

Emperor Hirohito never learnt to speak much English, although his wife did. Hirohito couldn't even speak the Japanese of his own people, after WW2 when he made his first radio broadcast, few Japanese could even understand him as he spoke a really archaic form of Japanese. He wouldn't have spoken Chinese as he was the Emperor, no need to learn another language.

In older times, ( many hundreds of years) those in the Japanese court did study Chinese. Only men though, as the Japanese had no writing system scholars went to China and brought back the Chinese writing system of characters. Women however did develop their own writing system of phonetic letters which is used today, it's called Hiragana. So in those times the Emperor did speak another Asian language.

The current Emperor does not and he wasn't taught another Asian language either.
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Hum...Since we can't discuss politics, I keep to myself what I think about what I've read above...

Now, two little things to add:1- Before Victorian Era (and in some countries even after it) the main court language was FRENCH. The French thing was ot so archaic, but nowadays things that thousand years ago is almost thousands of thousands of millions of years. And the tought I keep to myself about English is the same I share to French. 2-I think that Asian noblemen and women must study another Asian language. language is not only a tool to communicate, but also a better way to understand another culture and to show respect for it. Some "back then" (I use this word to speak about all that not belongs to Post-modern days) Monarchs spoke more than one foreign lenguage. Empress Elizabeth of Austria (for example) was forced to learn a lot of languages when a little girl (she wouldn't like it). Empress Alexandra of Russia did speak English (certainly! She was educated by Queen Victoria, her Grandmother), but also her own language, German, and French (she never liked it a bit; she felt not at easy when speaking it, but she could speak it!) and certainly, Russian, even if not too accurately. Her husband was even more skilled than her: to his native Russian, you must add French, English and perfect Danish, beacause her mother Danish roots. And, oh wait...he could read Swedish. And certainly, Queen Victoria's German was better than her English, this is widely known. Nicholas II daughters spoke English currently, sometimes among them, inestead than use the Russian...but the Tsarevich, their brother was more at easy speaking French, for he was very close to his personal teacher, Pierre Gilliard.

Oh, and by the way: the court language since XVIII Century was French, not English. Before, it was Italian. somewhat mixed up with Spanish.

Court language may well have been French, but the language of the nursery was English. Young royals spoke English first, their countries' language next, ( One Russian Archduchess spoke only English until she was 6 and then she learnt Russian, can't remember which one at the moment!) then tutors were brought in and French and German was taught.

Japan was closed off to the rest of the world until the mid 1800's then they were forced to open up by the American black ships ( and their superior weapons) The Japanese then set out to modernise and to do this, recognising the powerfulness of western countries sent out envoys to various countries to bring back how to modernise Japan. Part of this process was to send young Japanese to western countries to become fluent in English ( as American forced Japan to open up and was seen as a superior country and German as the Prussian system of doing things and its strength was admired.) Other Asian countries were off no interest, as the Japanese considered themselves to be the more superior in Asia. There was no interest in learning to speak another Asian language and there was nothing they thought they could learnt from other Asian countries.

There's still not a huge interest in Japan to learn another Asian language, ( only English is taught in the school system, compulsory in Junior high school) Another foreign language can only be studied at university ( even so most students continue with English) the foreign languages besides English that are taught at university are European, French being the most common.

Korean is learnt by ethnic Koreans, the descendents of the slave labourers brought from Korea in the 1930's when Japan colonised it. Ethnic Koreans set up their own schools which are still running today, Japanese is the language of instruction, and the students learn the Korean language and culture, but these schools are not attended by ethnic Japanese. ( English is also taught) Also graduates from the Korean schools cannot attend Japanese public universities.
Ive read somewhere that it was the Grand duchess Maria Pavlovna (1890-1958) that claimed she only spoke english until the age of six. It could also be that it was her son Count Lennart Bernadotte I got it from.
Ive read somewhere that it was the Grand duchess Maria Pavlovna (1890-1958) that claimed she only spoke english until the age of six. It could also be that it was her son Count Lennart Bernadotte I got it from.
I see that this is your first post. Welcome to this forum! :flowers:
Obviously, you are answering to Charlotte1 who said in the post before yours:
... ( One Russian Archduchess spoke only English until she was 6 and then she learnt Russian, can't remember which one at the moment!) ...
Your post makes complete sense and is at the right place. :) I sincerely hope that the insignificant fact that the first answer to your very first post was rather inconsiderate will not discourage you in any way from making many more enriching and knowledgeable contributions to future discussions in this forum. :flowers:
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