Daily Archives: 2 September 2005

Hirohito as a New Father, 1925

On December 25 Hirohito became a father. He ordered [Imperial Household Minister] Makino to arrange a series of court lectures for him and [Empress] Nagako on child rearing and child psychology. Four years before, on becoming regent, Hirohito had put Makino on notice that someday he and Nagako intended to rear their children in the palace and not entrust them to servants [as emperors had previously]. His mother, Makino, and genrô Saionji had resisted, but by persisting Hirohito had gotten his way, making clear to Makino and others that he had no higher priority than his own “household.” He now had the satisfaction of seeing Nagako breastfeed their own children, starting with daughter Teru no miya, and raise them until the age of three. And because the wedding had been used as the occasion to reform the old system, whereby women of the inner court household lived in the palace instead of merely serving there during the day, Nagako was not surrounded by uneducated ladies-in-waiting who Hirohito feared might exert a harmful influence on her, not to mention leaking to outsiders any improper remark he might make.

In this way Hirohito secured a sphere of private life free of constant surveillance. This achievement came about through his total ending of the practice of imperial concubinage and cutting back the numbers of ladies-in-waiting. These actions did not make him a court reformer, however, any more than his public performances during the regency made him a “child of Taishô democracy.” Even in his young manhood Hirohito was a champion of nationalism and tradition against Taishô democracy. This was true also in his attitude toward the three wars Japan had fought since 1894. Though proud of those victories, he was open to the viewpoints of those in his entourage who had attended the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the Great War, and understood the dangers of renewing a naval race and expanding too vigorously in China.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 145-146

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