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Today marks the Anniversary of the Death of Empress Kōjun of Japan, who died on this day in 2000. Born Princess Nagako of Kuni, she was the daughter of Prince Kuni Kuniyoshi and Shimazu Chikako. Educated at the Peers’ School in Tokyo, she was betrothed to her distant cousin Prince Hirohito at a young age, marrying him in 1924 and becoming Empress in 1926. The couple had seven children, five daughters and two sons, including Emperor Akihito. Empress Nagako was the longest-serving Empress consort in Japanese history, presiding over Japanese society from the traditional society in the 1920s and 1930s, the turbulent period during the Second World War and the fast-paced modern world of the post-war era. She went into seclusion after becoming widowed in 1989, and became the longest-living Empress in 1995. She passed away in 2000, and was granted the posthumous title of Empress Kōjun.
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I am very sorry to say that I don’t like Empress Kojun much. She made life very difficult for Empress Emerita Michiko simply because she was a commoner. Undoubtedly a creature of her time, the Empress Kojun seemed unable to understand the fact that after WWII the royal family had been reduced to nothing, so that marrying a commoner was practically the only solution to find a consort for the Crown Prince. (That is the case today as well.) Empress Kojun could have taken the high moral ground and welcomed young, beautiful, and accomplished Michiko. Instead, she chose to reject and belittle her. I’m very sorry that Empress Emerita Michiko had to endure her for so long.