Empress Kōjun

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Empress Kōjun
香淳皇后
Empress consort of Japan
Tenure25 December 1926 –
7 January 1989
Enthronement10 November 1928
SpouseEmperor Shōwa
Issue
Princess Teru
Princess Hisa
Princess Taka
Princess Yori
Emperor Akihito
Prince Hitachi
Princess Suga
Full name
Nagako (良子?)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherKuniyoshi, Prince Kuni
MotherChikako Shimazu
Born(1903-03-06)6 March 1903
Tokyo, Japan
Died16 June 2000(2000-06-16) (aged 97)
Tokyo, Japan
ReligionShinto
 
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Empress Kōjun
香淳皇后
Empress consort of Japan
Tenure25 December 1926 –
7 January 1989
Enthronement10 November 1928
SpouseEmperor Shōwa
Issue
Princess Teru
Princess Hisa
Princess Taka
Princess Yori
Emperor Akihito
Prince Hitachi
Princess Suga
Full name
Nagako (良子?)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherKuniyoshi, Prince Kuni
MotherChikako Shimazu
Born(1903-03-06)6 March 1903
Tokyo, Japan
Died16 June 2000(2000-06-16) (aged 97)
Tokyo, Japan
ReligionShinto

Empress Kōjun (香淳皇后 Kōjun-kōgō?), born Princess Nagako (良子女王 Nagako Joō?, 6 March 1903 – 16 June 2000) was empress consort of Emperor Shōwa of Japan. She was the mother of the present Emperor Akihito.

Her posthumous name is Kōjun,[1] which means "fragrant purity". She was also known as Empress Dowager Kōjun (香淳皇太后 Kōjun-kōtaigō?). Empress Kōjun was empress consort (kōgō) from 25 December 1926 to 7 January 1989, making her the longest lived empress consort in Japanese history.[2]

Contents

Early life

Princess Nagako of Kuni in 1910

Princess Nagako was born in Tokyo, Japan. She was the daughter of Chikako (1879–1956) and Kuniyoshi, Prince Kuni (1873–1929). Nagako's formative years were insulated deep inside a former period of Japan. She would become one of the last Japanese who could remember what life was like inside the aristocracy early in the 20th century.[3]

Nagako attended the Girls' Department of Peers' School in Tokyo (now Gakushuin) with Crown Princess Bangja of Korea (then known as Princess Masako Nashimoto). Following her betrothal, she began a six-year training program in order to develop the accomplishments deemed necessary for an empress.[2]

Marriage and children

In January 1919, the engagement of Princess Nagako to her distant cousin, the then-Crown Prince Hirohito (later the Shōwa Emperor; 1901–1989), was announced. Unusually, Princess Nagako's father was an offshoot of the Imperial family, while her mother descended from daimyo, the feudal or military aristocracy.[4]

In a small step away from tradition, Hirohito was allowed to choose his own bride. Nagako herself had no choice in the matter. At the age of 14, she and other eligible women participated in a tea ceremony at the Imperial Palace while the Crown Prince watched unseen through a peephole and[2] eventually selected Nagako.[5]

Princess Nagako married Crown Prince Hirohito on 26 January 1924 and became Crown Princess of Japan.[1] She became Empress upon Hirohito's accession to the throne on 25 December 1926. Unlike his royal predecessors, Emperor Hirohito decided to abandon his 39 court concubines. After nearly 10 years of marriage, Nagako produced four daughters. On December 23, 1933, Nagako gave birth to their first son, Akihito (明仁?), who became the present emperor.[2] The Imperial couple had seven children, five daughters and two sons:

NameBirthDeathNotes
Princess TeruShigeko, childhood appellation Teru-no-miya (照宮成子 Teru-no-miya Shigeko?)9 December 192523 July 1961Married Prince Morihiro Higashikuni, had issue; lost status as imperial family members, October 14, 1947.
Princess HisaSachiko, Hisa-no-miya (久宮祐子 Hisa-no-miya Sachiko?)10 September 19278 March 1928Died of catarrh in infancy.
Princess TakaKazuko, childhood appellation Taka-no-miya (孝宮和子 Taka-no-miya Kazuko?)30 September 192928 May 1989Married Takatsukasa Toshimichi, had issue (adopted).
Princess YoriAtsuko, childhood appellation Yori-no-miya (順宮厚子 Yori-no-miya Atsuko?)7 March 1931Married Takamasa Ikeda, no issue.
Crown Prince AkihitoAkihito, Crown Prince, childhood appellation Tsugu-no-miya (継宮明仁 Tsugu-no-miya Akihito?)23 December 1933125th Emperor of Japan since 1989, married Princess Michiko and had issue.
Prince YoshiMasahito, childhood appellation Yoshi-no-miya (義宮正仁 Yoshi-no-miya Masahito?)28 November 1935Married Hanako Tsugaru, no issue; titled Prince Hitachi (常陸宮 Hitachi-no-miya?) since 1964.
Princess SugaTakako, childhood appellation Suga-no-miya (清宮貴子 Suga-no-miya Takako?)2 March 1939Married Hisanga Shimazu, had issue.

Life as empress

Emperor Hirohito and his wife during their first visit to the United States. Empress Nagako, Mrs. Ford, Emperor Hirohito and President Gerald Ford walk down the Cross Hall towards the East Room prior to a state dinner held in honor of the Japanese head of state. (1975)

Empress Nagako performed her ceremonial duties in a traditional manner. She initially came to live in the palace during the time when people spoke an archaic imperial form of Japanese that has largely disappeared.[3] Her role required her to attend special ceremonies such as those for the 2600th anniversary of the legendary foundation of the Empire of Japan in 1940 or the conquest of Singapore in 1942.[6]

The Empress was the first Japanese Imperial Consort to travel abroad.[citation needed] She accompanied Emperor Hirohito on his European tour in 1971 and later on his State Visit to the United States in 1975. She became known as the "smiling Empress".[citation needed]

After the Emperor's death on 7 January 1989, she assumed the title of Empress Dowager.[1] At that time, she was in failing health herself and did not attend her husband's funeral; and she remained in seclusion for the rest of her life. In 1995, she became the longest-living dowager empress, breaking the record of Empress Kanshi, who died 873 years ago.[2]

At the time of her death at the age of 97 in 2000, she had been an empress for 74 years. In her final days, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Nagako was suffering breathing problems but that the illness was not serious. The next day, with her family at her side, she died.[3]

Emperor Akihito granted his mother the posthumous title of Empress Kōjun.[citation needed] Her final resting place is in a mausoleum named Musashino no Higashi no Misasagi, near that of her husband within the Musashino Imperial Graveyard.[1]

Titles and styles

Styles of
Empress Kōjun
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Reference styleHer Imperial Majesty
Spoken styleYour Imperial Majesty
Alternative styleMa'am
Standard of the Empress Dowager

Across the arc of her life and death, Empress Kōjun has been known by number of related, but distinct titles:[1]

Honours

National honours

Foreign honours

Issue

NameBirthMarriageIssue
Princess Teru9 December 1925
died, 23 July 1961
10 October 1943Prince Morihiro HigashikuniPrince Nobuhiko Higashikuni
Princess Fumiko Higashikuni
Naohiko Higashikuni
Hidehiko Higashikuni
Yuko Higashikuni
Princess Hisa10 September 1927
died, 8 March 1928
Princess Taka30 September 1929
died, 28 May 1989
21 May 1950Toshimichi TakatsukasaNaotake Takatsukasa (adopted)
Princess Yori7 March 193110 October 1952Takamasa Ikeda
Emperor Akihito23 December 193310 April 1959Michiko ShōdaCrown Prince Naruhito
Prince Akishino
Princess Nori
Prince Hitachi28 November 193530 September 1964Hanako Tsugaru
Princess Suga2 March 19393 March 1960Hisanga ShimazuYorihisa Shimazu

Ancestry

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Imperial Household Agency: Empress Kōjun
  2. ^ a b c d e Downer, Lesely. Obituary: "Nagako, Dowager Empress of Japan," The Guardian (London). 17 June 2000.
  3. ^ a b c Kristof, Nicholas D. "Dowager Empress Nagako, Hirohito's Widow, Dies at 97," New York Times. 17 June 2000.
  4. ^ Large, Stephen S. Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: Political Biography, pp. 25-26.
  5. ^ Connors, Leslie. (1987). The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-war Japanese Politics, pp. 79-80.
  6. ^ David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, 2008, pp.22, 23, 65

References

External links

Media related to Empress Kōjun at Wikimedia Commons

Japanese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Teimei
Empress consort of Japan
1926–1989
Succeeded by
Empress Michiko
(current)
Preceded by
Empress Teimei
Empress Dowager of Japan
1989–2000
Succeeded by
None