You guys probably don’t know this Aiko kid. She’s a cutie. Just turned three and her face is everywhere. She brushes her own teeth now, we’re told. Pretty good, don’t you think, for the great-granddaughter of Hirohito.
She does more than that. According to an official announcement, "She plays by doing things such as climbing trees, throwing large balls, reading picture books, and playing house…." I wonder how they got those astonishing revelations past the censors. Somebody with loose lips, no doubt, in the Imperial Household Agency.
One pasttime here in Mikadoland for folk who don’t have better things to do is debating whether it is desirable to change the rules so that girls can become Emperorperson. (Empress sounds like the Mrs.) There are three arguing positions. Yes, if they are the oldest child of a ruling Emp. Yes, if there are no boys. And no. Never. Ain’t no way. Over my dead body.
The issue has come up because there is no male "issue," as they say. Don’t you love that phrase? Aiko’s mama has "issues." Well, one, so far. And the country’s all a-flutter over whether said issue is going to sit on the Chrysanthemum Throne some day and have people bow so low they’re down with the chihuahuas.
Something tells me if they make that happen there is going to have to be a dramatic change in the role of the imperial family in this country. If you allowed the regular folk here to have their druthers, they’d really like an accessible monarch. Not like the Norwegian guy who married a girl who already had a kid, maybe, but somebody like Diana, say, except without the penchant for foreigner playboys and with more of an ability to play by the rules.
I’ve become quite a fan of Aiko’s daddy, Naruhito. (I spend almost no time staring at Japanese newspapers pretending to read, so I just realized I don’t know whether the kanji for Aiko is "love child" and for Naruhito is "becoming a man." Probably not. But these would be nice names for your kids, don’t you think?)
Naruhito has my affection because he spoke out not long ago in favor of his wife, Masako. Masako was following the tradition set by her mother-in-law, Empress Michiko, who lost her voice and couldn’t speak for months. OK, you don’t want me to have an opinion on anything? Watch this, suckers!
I once said to a class that I felt sorry for Michiko, that what Japan was doing to its imperial family was on the order of child abuse. Probably all royal families get screwed this way, but the Japanese carry this kind of thing to galactic lengths. Masako, the daughter-in-law, and Aiko’s mum, tuned out recently too. She was, as it was reported, suffering from stress. Her illness is officially diagnosed as "Adjustment Disorder."
See why you have to cultivate your appreciation for the absurd to live in this country? Adjustment disorder? Hell, I’ve had that all my life! I’ve never adjusted to anything without kicking and screaming a hell of a lot first. Never had the money to have it diagnosed, in my case.
You're sick, dahlin'! We nailed your foot to the floor, and you're havin' trouble livin' with it. You got ADJUSTMENT DISORDER! Heal, dahlin, heal!
No, Masako, bless her heart, was (and is!) a very savvy woman. Harvard and all. Daughter of a diplomat. Toodled all around the world. Would have made a stunning diplomat herself, probably. But got tapped by the powers.
Sky opens. Lightning flashes. Goddess Amaterasu speaks. "We want you to consort with our next emperor. Marry. Make baby boy. Live in exquisite opinionlessness. Stop with the flesh and blood. Make like symbol. We will have this from you. Take all the time you need to give us your answer. We will have your "yes" by noon on Friday."
So Masako marries Naruhito and after eight years of trying with 126 million pairs of eyes on your uterus, issues Aiko.
"Job well done! Now give the lady back her life, for chrissakes!" Right?
No. Just as the US of A has its Jerry Falwell who tells fellow evangelists who hate war that they hate America, Japan has its Falwells who ride around in soundtrucks suggesting the goals of the co-prosperity sphere will be met if only Japanese people will rise from their lethargy and fight the good fight. And if Masako will close her eyes and think of Nippon. And do it again. And do it again and again (oh, can you feel the rhythm?) until she gets it right.
What an obvious solution, don’t you think, to let this little cutie who is already throwing balls and brushing her teeth take up the role. I know I’ve labeled it child abuse, but if they lighten up a bit and let her go to regular schools like young William and young Harry, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.
And if that could be settled, maybe Masako won’t end up like her speechless mother-in-law. And Aiko’s daddy won’t have to get in trouble any more coming to the aid of his woman, whom he appears to adore. Emp-to-be has all the appearances of a lonely prince who thanks his stars daily he was given this marvelous gift of an intelligent wife when he might easily have been given a ditzy doormat instead. Wouldn’t it be better all around if we could say, OK, obligations met, now lighten the frick up!
Why am I so fond of Hirohito’s grandson, Naruhito? Just before he went off to Europe last May he made a statement to the press that he was sorry his wife would not be going along, and that the reason was she was too stressed out. Well, the doodoo hit the fan. Massive speculations about inner struggling within the Imperial Household Agency. Speculations about whether Naruhito would be betraying the secrets of the household with his buddies among European royals. Speculations over whether somebody would have to fall on his sword.
Naru's mama, the Empress Michiko let it slip that – and I quote:
When a member of a family is suffering, it is a source of sadness for everyone in the family.
And how did this get reported in the press?
Japanese Empress Michiko has given her sympathy -- and possibly a veiled rebuke -- to her daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Masako.
Where the hell do you see rebuke?
OK, so Michiko also said
During all the years … the sense of heavy responsibility has stayed with me all the time that I should not disgrace the imperial family, with its long history, who accepted me, an ordinary citizen, as crown princess.
Howzzat for an original thought from a lady with a nervous breakdown who finally gets her voice back?
Michiko, also a commoner – yeah, like Lady Penelope Brotherington-Snuffworthy is a commoner – had it easier in one way than her daughter-in-law. She gave birth, like Diana, not only to Naruhito, but to a back-up, Naruhito’s younger brother Akishino.
Like British Royal playboy Edward who got to go down to Brighton and roar around with the ladies, Akishino, if you believe the scuttlebutt, knocked his wife up before royalizing her, but we don’t talk about that. Instead we talk about the scandal he raised on the occasion of his 39th birthday. Referring to his brother’s gaffe in saying nice things about his wife, Akishino had this to say. Are you ready? Fasten your seat belts. This is going to blow you away. I’ll give you the direct quote. I don’t trust myself with such hot material.
“I myself was surprised in no small measure, and I heard the emperor was also very surprised,”
Prince Akishino said in reply to questions from the Imperial Household Agency press corps prior to his birthday.
"I think he should only have made those remarks after first talking to the emperor about what he planned to say in his meeting with the press." . (Kyodo News)
Do you see the pattern? Michiko has a nervous breakdown. Can’t speak. Time passes. She speaks. Says exactly, but exactly, what the Imperial Household Agency determines she should say. Her boy Naruhito says he’s sorry his wife can’t go to Europe with him and the Imperial Household Agency decides the best way to handle this is to have somebody else imperial react with "surprise."
Jewish mothers move over. Here in Mikado land you can kill your mother and father by doing something that comes as a surprise. My question is not why did Michiko and Masako have nervous breakdowns. My question is how come everybody else hasn’t.
I could get killed for writing this. I’m counting on my small potatoes outsider status to protect me. The mayor of Nagasaki got stabbed, but he did call Hirohito a war criminal; I’m just saying I think Aiko is a cutie and I’m fond of her daddy. Leave me alone, fellahs.
OK. It’s now noon and it’s time to break for lunch. I have managed to diddle away the morning instead of reading student papers.
I’m off to the local bento-box café for a bit of little squiggly things. Hope they don’t put anything in it that surprises me and gives me a nervous breakdown.
December 3, 2004