Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Japan's next heir? (This story is not what you think)

There has been a bit of buzz about the possibility that Japan might change its way of choosing the next emperor, allowing for the first time in (what's 2,006 minus 1,771?)... a very long time a woman to become empress. This would pave the way for Aiko (whom I like to call Aeja, to honor her Korean heritage).

But wait, that's not what this post is about, because all the talk that maybe the Imperial Household would be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century may be for nothing, because the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito's brother (Prince Naruhito) is pregnant at the age of 39.

Kiko already is the mother of two daughters, aged 14 and 11. If she produces a boy, and Crown Prince Naruhito's wife Masako is not able to produce a son, then guess who Aiko will lose her throne to?

To be honest, she'll probably be better off.

[photo: A large-screen television shows a beaming Princess Kiko. Judging by the English subtitle, she is apparently telling the Japanese press what a sizable and capable man her husband is.]


  1. What would they think of the Princess's son though, if she had one... since the dad is a commoner, if I'm not mistaken.

    Naruhito... 3rd time is a charm? :P

  2. Actually, she is the commoner. Her husband, Prince Fumihito, is the son of Emperor Akihito. I might revise this post to make that clearer.

    She is the daughter of a university professor, and she became the second commoner to marry into the imperial family, after her mother-in-law, the wife of Emperor Akihito. Masako, also a commoner, married into the family afterward. In fact, the younger Fumihito marrying before his older brother Naruhito was a precedent-breaker also.

    If people don't like the emperor having a commoner for a mother, they're going to have start their opposition with Crown Prince Naruhito himself, since his mother (as I mentioned above) is a commoner.

  3. Even as a commoner, their is nothing common about these people. They are defiantly high class citizens even if not 'royal'.

    Empress Michiko (daughter of a flour tycoon) and Princess Masako (daughter of a diplomat and herself once a promising foreign relations person) were "high class," but Princess Kiko was the middle-class daughter of an economics professor. (I just realized I may have misunderstood kurios1978's "the dad" reference).

    I do hope they have a boy though, I mean, it's a tradition, sure it's not politically correct, but so what, it's a tradition and shouldn't be changed unless it absolutely must be.

    Tradition? Ten of Japan's 125 "emperors" have been women, the most recent in 1771. To bar women solely on the basis of their gender is to relegate women to second-class status on the basis of some "tradition" that doesn't quite exist.

    And it'd probably be better then having Aiko become empress as their are all kinds of suspicions about her ranging from down syndrome, to being her grandfathers child, not her fathers -- if you know what I mean. Even if none of it's true, the kids already got little respect at such a young age that it really can't get all that much better.

    Well, in addition to assuming the new child is a boy, you're also assuming he will be completely healthy, unlike his also inbred cousin.

    Do you think that the press will not throw out all kinds of rumors about a son of Fujihito's as well?

    By the way, Korean had three queens (all during the Shilla era).

  4. I am not assuming it's a boy, I said I hope that it is a boy. You can even find that in the part you quoted me on.

    Whoops, my bad. The first "assuming" was supposed to be "hoping" or "expecting."

    Also I'm fairly certain there have been 2 female empresses. This would be the first time I've ever seen anyone say 10.

    From what I've read, there were eight individuals who were ten of the empresses:

    #33 Empress Suiko (593 to 628)
    #35 Empress Kōgyoku (642 to 645)
    #37 Empress Saimei (655 to 661)
    (Saimei is the same person as Kōgyoku)
    #41 Empress Jitō (686 to 697)
    #43 Empress Gemmei (707 to 715)
    #44 Empress Genshō (715 to 724)
    #46 Empress Kōken (749 to 758)
    #48 Empress Shōtoku (764 to 770)
    (Shōtoku is the same person as Kōken)
    #109 Empress Meishō (1629 to 1643)
    #117 Empress Go-Sakuramachi (1762 to 1771)

  5. When I wrote that Empress Michiko is the daughter of a flour tycoon, Darin replied:

    A tycoon? You seem to imply she is from a mob family.

    Huh? I really think you need to lower the sensitivity settings a few notches on your about Japan's Image Protector-o-Matic 3000, Darin. ;)

    How on Earth do you automatically jump to "mob family" from a straightforward mention of "tycoon"? The American Heritage Dictionary defines tycoonin fairly positive terms: A wealthy and powerful businessperson or industrialist; a magnate.

    The definitionally synonymous magnate is also defined in fairly positive terms: A powerful or influential person, especially in business or industry.

    Where did you get that I was implying she was from a mob family?! I'm asking this seriously, because while I think you're a nice fellow, Darin, it sometimes seems like you think that every other sentence I make about Japan is gunning for somebody or some institution close to your heart.

    If that is the case ("if"), then maybe you need to recognize that you might have come to that conclusion by way of a hyper-sensitive misinterpretation of stuff I write that has no such malicious intent.

    I have generally very positive feelings about the Japanese Imperial Family, but you have made widly incorrect assumptions about my views on them on at least a couple of occasions.

  6. Tycoon is definitely a good thing. The game, Railway Tycoon, is not about the Mob....

  7. Darin wrote in repsonse to me:
    Princess Masako (daughter of a diplomat and herself once a promising foreign relations person)

    She would have almost undoubtedly become someone very well known in the Japanese and potentially international political world had she not married into the imperial family (I think she turned down the offer once, if not twice.)

    Yes, I've read that numerous times. It seems she was aware of the limitations of Imperial Family life, but she eventually went ahead and chose marriage. I wonder if she was promised a freer life different from the controlled one she ended up with.

    I think if you want to try and say that the Japanese Imperial family is behind the times and it should give more rights to women, you should use Princess Masako, as it is truly a crime what she lost once she put her seal on the paper work.

    I am happy to use Princess Masako as a rallying point for the Imperial need for greater gender equality.

    The Imperial Family in Japan can be seen as a tradition, of course, but in some ways it represents the soul and spirit of Japan. In that sense, it should shed "traditions" if they are traditions that run counter to the spirit of positive new Japanese values, such as greater gender equality.

    but Princess Kiko was the middle-class daughter of an economics professor.

    Well, kinda. Her father wasn't just any professor, he was a professor at Gakushuin, which was for a very long time a school only for royals and for very high class people, as that is where the members of the imperial family all go.

    He was also an economics professor in Pennsylvania and in Austria (which is why Princess Kiko is apparently fluent in English and German). Yes, he taught at a high-class school, but he doing only that: teaching at a high-class school. Everything I have read called him and his family "middle-class commoners" (not in a derogatory way).

    He also taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, she has been educated in America, and Austria (her father also taught there too)

    Wasn't she there because of her father?

    before returning to Japan to herself go to the famed Gakushuen, something she most likely could not have done had she just been some lowly professors daughter as it is what it is as I described above.

    I'm not so sure of that. I heard (but as yet cannot verify) that she was able to go to Gakushuin largely (entirely?) because her father was a professor there.

    Fast forward back to now....
    Whoops, my bad. The first "assuming" was supposed to be "hoping" or "expecting."

    No.. not expecting either, I said hoping.

    Had I written the sentence carefully enough NOT to include "assuming," as I had mistakenly done originally, I would likely have written "hoping."

    The word "expecting" was something that came into my head not because of the English term but because a loosely similar word in Korean.

    For the record, you said "hoping" and "hoping" is the only appropriate word to describe what you said.

    I don't really see where you're going with changing my words, but whatever...

    All I was doing was saying that we shouldn't go counting on the child being a male (which you weren't) or assuming he wouldn't have any of the alleged health problems of his cousin (which you did appear to assume).

    After all, if some of the health problems are due to unhealthy intra-noble inbreeding, wouldn't Aiko's cousin be just as susceptible?

    I say hope because I see no problem with trying to keep a tradition going..

    I find nothing wrong with tradition if they are fair. But not allowing females to take the trone seems both unfair and not as grounded in tradition as some would suggest.

    And speaking of tradition, by golly you seem to be right!, there have been more then 2 empresses.

    Yes, I wonder where you saw the "2" figure. Someone I know who is Japanese also thought it was two or three, but really had no idea.

    But do notice as soon as a male came along, they got taken off the throne.

    This was not true with Empress Suiko. Empress Kogyoku also held the throne (the second time around) until her death. Empress Gemmei abdicated not in favor of a male, but in favor of a female, Empress Gensho, though this was part of the process of place-holding for a male heir, as you mention. Empress Koken's second reign was not as a caretaker.

    Cruel? Perhaps, but that's the way it works.

    Cruel, indeed. But the fact remains that the women were able to ascend to the throne, which is different from how the law works right now. The modern law runs against even this misogynistic tradition.

    I would continue on with things that way if one were to ask me. Meaning that if there is a male child born sometime, I would put that child on the throne (once the child has grown and is no longer a child of course). If not, then send Aiko up in the hopes that she has a male child who can take her place some day. No I'm not being sexist, I'm just saying that's the way old troublesome things called tradition work.

    If stodgy old traditional England can stand to have a woman rule as queen, so can Japan (especially considering that the Japanese imperial head is a figurehead, not a true government leader). The traditions of not marrying commoners, not allowing the emperor to marry someone taller, etc., etc., will lead to the detriment and even the destruction of the Imperial Family as a tradition at all.

  8. Is it just me, or does that photo make her look like popeye?


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