Emperor Taishō

From Kaiserreich

Emperor Taishō (August 31, 1879 – December 25, 1926) was the 123rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from July 30, 1912, until his death.

His personal name was Yoshihito|嘉仁. Like all other Japanese Emperors, he is known since his death by a posthumous name that, according to a tradition dating back to 1912, is the name of the Japanese era name|era coinciding with his reign. Having ruled during the Taishō era (Great Righteousness), he is now known as Emperor Taishō. Although he is sometimes referred to as Yoshihito or Emperor Yoshihito outside Japan, Japanese emperors are only referred to in Japan by their posthumous names. The situation is similar to Popes taking new names upon taking office, but additionally the use of a Japanese Emperor's personal name can be considered overly familiar, or almost derogatory.

Early life

Prince Yoshihito was born at the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo to Emperor Meiji and Yanagiwara Naruko, a lady-in-waiting. As was common practice at the time, Emperor Meiji's consort, Empress Shōken, was officially regarded as his mother. He received the personal name of Yoshihito Shinno and the title Haru-no-miya from Emperor Meiji on September 6, 1879.

Prince Yoshihito contracted meningitis within three weeks of his birth, leaving him in poor health both physically and mentally. (It has also been rumored that he suffered from lead poisoning, supposedly contracted from the powder makeup his wetnurse used.) Despite this, after his four older brothers suffered early deaths, he was officially declared heir apparent on August 31, 1887, and had his formal investiture as crown prince on November 3, 1888.

As was the practice at the time, Yoshihito was entrusted to the care of Prince Nakayama Tadayasu [peer], in whose house he lived until the age of seven. Tutors taught the prince and selected classmates at a special school, the Gogakumonsho, within the Aoyama Detached Palace. In September 1887 the prince entered the elementary department of the Gakushuin, but due to his health problems he was often unable to continue his studies. He spent much of his youth by the sea in Atami for health reasons. Although the prince showed skill in some areas, such as horse riding, he proved to be poor in areas requiring higher-level thought. He was finally withdrawn from Gakushuin before finishing the middle school course in 1894. However, he did appear to have an aptitude for languages and continued to receive extensive tutoring in French language|French, Chinese language|Chinese, and history from private tutors at the Akasaka Palace; Emperor Meiji gave Prince Takehito responsibility for taking care of Prince Yoshihito, and the two princes became friends.

On May 10, 1900, Crown Prince Yoshihito married the then 15-year-old Sadako Kujō (the future Empress Teimei), the daughter of Prince Kujo Mitchitaka

In October 1907, the Crown Prince toured Korea, accompanied by Admiral Togo Heihachiro, General Katsura Taro, and Prince Arisugawa Taruhito. It was the first time the heir apparent to the throne had ever left Japan. He began studying the Korean language shortly afterwards, although he never became proficient at it.

As Emperor

On July 30, 1912, upon the death of his father, Emperor Meiji, Prince Yoshihito succeeded him on the throne. The Meiji era ended at once and a new Japanese era name|era was immediately proclaimed: the Taishō period|Taishō era. According to Japanese customs, the Emperor has no name during his reign and is only called the (present) Emperor. Like his father, the name of the era coinciding with his reign would later be his posthumous name.

The new emperor was kept out of view of the public as much as possible. He suffered from various neurological problems throughout his life and by the late 1910s, these maladies made it all but impossible for him to carry out public functions. On one of the rare occasions he was seen in public, the 1913 opening of the Diet of Japan|Diet, he is famously reported to have rolled his prepared speech into a telescope and stared at the assembly through it. Although this is often cited as an example of his poor mental condition, others believe he may have been checking to make sure the speech was rolled up properly, as his manual dexterity was also handicapped.

He died of a myocardial infarction|heart attack at 1:25 AM on December 25, 1926, at the imperial palace at Hayama, in Kanagawa Prefecture.

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