Birthday: August 31, 1879
Died At Age: 47
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Taishō Tennō
Born Country: Japan
Born in: Tōgū Palace, Tokyo, Japan
Famous as: Former Emperor of Japan
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Empress Teimei (m. 1900)
father: Emperor Meiji
mother: Empress Shōken, Yanagihara Naruko
children: Hirohito, Nobuhito, Prince Chichibu, Prince Mikasa, Prince Takamatsu, Takahito, Yasuhito
Died on: December 25, 1926
place of death: Hayama Imperial Villa, Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
education: Gakushuin University, Gakushūin
Who was Emperor Taishō?
Emperor Taishō or Taishō Tennō, meaning “Great Righteousness,” was the 123rd Emperor of Japan. He ruled over the nation from 1912 to 1926. He was born Prince Yoshihito. Having contracted a critical illness during his infancy, he suffered from physical and neurological problems all his life. He was declared the crown prince after the deaths of his two elder brothers. As a young prince, Yoshihito received his education in the school for the children of the nobility but due to his diminished mental capabilities, he could not continue his formal education. Much of his childhood was spent nursing his health in the various summer palaces of the imperial family. As an emperor, his reign was distinctly different from that of his father, Emperor Meiji. Emperor Meiji had a commanding presence and his rule was distinctly authoritarian. Emperor Taishō, however, was usually kept away from the public eye and rarely participated in political affairs. Japan experienced a distinct move towards democracy during this period, and hence his reign is also known as the Taishō democracy. After the death of the emperor, his first son Hirohito took over the reins of the Japanese empire.
Childhood & Early Life
Emperor Taishō was born on 31st August 1879, at the Togu Palace in Akasaka, Tokyo. His mother, Lady Naruko Yanagihara, was the daughter of the imperial chamberlain Mitsunaru Yanagihara. She was a concubine to Emperor Meiji who fathered Emperor Taishō.
He was given the name Haru-no-miya during his childhood, and his official name was Yoshihito Shinnō. Emperor Meiji’s wife, Empress Shoken, did not have any children. So, she officially adopted Yoshihito.
When he was three weeks old, Yoshihito suffered from cerebral meningitis. This affected his mental and physical health for the rest of his life. He suffered from speech disorders and had difficulty walking.
Yoshihito was raised in the household of his great-grandfather Tadayasu Nakayama. Emperor Meiji had also been raised in the same household.
In September 1887, when Yoshihito was eight years old, he was sent to the ‘Gakushuin’ or Peers School. The school was established for the children of the nobility. However, Yoshihito’s ill-health prevented him from attending school regularly and he spent his time at seaside imperial villas.
After his two elder brothers died, Yoshihito was officially declared heir to the throne on August 31, 1887. The investiture ceremony making him the crown prince took place on November 3, 1888.
Yoshihito had a flair for languages and was tutored privately in French, Chinese and history. He also had a skill for horse-riding. In other areas of study though, he fared poorly. He withdrew from the ‘Gakushuin’ in 1894.
In 1898, Yoshihito received initiation into political and military affairs by attending sessions of the ‘House of Peers’ of the ‘Diet (Legislature) of Japan’.
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Life as the Crown Prince
As the crown prince, Yoshihito gave his first official reception in 1898. The guests were foreign diplomats and according to records, he was able to conduct himself with grace and converse well with the foreign dignitaries.
The prince also took many tours to learn about the customs and geography of the country he was set to rule. This included visits to the sites of the Imperial Japanese Navy, government offices, schools, factories and the famous Buddhist temple of Nagano.
In 1903, Yoshihito was made a colonel in the Imperial Japanese Army and a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy. During this period, tension was brewing between Japan and Russia. Though the prince only had a ceremonial role, he traveled to various parts of Japan to inspect the military facilities.
Accession & Reign
Prince Yoshihito became Emperor of Japan upon his father’s death on July 30, 1912. His enthronement is considered the first modern one of Japan. Until then, the crowning was a private ceremony. This was the first time that representatives from other countries attended the emperor’s accession to the Chrysanthemum throne.
The ceremony was unique in another aspect as well. Prince Hirohito, who was a minor at that time, was allowed to attend upon the insistence of his teacher, Sugiura Jugo. In view of the frail health condition of the emperor, influential officials were convinced to let Hirohito see for himself what the enthronement would mean.
In another departure from tradition, the new emperor addressed the public announcing his accession and hoping for peace and happiness for the people of Japan and the world.
The emperor’s health condition made it difficult for him to carry on his duties and he was rarely seen in public. He slowly lost interest in political affairs and even the decisions he took were often manipulated by the Keeper of the Privy Seal and the Imperial Household Minister.
During this period, Japan’s two-party political system became more powerful and a distinct shift of power took place from the imperial palace to the democratic parties. This is why this period is also referred to as the ‘Taishō Democracy’.
Japan saw a great deal of cultural modernization during this period. Literary societies flourished, new publications came out, and a culture of film and theater thrived. European style cafes came up in cities like Tokyo and were frequented by the university crowd. People took to wearing western outfits.
Emperor Taishō himself had always been attracted to western culture and had the tendency to pepper his conversation with French. This period was marked by a more congenial relationship with the western nations.
The Taishō period also saw the rise of labour unions and a rising demand for women’s suffrage. Strikes became a common affair. Emperor Taishō had very little involvement in the political scenario of his country. From 1919 onwards, he withdrew from public duties. Hirohito was declared Prince Regent in 1921.
On September 1, 1923, one of the most devastating earthquakes of Japan, the Great Kanto earthquake, took place. The city of Tokyo was completely destroyed. The emperor had, however, moved to his summer palace in Nikko. Carrier pigeons were used to keep the emperor informed about the extent of the damage.
Towards the end of his life, Emperor Taishō slowly became mentally deranged. The emperor passed away on December 25, 1926; he was 47. He was buried at the Musashi Imperial Graveyard at Hachioji in Tokyo.
Family & Personal Life
For Yoshihito’s marriage, Emperor Meiji sought a bride who would compensate for Yoshihito’s lack of mental capacities. The bride selected was 15-year-old Lady Sadako, daughter of Prince Michitaka Kujo. She was chosen for her intelligence, eloquence and dignified personality. The marriage took place on May 10, 1900.
The Akasaka Palace constructed in 1909 became the official residence of the prince and the princess. It was a lavish palace built in the European rococo style.
The royal couple had four children: Hirohito (1901 - 1989); Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu (1902 - 1953); Nobuhito, Prince Takamatso (1905-1987) and Takahito, Prince Mikasa (1915 - 2016).
After the death of Emperor Taishō, Hirohito ascended the throne and took the title of Emperor Showa.