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Today is an Extremely Special Day in Japan!

Everyone around the world knows about Queen Elizabeth of England, Prince Charles, the deceased Princess Diana, and the two sons of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, one who will eventually be king and has three kids, and the other who married an American actress. We always get news about the British Royal Family.  However, there is a monarchy older than the British monarchy. In fact, they are the oldest monarchy on the planet, the Japanese monarchy.  When I was in Japan as a student, I visited a park in Tokyo where the imperial palace sits high across a moat filled with huge orange carp from the park.  At that time, Akihito was the emperor. Akihito is abdicating his throne, and his son Naruhito is being crowned today, but he won’t sit on the throne until October.

close up photography of cherry blossom tree
The castle in Osaka/ Photo by Bagus Pangestu on Pexels.com

I was captivated when I heard about Akihito because he was considered very progressive and unusual.  In Japan, the Shinto religion teaches that the emperors are gods, and the Japanese people are descended from the gods.  The Shinto religion also teaches that Japan is destined to take over the world. That is why they were such a strong force in World War 2. They thought the time had come to take over and rule the world.  The Kamikaze pilots were ready to give their lives so Japan could rule the world, but Japan lost, and it caused many of them to lose faith in the Shinto teachings.  The important thing about Akihito that impressed me was that even as a child, he came out and told everyone he wasn’t a god.  His dad was emperor during World War 2, and Akihito thought for himself.

black and white mountain over yellow white and blue sky
Mt. Fuji /Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He also thought for himself when he married. The royal family just doesn’t marry commoners, but he did.  He married Michiko Shoda in 1950 at which time, she became Empress, wife of the Emperor sitting on the Chrysanthemum Throne.

photo of himeji castle behind white cherry blossoms
The Japanese royal family is far removed from the public. /Photo by Nien Tran Dinh on Pexels.com

This special man is now stepping down. For a couple of years now, he has been telling everyone he is getting old and wants to retire, but abdicating just isn’t normally done in Japan, but he is doing something unusual and thinking for himself again. He is handing his throne to his son, Naruhito who seems to be following in his dad’s footsteps in more than one way.  He also thinks for himself.

two people standing in front of temple
There is Korean blood in the royal family of Japan./ Photo by Marius Mann on Pexels.com

It is unheard of in Japan to talk about a close relationship with Korea, but he really likes Korea.  He has come right out and admitted that there is Korean blood in the Japanese imperial line which is taboo to talk about.  He is proud to be related to Shoku Nihongi, mother of  the Japanese Emperor Kammu (736-806) who was related to Muryeong of Korea who was the King of Baekje, one of Korea’s three ancient kingdoms.  I like Naruhito and his father, Akihito because they aren’t shy about telling the truth, they humble enough not to put themselves up as gods, and they are accepting of others.

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Masako is like a beautiful bird in a gilded cage. /Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

The Crown Prince Naruhito who is becoming Emperor of Japan also married a commoner, and it didn’t turn out the way he wanted at all. He does everything he can to protect his wife, Masako, but the newspapers and others around have crushed her. When he first pursued her, she wouldn’t give in. He asked her to marry him, and she turned him down. She was a Japanese politician who had been to kindergarten in Moscow and then to high school in America. After that, she got a four year degree from Harvard University in America and did graduate work at Tokyo University and at Oxford in England.   She had a bright future she didn’t want to give up, but her father who was also a Japanese politician who taught at Harvard, persuaded her to marry Naruhito. She loved him, but she didn’t want the royal life.  Women are not important at all except to give heirs and to be locked in their rooms in royalty in Japan.

brown concrete cathedral
Masako has a better education that most emperors. /Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

She just didn’t want to give her freedom up. She had a bright future and a good job.  The country put pressure on Masako to have an heir, and she had a daughter, not a son. I love it because her daughter’s name is Aiko which means “love child.”  Masako and Naruhito love one another, but the courtiers, the newspapers, and the others pushing tradition have treated Masako terrible.  All they ever want to talk about is her health and how bad it is, even her mental health.  They only allow her to go out of her rooms if they escort her and she is constantly under the watch of the courtiers.  She has no money, no credit cards, and no phone.  She isn’t even allowed to go to her husband’s coronation today because she is a woman. When her daughter, Princess Aiko, gets married, she will no longer be considered a princess because women really have no place at all in the royal family of Japan.

woman holding prayer beads
Muslim women are not allowed to leave the house without a man to escort them. If a man comes into their house, they are not allowed to greet them. The husband greets them, and the wife stays in the other room. Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In the past, there have been Japanese empresses, but since the modern era hit, since the 1800’s the women’s place has been demoted. They may as well be Muslim. It is almost as bad as when the Hindus in India used to burn the widows with their husband’s bodies because they were no longer worth any thing. The Korean, the American, the English, the Australian, the Romanian, the German, the French women,  etc. would never put up with being treated the way women are treated in the royal family of Japan.  Naruhito tries to protect his wife, but he is only one. After all, he will be emperor. Perhaps he will be able to do something for the plight of women in the royal family in Japan after he is crowned.

red and white umbrella during night time
Everything is tradition in the Royal family of Japan, but Akihito was able to break some traditions, Naruhito has broken some, and I hope he breaks more traditions for the good of his people and his family. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Naruhito will be crowned emperor today, but won’t actually be put on the throne until October 22, 2019.  When he ascends the throne, the next heir apparent must be a boy. Naruhito and Masako’s daughter, Aiko, who is in high school right now, can’t become empress. Pressure was taken off of Masako a bit when Naruhito’s youngest brother, Prince Akishiro and Princess Kiko had a baby boy ten years ago.  The next heir after Naruhito at this point is his nephew, Hisahito, a ten year old boy.

woman under umbrella walking through the street
Most Japanese traditions are beautiful!/ Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

One of the main functions of the Japanese emperor since the Meiji Constitution came is to appoint the Prime Minister. The National Diet, the governing body of Japan consisting of the lower house (called the House of Representatives) and the upper house (The House of Concilors) actually recommends a Prime Minister, and the Emperor appoints him.  Akihito , Naruhito’s father, appointed Shinzo Abe as the Prime Minister.  We usually see his name in the press more. He is very important, but he is not the Emperor, but the Prime Minister of Japan.  They have a Constitutional Monarchy like England has, and it is the oldest one in the world.  The succession passes from Akihito to Naruhito today.

 

 

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