Saturday, 7 November 2009

Chin wa ningen ni arazu

Did anyone forget Hirohito's (Emperor Showa's) "declaration of humanity" was just a personal declaration that didn't include his ancestors?

Outside Meiji Shrine in Tokyo we read: "Deities enshrined: Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shôken". Here's another reminder. Last month there was a festival here in Kyoto called the "Festival of the Ages" (Jidai matsuri). It consists in a long procession of historical figures and ends with, or rather culminates in, two mikoshi (portable shrines) enshrining two deities: emperor Kammu and emperor Kômei.

Oh, if anyone's interested in the scholastic niceities surrounding the entire issue of the emperor and the purportedly secular postwar Japanese state, there are lots of good literature around. A good place to start is Fujitani Takashi's Splendid Monarchy and "Electronic Pageantry", his article about the Shôwa emperor's funeral in the Journal of Asian Studies 1992, 51:4. Or why not Kitano Homare's recent essay in the August issue of Impaction if you read Japanese? And if you think this is just a Japanese problem, read Kantorowicz' The King's Two Bodies...

But this is not the place to get too un-whimsical. Here's my (very democratic) solution: why don't we all get divine? Let the emperors be "akitsukami", "arahitogami" or "ikikami" if they want too. Why not? Of course the emperors are gods. We are all gods!

Chin wa ningen ni arazu!

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