Emperor Akihito & Empress Michiko
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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The Thames and I: A Memoir of Two Years at Oxford by Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan, translated by Hugh Cortazzi. An account of English university life, customs and mores as seen from the perspective of the current heir to Japan's imperial throne.
Tomoshibi Light: Collected Poetry by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. Published in 1991, this book collects 166 poems by Japan's current emperor and 140 by the empress. Some were written for the imperial family's annual New Year's Poetry Reading, and others mark special events in the Japanese calendar. Translated and annotated.
Lulie the Iceberg by Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, illustrated by Warabe Aska. This children's picture book, written by the wife of a cousin of Emperor Akihito, tells the story of an iceberg who travels from the North Pole to the South Pole. The princess is donating all her proceeds from this book to the United Nations Children's Fund. For ages 4 to 8.
Prince and Princess Chichibu: Two Lives Lived Above and Below the Clouds by Princess Chichibu of Japan, translated by Dorothy Bouchier. Autobiography of the wife of Emperor Hirohito's brother, originally published in 1996 as "The Silver Drum." This edition contains expanded opening chapters about the princess's early life, and a new appendix about Prince Chichibu's attempts to persuade the emperor to help the working class.
Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Ben Hills. Biography of the wife of Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito. The author interviewed the royal couple's friends, teachers, and former colleagues, many of whom have never spoken publicly before.
The Chrysanthemum Throne: A History of the Emperors of Japan by Peter Martin. The Japanese imperial dynasty can be traced back some 1,600 years, making it the world's oldest hereditary monarchy. This first general study of the institution throughout its history includes material previously available only in Japanese.
Enigma of the Emperors: Sacred Subservience in Japanese History by Ben-Ami Shillony. A study of the Japanese emperors from their mythological beginnings up to the present day, focusing on the notions of divinity, gender and subservience or passivity.
A Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns by Chikafusa Kitabatake. History of Japan's emperors before 1333. Written in the 14th century.
Emperor of Japan by Eiji Ina. Photographs of the misasagi, or burial mounds, of all 124 Japanese emperors since the Kofun period, reaching back some 1,600 years.
Critical Readings on the Emperors of Japan edited by Ben-Ami Shillony. Despite their political and military weakness, the emperors of Japan enjoyed a sacred status and could not be overthrown. This four-volume publication presents articles on emperors from the ancient past until modern times.
The World of the Shining Prince by Ivan Morris, edited by Paul De Angelis. Court life in ancient Japan.
Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan: The Tenmu Dynasty, 650-800 by Herman Ooms. The Tenmu dynasty began and ended in bloodshed. Its years in power were marked by succession struggles, murders, and accusations of black magic.
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon: The Diary of a Courtesan in Tenth Century Japan translated by Arthur Waley. This diary of a young courtesan of the Heian period chronicles court ceremonies and celebrations at the palace of Empress Teishi, providing glimpses of the manners and foibles of the aristocracy.
Diary of Lady Murasaki by Murasaki Shikibu, edited by Richard Bowring. The author, a lady of the Japanese court, kept this diary between 1007 and 1010. Spiced with sharp sketches of a timid empress, spineless courtiers, and quarrelsome ladies-in-waiting, it reveals the underside of imperial splendor.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. Celebrated as the world's first novel, this book (written by the author of The Diary of Lady Murasaki) tells the epic story of an emperor's son and offers a lively glimpse of 11th century Japan.
The Clear Mirror, edited by George W. Perkins. A chronicle of the Japanese court during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), written by an anonymous court noble in the 14th century.
Emperor and Aristocracy in Japan, 1467-1680: Resilience and Renewal by Lee Butler. Traces the fate of the imperial court from the lowest point in the turbulent sengoku period to its more stable position in the Tokugawa period.
The Princess Nun: Bunchi, Buddhist Reform, and Gender in Early Edo Japan by Gina Cogan. Tells the story of Bunchi (1619-1697), a Buddhist nun who was the daughter of Emperor Go-Mizunoo, showing how her aristocratic status enabled her to carry out reforms despite her gender.
The People's Emperor by Kenneth J. Ruoff is about democracy and the Japanese monarchy, 1945-1995.
The Splendid Monarchy by T. Fujitani explores the power and pageantry of the modern imperial family.
Learning the Sacred Way of the Emperor: The National Ideals of the Japanese People by Yukata Hibino, translated by A. P. McKenzie. About the conceptions and ideals of the Japanese people in the early part of the 20th century. Includes chapters on the duties of an imperial subject, the basis of the imperial state, national institutions, and the imperial destiny.
The Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies: With an Account of the Imperial Regalia by Daniel Clarence Holtom.
The Emperors of Modern Japan edited by Ben-Ami Shillony. Essays look at recent emperors -- Meiji (Mutsuhito), Taish (Yoshihito), Shwa (Hirohito), and the present emperor, Akihito -- both as personalities, and as a constantly developing institution. Topics include the role of the emperors and their wives, Hirohito's war responsibility, and succession rules.
The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family by Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave. An unflattering look at the imperial family in the 20th century.
Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold by Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave. Looks at the role played by the Japanese imperial family during World War Two.
Emperors of the Rising Sun by Stephen S. Large. Biographies of three recent emperors: Meiji, Taisho, and Showa (Hirohito).
The Emperor's Adviser: Saionji Kinmochi and Pre-War Japanese Politics by Lesley Connors. Saionji Kinmochi was an aristocrat who served as Prime Minister of Japan twice during the 20th century and was adviser to three emperors.
Traces: Memories of H.I.H. Prince Takamado, Plus Memorial Essays From Around the World by Stephen Comee. Prince Takamado, who died in 2002, was a cousin of Japan's Emperor Akihito.
Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-19 by Donald Keene. A rich portrait of Meiji and the rapid, sometimes violent change during this pivotal period in Japan's history.
The Meiji Restoration: Monarchism, Mass Communication and Conservative Revolution by Alistair Swale. Account of how real imperial rule was restored in Japan in 1867 under Emperor Meiji.
Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix argues that contrary to popular belief, Hirohito was no mere figurehead but played an active part in governing Japan during World War II. This book won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.
Hirohito and War by Peter Wetzler is about imperial tradition and military decision making in prewar Japan.
Japan's Imperial Conspiracy: How Emperor Hirohito Led Japan into War Against the West by David Bergamini. First published in 1971.
In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army by Edward J. Drea. Looks at the imperial army during the Second World War.
Showa, edited by Carol Gluck and Stephen Graubard, also explores the Japan of Hirohito.
Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire by Richard B. Frank provides insight into the disintegration of the Japanese Empire, one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II.
Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan by Stephen Large. This political biography of Hirohito shows how the emperor's character and personal influence were crucial in preserving a significant monarchy.
Hirohito: The Showa Emperor in War and Peace by Hata Ikuhiko. The author is regarded as a leading historian of contemporary Japan.
Return to Japan by Elizabeth Gray Vining. Published in 1960, and written by a former tutor to then-Crown Prince Akihito. The author tells of her return to Japan after almost a decade's absence. She goes to the royal wedding, a boating party with Prince Akihito, etc. She talks about her observations of great political and social changes. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Japan, edited by Richard John Bowring and Peter Kornicki. One-volume reference book about Japanese history.
The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 1 edited by Delmer M. Brown, deals with the history of ancient Japan. The other books in the series are The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 2, about the Heian period (794 to 1185); Volume 3, Medieval Japan, edited by Kozo Yamamura; Volume 4, Early Modern Japan by John W. Hall; Volume 5, The Nineteenth Century, edited by Marius B. Jansen; and Volume 6, The Twentieth Century, edited by Peter Duus.
Japan: A Concise History by Milton W. Meyer. Authoritative overview of 2,000 years of Japanese history. Approximately half of the text deals with pre-Meiji Japan, the period before 1868. The second half covers events since 1868.
The Samurai Capture a King - Okinawa 1609 by Stephen Turnbull. The Shimazu clan raid on the kingdom of Rykkyu (modern Okinawa, Japan) in 1609 is one of the most extraordinary episodes in samurai history. This is a blow-by-blow account of the operation, including the spectacular kidnapping of the king of Rykkyu. Includes specially commissioned artwork.
The Constitution of Japan by Shigenori Matsui. Explains the current constitution, including the emperor's role, as well as the constitutional history of Japan.
Early Japanese History by Robert K. Reischauer. Covers 40 BC through 1167 AD. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
A History of Japan to 1334 by George B. Sansom. The first volume of a classic reference work about Japanese history. The other volumes are A History of Japan, 1334-1615 and A History of Japan, 1615-1867.
The Commoner: A Novel by John Burnham Schwartz. In 1959, a woman named Haruko marries the Crown Prince of Japan. The consequences are tragic and dramatic.
Princess Kiko of Japan by Tim O'Shei. Biography for children ages 9 to 12.
Kazunomiya: Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858 by Kathryn Lasky. Fiction from the Royal Diaries series. For children ages 9 to 12.
Himeji Castle: Japan's Samurai Past by Jacqueline A. Ball and Stephen Brown. For children ages 9 to 12.
These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.
Hirohito. Dramatic archival footage highlights this TV documentary about the Japanese emperor whose long reign marked the transformation of his nation from an ancient society to a modern powerhouse.