|Tenure||25 December 1926 –
7 January 1989
|Enthronement||10 November 1928|
|Shigeko, Princess Teru
Sachiko, Princess Hisa
Kazuko, Princess Taka
Atsuko, Princess Yori
Akihito, Emperor of Japan
Masahito, Prince Hitachi
Takako, Princess Suga
|House||Imperial House of Japan|
|Father||Prince Kuniyoshi Kuni|
6 March 1903|
|Died||16 June 2000
Fukiage Ōmiya Palace, Tokyo, Japan
|Burial||25 July 2000
Musashi Imperial Graveyard, Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan
Empress Kōjun (香淳皇后 Kōjun-kōgō?), born Princess Nagako (良子女王 Nagako Joō?, 6 March 1903 – 16 June 2000), was empress consort of Emperor Shōwa of Japan. She was the mother of the present Emperor Akihito.
Her posthumous name is Kōjun, which means "fragrant purity". She was also known as Empress Dowager Kōjun (香淳皇太后 Kōjun-kōtaigō?). Empress Kōjun was empress consort (kōgō) from 25 December 1926 to 7 January 1989, making her the longest lived empress consort in Japanese history.
Princess Nagako was born in Tokyo, Japan. She was the daughter of Chikako (1879–1956) and Kuniyoshi, Prince Kuni (1873–1929). She would become one of the last Japanese who could remember what life was like inside the aristocracy early in the 20th century.
Nagako attended the Girls' Department of Peers' School in Tokyo (now Gakushuin) with Crown Princess Bangja of Korea (then known as Princess Masako Nashimoto). Following her betrothal, she began a six-year training program in order to develop the accomplishments deemed necessary for an empress.
Marriage and children
In January 1919, the engagement of Princess Nagako to her distant cousin, the then-Crown Prince Hirohito (later the Shōwa Emperor; 1901–1989), was announced. Unusually, Princess Nagako's father was an offshoot of the Imperial family, while her mother descended from daimyo, the feudal or military aristocracy.
In a small 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 through a peephole and eventually selected Nagako.
Princess Nagako married Crown Prince Hirohito on 26 January 1924 and became 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. After nearly 10 years of marriage, Nagako produced four daughters. On December 23, 1933, Nagako gave birth to their first son, Akihito (明仁?), who became the present emperor. The Imperial couple 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.
The Empress was the first Japanese Imperial Consort to travel abroad. She accompanied Emperor Hirohito on his European tour in 1971 and later on his State Visit to the United States in 1975. She became known as the "smiling Empress".
After the Emperor's death on 7 January 1989, she assumed the title of 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, breaking the record of Empress Kanshi, who died 873 years ago.
At the time of her death at the age of 97 in 2000, she had been an empress for 74 years. In her final days, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Nagako was suffering breathing problems but that the illness was not serious. The next day, with her family at her side, she died.
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 Musashino Imperial Graveyard.
Titles and styles
|Reference style||Her Imperial Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Imperial Majesty|
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 of Japan
- 25 December 1926 – 7 January 1989: Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of Japan (63 years)
- 7 January 1989 – 16 June 2000: Her Imperial Majesty The Empress Dowager of Japan
- Posthumous name: Her Imperial Majesty Empress Kōjun (since 2000)
- Belgium : Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
- Germany : Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Sweden : Member of the Royal Order of the Seraphim 1980-03-25
- Denmark : Knights of the Order of the Elephant
|Shigeko, Princess Teru||9 December 1925
died, 23 July 1961
|10 October 1943||Prince Morihiro Higashikuni||Prince Nobuhiko Higashikuni
Princess Fumiko Higashikuni
|Sachiko, Princess Hisa||10 September 1927
died, 8 March 1928
|Kazuko, Princess Taka||30 September 1929
died, 28 May 1989
|21 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, Crown Prince 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||3 March 1960||Hisanga Shimazu||Yoshihisa Shimazu|
|Ancestors of Empress Kōjun|
- Imperial Household Agency: Empress Kōjun
- Downer, Lesely. Obituary: "Nagako, Dowager Empress of Japan," The Guardian (London). 17 June 2000.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. "Dowager Empress Nagako, Hirohito's Widow, Dies at 97," New York Times. 17 June 2000.
- Large, Stephen S. Emperor Hirohito and Shōwa Japan: Political Biography, pp. 25-26.
- Connors, Leslie. (1987). The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-war Japanese Politics, pp. 79-80.
- David C. Earhart, Certain Victory, 2008, pp.22, 23, 65
- Connors, Leslie. (1987). The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-war Japanese Politics. London: Routledge. 10-ISBN 0-709-93449-1; 13-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. 10-ISBN 0-415-03203-2; 13-ISBN 978-0-415-03203-2
Media related to Empress Kōjun at Wikimedia Commons
- Kunaicho | Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun
- 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
|Empress Dowager of Japan