Episode 458 – The Empty Throne, Part 1

This week: the beginning of a multipart biography of two of the best documented figures we know very little about: Emperor Komei, and his son and heir Meiji, whose name would end up defining one of the most important eras in Japanese history.


Keene, Donald. Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. 

Gilday, Edmund T. “Bodies of Evidence: Imperial Funeral Rights and the Meiji Restoration.” Japanese Journal of Religious studies 27, No 3 (Fall, 2000)

Hirai, Atsuko. Government by Mourning: Death and Political Integration in Japan, 1603-1912. 


A late Meiji portrait of Emperor Komei, ironically including a bunch of Western painting techniques I’m sure he would have hated.
A contemporary portrait of Komei’s enthronement. Note that you can’t even see him behind the screens; the role of emperor was an isolating one indeed.
This marker commemorates a well that was, according to legend, used to wash the young Prince Sachi (the future Meiji). In fact, it wasn’t drilled until a few years after his birth.
The hut constructed for Nakayama Yoshiko when she was pregnant with the young Meiji, and where the future emperor was born.
Nakayama Yoshiko later in life.

1 thought on “Episode 458 – The Empty Throne, Part 1”

  1. I love the last image here. One of my favourite things to do is look at old pictures and see family resemblances (or even childhood pictures and their relation to the now adult but I digress) and I can’t help but see her great grandson Hirohito when I look at her face. It is the sort of thing we don’t see in fiction such as movies, tv programs, etc. and it one of the things those media unfortunately don’t capture ( including things such as historical fiction), ie. the actual genealogical link between people, that thing you see when you look at your kid and see your partner, or you look at siblings in a social context and see they somehow ‘belong’ to each other

Comments are closed.