Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Your Imperial Majesty

Even more so than its events, it's the path a life takes that can provide the outside observer with the greatest insight into the person who lived it...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn another life Michiko Shoda - born this day in 1934 - could have married the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, and thus been his widow on the day in November 1970 when he committed suppuku. Instead, she met and married a shy, bookish man who in his own other life would have surely become a scientist instead of Emperor of Japan.

Certainly almost any life would have been easier than that of the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Household (or Kunaicho, which she did in April 1959), and almost any other mother-in-law would have been preferable to the formidable Nagako, who since her death in 2000 is known as Empress Kōjun. Though it is largely unknown within Japan, the rest of the world knows well enough how Nagako's constant bullying brought the ebullient young Michiko to the point of nervous breakdown in the early 1960s, and again as late as 1993.

Determined not to be such a dragon lady herself, the Empress has been entirely supportive of Crown Princess Masako throughout her decade-long struggle to adapt to her new life within the entirely conservative Imperial Household.
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