Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The June 11, 2013 Japan Times story “Crown Prince marks two decades of marriage, happy wife is on the mend”continues the parade of euphemisms about the Crown Princess and the Imperial Household Agency. In the past we have read the words “mental illness” in relation to the princess’ health, but the wishy-washy sounding “adjustment disorder due to stress” is more common these days. Maybe its use is a face-saving decision because the phantom of “mental illness” is too treacherous for journalists to provoke. But the fact is that Masako Owada went into the Imperial Family a healthy vivacious woman and the goblins of Kunaicho drove her mad, or at least mentally ill. I regret that she will be “on the mend”for the rest of her earthly life. So is the Imperial Household Agency a threat to, not a protector of the health and safety of the Imperial Family? It is right and fitting that it be subject to independent external review.
And while I’m on it I don’t think I would describe the princess as a “happy wife.” That’s the naive and wishful thinking of a domestic fantasy while the evidence of the last decade suggests the opposite.
And on one final point, I don’t understand why the paper continually highlights that the Crown Princess, like Empress Michiko before her, was “a commoner before marriage.” Of course she was! How could she not be considering that the ranks of the aristocracy in this country are so thin? There is an aristocracy in Japan, but it is so small compared to elsewhere that the threats of inbreeding demand that every royal spouse in Japan be netted from the general population all the time. Reminders that they were once commoners are not inspiring, so why keep mentioning it? I know, it’s an ingredient in the princess story program. Her mental condition is also part of the program and the culture does not allow for a change of channel. At least not under current conditions it doesn’t.
Published on Sunday, June 16, 2013 as “Condition of the Crown Princess.”
The paper changes “goblins of Kunaicho” to “goblins of the Imperial Household Agency.” I think my expression is much better.
One thing I remember about the royal wedding 20 years ago is the national public holiday provided for it. At the time I was teaching English at a private co-ed Junior/Senior high school in Ichikawa in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo. I did not learn until six months later that one of my students - a 12-year old boy in Grade 7 - was killed on that holiday in a car crash. I was never told if it was a family car accident that killed or injured the rest of his family as well, or maybe an incident involving him alone on the street, on his bike, at a train crossing, or whatever. But the thing is that I wasn’t told, so every lesson (once a week) I called the roll for
the class, called his name and marked him absent. (I didn’t have to call the roll. The Japanese teacher did that, but it was part of my lesson routine for me to do it myself - the sound of my English voice, my first interaction of the week with the students. I think there is value in me doing it myself.) For the report cards due at the end of the first term in July 1993 I simply gave the boy the class average, submitted my paperwork and let the Japanese teacher deal with it. (It is common for Japanese teachers to ask the foreign English teacher to mark the students and then simply ignore or change the marks to suit their own purposes.) But in December when the boy was still absent I said to the Japanese teacher, “So-and-so has been absent so long, I don’t know what to do about his mark. Should I give him the class average again?” It was then that I was told that he had died six months before on the holiday provided for the occasion of the royal wedding. Now I always remember that boy and this story when I think of the Crown Prince and Princess’ wedding anniversary. If he had lived he would be 32 years old now, married with a family and a career. I wonder who he would have become?