Sunday, December 02, 2001


I've come to Kashiwara City in Nara Prefecture for a Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture. Using satellite broadcast communication, over 10,000 people in three locations, the Kashiwara Prefectural Public Gymnasium" and Nara 100 Years Hall and Nara Historical Landmark Cultural Center-- both in Nara City--participated in the event. I learned the day before, on December 1st, at about 4:15 pm, at the Kintetsu Kyoto Station, on my way here, that Crown Princess Masako had given birth to a baby girl. This is wonderful news, and at the Public Lecture the next day, everyone's eyes were shining, and it seemed that their voices were full of joy as they sang the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo. The venue in Kashiwara is right next to Kashiwara Shrine, where Emperor Jimmu is enshrined. I don't think it's coincidental that we were near the resting place of the first Emperor of Japan when the much-anticipated child of the Crown Prince, the "heir" to the imperial family, was born. After the seminar, not wanting to let this opportunity go by, I visited Emperor Jimmu's tomb which is next to the grounds of the Shrine.

I'd visited this mausoleum when I was in either junior or senior high school. According to the Nihon Shoki (the oldest chronicles in Japan), the emperor's death dates back to 584 B.C. I remember being moved at the thought that it all existed since such ancient times. However, the brochure I was given at the site says that this imperial tomb was built for a cost of 15,612 ryo, at the end of the Edo Period, in 1863 (FYI--Kashiwara Shrine was built in 1890, which is also relatively recent). This disappointed me a bit. But the further reading tells me that the location is chronicled in the Kojiki and Engishiki, but the exact location is unknown. Archeological traces are also not clear. That's how rare it is that one country can remain unchanged from so long ago. It's all the more so, then, when it comes to the Imperial Household which has remained at the center of it all, uninterrupted through the years.

After paying my respects at the mausoleum, I was walking towards the Shrine Office, when I saw a small building with a sign hanging from it that read "Office of Unebi Mausoleum Maintenance Division, Records and Mausoleum Department, Imperial Household Agency", where you could write down your name and address for congratulatioo on the birth of the new princess. Since it was Sunday, there were families standing in groups of three and four, who had come to visit the shrine and mausoleum, waiting to sign the registry. I lined up at the back of the short line, and, shortly thereafter, signed it in pen. Right in front of us, there were two men, dressed in what seemed to be the navy blue uniforms of the Imperial Household Agency. I was surprised to see that the younger man had dyed their hair brown. Even those young people unsatisfied with the black hair of time immemorial, work in the Imperial Household Agency, the epitome of the upholding of tradition. It's no wonder that there are discussions on a female inheriting the Imperial throne.

- MT

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