Funeral Rites Carried Out for Takahito, Prince Mikasa (News)


Takahito, Prince Mikasa, the younger brother of the late Emperor Shōwa, passed away on October 27 at age 100. On November 4 the Rensō no Gi interment rites took place at the Toshimagaoka imperial cemetery in the city of Bunkyō, Tokyo.

Prince Mikasa greets New Year crowds at the Imperial Palace on January 2, 2013. (© Jiji)

Attending the funeral were Prince Mikasa’s widow, Princess Yuriko (93), and the heads of all three branches of government—Prime Minister Abe Shinzō; Speakers Ōshima Tadamori of the House of Representatives and Date Chūichi of the House of Councillors; and Chief Justice Terada Itsurō of the Supreme Court. Some 600 people in all, including US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, were on hand for the ceremony to pay their farewells to the prince, whose century of life had seen him active in areas including historical research, international friendship, and sports.

The Rensō no Gi began with a ceremony called Sōjō no Gi, during which Higashisono Motomasa—executive director of the Japan-Turkey Society, which had Prince Mikasa as an honorary patron—read a eulogy describing the prince’s life and achievements. This was followed by the presentation of a tamagushi ceremonial branch by Grand Chamberlain Kawai Chikao, there on behalf of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who according to tradition do not attend imperial family funerals. Princess Yuriko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, and other family members followed.

Takahito, prince Mikasa, the youngest brother of Emperor Shōwa (1901–89), was born on December 2, 1915, as the fourth son to Emperor Taishō (1879–1926). During childhood, his appellation was Prince Sumi. After attending Gakushūin (Peers’ School) for elementary and secondary schooling, he entered the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1932. He would go on to graduate from the Army War College in 1941. In 1935, upon attaining his majority, the emperor bestowed upon him the title Prince Mikasa, allowing him to begin his own house. In October 1941 he married Takagi Yuriko, daughter of the late Viscount Takagi Masanari. His military career took him to China, where he served as a staff officer at the China Expeditionary Army Headquarters in Nanjing for a year beginning in January 1943. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of army major.

Prince Mikasa rides a camel during an October 1956 visit to the ruins at Hatra, Iraq. (Courtesy the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan; © Jiji)

Following the war he entered the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo as a researcher, studying ancient Oriental history. He was the first head of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan, a lecturer at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University and Aoyama Gakuin University, and a visiting professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts, among other academic postings, and made frequent media appearances. In recent years documents came to light showing that in 1944 he had been critical of the Imperial Army’s actions on the Asian continent; he was also known for opposing postwar moves to revive the observation of Kigensetsu, or Empire Day, which had been abolished by the Occupation forces following Japan’s defeat.

His historical interests led him to serve in posts including honorary president of the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan and honorary president of the Japan-Turkey Society. He was active in the cause of international friendship and pursued interests in many fields, including folk dancing, a pastime he sought to popularize. He wrote a number of books, including Teiō to haka to minshū: Oriento no akebono (Emperors, Graves, and Peoples: Dawn of the Orient) and Waga rekishi kenkyū no nanajū nen (My Seven Decades of History Research).

(Originally written in Japanese based in part on Jiji Press releases of October 27 and November 4, 2016. Banner photo: Princess Yuriko, seated in wheelchair at center, listens to a eulogy at Prince Mikasa’s funeral on November 4. © Jiji.)

Jiji Press imperial family Prince Mikasa