The Empress in 1941
|Empress consort of Japan|
|Tenure||25 December 1926 –|
7 January 1989
|Enthronement||10 November 1928|
|Born||Princess Nagako (良子女王)|
6 March 1903
Tokyo City, Japan
|Died||16 June 2000 (aged 97)|
Fukiage Ōmiya Palace, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
|Burial||25 July 2000|
Hirohito, Emperor Shōwa
(m. 1924; died 1989)
|House||Imperial House of Japan|
|Father||Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi|
Empress Kōjun (香淳皇后 Kōjun-kōgō), born Princess Nagako (良子女王 Nagako Joō, 6 March 1903 – 16 June 2000), was the wife of Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) of Japan. She was the mother of the emperor emeritus, Akihito.
Her posthumous name is Kōjun, which means "fragrant purity". Empress Kōjun was empress consort (kōgō) from 25 December 1926 to 7 January 1989, making her the longest-serving empress consort in Japanese history.
Princess Nagako was born in Kuni-no-miya's family home in Tokyo, Japan, into one of the Ōke branches of the Imperial House of Japan, which are eligible to provide an heir to the throne of Japan (by adoption). She was therefore a princess by birth, as the daughter of Kuniyoshi, Prince Kuni (1873–1929) by his consort, Chikako (1879–1956). While her father was a scion of the imperial family itself, her mother descended from daimyōs, the feudal or military aristocracy. Nagako would become one of the last Japanese who could remember what life was like inside the Japanese aristocracy in the years before the Second World War.
As a young girl, Nagako attended the Girls' Department of Peers' School in Tokyo (now Gakushūin), which was a school set up especially for the daughters of the aristocracy and imperial family. Among her cohort was Crown Princess Bangja of Korea (then known as Princess Masako Nashimoto). Following her betrothal at age fourteen, Nagako was withdrawn from this school and began a six-year training program aimed at developing the accomplishments deemed necessary for an empress.
Marriage and children
Nagako was betrothed to her distant cousin Prince Hirohito (1901–1989) at a very young age, in a match arranged by their parents, which was usual in Japanese society at that time.[note 1] Her lineage and her father's unblemished military career were the major considerations. In January 1919, the engagement of Princess Nagako to the then-Crown Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Shōwa), was announced. In a 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 from behind a screen. He eventually selected Nagako.
Princess Nagako married Crown Prince Hirohito on 26 January 1924 and became the Crown Princess of Japan. 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. Over the first decade of marriage, Empress Nagako gave birth to four daughters. It was only on 23 December 1933, almost ten years after their wedding, that the young couple had a son, and gave Japan an heir, in the birth of Akihito (明仁), now the emeritus emperor. In all, Hirohito and Nagako had seven children, five daughters and two sons. (see Issue)
Life as empress
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. 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.
Nagako accompanied Emperor Hirohito on his European tour in 1971 and later on his state visit to the United States in 1975.
Life as empress dowager
After the Emperor's death on 7 January 1989, she became empress dowager. 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 of Japan, breaking the record of Empress Kanshi, who died 868 years earlier.
At the time of her death at the age of 97 in 2000, Nagako had been an empress for 74 years. In her final days, the Imperial Household Agency announced that she was suffering from breathing problems but that the illness was not serious. Nagako died at 4:46 pm on 16 June 2000, with her family at her side.
Emperor Akihito granted his mother the posthumous title of Empress Kōjun. Her final resting place is in a mausoleum named Musashino no Higashi no Misasagi, near that of her husband within the Musashi Imperial Graveyard.
Titles and styles
Across the arc of her life and death, Empress Kōjun has been known by number of related, but distinct titles:
- 6 March 1903 – 26 January 1924: Her Imperial Highness Princess Nagako of Kuni
- 26 January 1924 – 25 December 1926: Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess
- 25 December 1926 – 7 January 1989: Her Majesty The Empress
- 7 January 1989 – 16 June 2000: Her Majesty The Empress Dowager
- Posthumous name: Her Majesty Empress Kōjun
- Knight Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
- Grand Mistress Paulownia Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of the Precious Crown
- Belgium: Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
- Germany: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Special Class
- Nepal: Member Grand Cross of the Order of Ojaswi Rajanya
- Spain: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic
- Tonga: Dame Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Crown of Tonga
|Shigeko, Princess Teru||9 December 1925||23 July 1961||10 October 1943||Prince Morihiro Higashikuni||Prince Nobuhiko Higashikuni|
Princess Fumiko Higashikuni
|Sachiko, Princess Hisa||10 September 1927||8 March 1928|
|Kazuko, Princess Taka||30 September 1929||26 May 1989||20 May 1950||Toshimichi Takatsukasa||Naotake Takatsukasa (adopted)|
|Atsuko, Princess Yori||7 March 1931||10 October 1952||Takamasa Ikeda|
|Akihito, Emperor of Japan||23 December 1933||10 April 1959||Michiko Shōda||Naruhito, Emperor of Japan|
Fumihito, Prince Akishino
Sayako, Princess Nori
|Masahito, Prince Hitachi||28 November 1935||30 September 1964||Hanako Tsugaru|
|Takako, Princess Suga||2 March 1939||10 March 1960||Hisanga Shimazu||Yoshihisa Shimazu|
|Ancestors of Empress Kōjun|
- "Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun – The Imperial Household Agency". Kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- Downer, Lesely. Obituary: "Nagako, Dowager Empress of Japan," The Guardian (London). 17 June 2000.
- Large, Stephen S. Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: Political Biography, Books.google.com, pp. 25–26
- Kristof, Nicholas D. ["Dowager Empress Nagako, Hirohito's Widow, Dies at 97", The New York Times. 17 June 2000.
- "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 27 October 2017.)
- Connors, Leslie. (1987). The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-war Japanese Politics, Books.google.com, pp. 79–80
- David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, 2008, pp.22, 23, 65
- "Khojun wearing the stars of both orders" (JPG). Akafkaesquelife.files.wordpress.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Khojun wearing the stars of both orders" (JPG). Upload.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Photographi image" (JPG). S-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Photographi image". Belgiumjapan150.jp. Archived from the original (JPG) on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Wearing the order badge attached to a ribbon on the left above her belt". Getty Images. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
- "Genealogy". Reichsarchiv (in Japanese). Retrieved 25 October 2017.
- Connors, Leslie. (1987). The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-war Japanese Politics. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7099-3449-3
- Koyama, Itoko. (1958). Nagako, Empress of Japan (translation of Kogo sama). New York: J. Day Co. OCLC 1251689
- Large, Stephen S. (1992). Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: Political Biography. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-03203-2
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Empress Kōjun.|
- Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun at the Imperial Household Agency website
- BBC News: Japan mourns Empress Nagako
- BBC News: In pictures: Japan's imperial funeral
- Chicago Tribune: photo of Empress Nagako at White House during State Visit in 1975
| Empress consort of Japan