JAPAN'S OTHER EMPEROR
TAOIST POLITICS AND THE NANCHO RESURGENCEby W. DAVID KUBIAK
Kyoto Journal, Winter, 1989
Kumazawa Hiromichi Tenno
Now that the media are awash with wistful adjectives of passage and the ephemeral, it might help to remember that even in politics some things last. Usually from being buried. Like the ancient, still unexploded dynamite of imperial Korean corpses in old Tenno (Japanese Emperor) tombs. Or like one stubborn Nancho family's 600-year-old claim to the Chrysanthemum Throne - a claim, by the way, which could radically transform the mournful political climate of the next few years. The Korean matter will doubtless blow up in its own sweet time, but the Nancho claim is at issue now and deserves some immediate attention.The story begins, as most good imperial tales do, long long ago, at the turn of the 14th century, in the twilight of the Kamakura bakufu (military government). The ruling warrior clan of Hojo, grown corrupt and dissolute from too many years at the trough, was doing terribly in the polls. The monasteries were restive, the nobles disaffected, and the commoners uncommonly aggrieved. But no one saw much hope of reform, let alone a revolution, until the enthronement of Nancho-founder Godaigo, Tenno #96 in l318.
For generations the Hojo had cultivated a rift in the imperial line that pitted the progeny of two brother emperors against each other. The rules of the age declared that each Tenno was to serve approximately ten years before abdicating to a crown prince selected from the rival line. On abdication one faction habitually repaired to monkhood at Daikakuji Temple and was thus known as the Daikakuji line, while the other retreated to cloister at Jimyoin Temple and became the Jimyoin line. The Hojo refereed the alternations and exercised veto power over all proposed candidates. They appeared to prefer their princes young, pink and simple: most late-Kamakura Tenno were between four and puberty when enthroned. This state of affairs served the Kanto authorities admirably, assuring there was always: a) a political incompetent on the throne; b) an endless torrent of invidious intelligence on the in-crowd's activities from the idling out's; and c) a plethora of retired Tenno around (sometimes as many as five) intriguing against, tripping over and generally exhausting each other.
The military power brokers allowed no real authority to the throne, so most Court intrigue centered on petty issues of privilege and protocol. The incessant bickering gradually compromised the moral standing, knowledge of governance and political relevance of both sides. This was, needless to say, just dandy by the Hojo who had been striving to trivialize the Court for near a century.
Kamakura's cradle-robbing was working out superbly well until one early 14th century swap found Daikakuji with its nursery bare, and the Hojo grudgingly approved a manly aberration named Godaigo to succeed. The Court's juvenile business-as-usual was abruptly thrown into ambitious confusion by this prince's something-elseness. At his accession Godaigo was thirty-one, randy to a fault, and suspiciously well-versed in the myths and history of direct imperial power. A bright, persuasive idealist, he had divided his decades as crown prince between livening up the ladies quarters and plotting the destruction of the bakufu. By the time of his enthronement, Godaigo's vision ranged far beyond the effete suffocated court, to a national revolution and return to Taoist governance. For Godaigo the golden age was the Engi Period (901-922 AD) when Kyoto flourished in peace and security, fish were jumping and the living was high. So high, according to the classics, that the Tenno was reputed to have ruled the land through sheer empathy! The Emperor felt the people's will and reflected it in his action. The people felt the Tenno's benevolence and emulated it in their lives. Taoists called it the cycle of immanent virtue and the secret of social harmony.
Godaigo found this all an inspiration. No more need of spies, smelly warriors, sadistic cops, the uncouth trappings of rule. No more of Kanto's influence, meddling and corruption. No more military/imperial compromise. "Paradise!" he sighed and set forth to build his promised land.
If Godaigo was a bit naive regarding ends, he compensated with street-smart means. To plot strategy the earthy Tenno started the egalitarian Bureiko (Free and Easy Society) which according to Sansom:
"met at parties where, to put it mildly, all formality was banned. This had the advantage that persons of different ranks could talk without reserve or circumspection. [Monks, nobles, warriors and scholars] would sit and drink in extreme dishabille, half-naked, hair loose...They were waited upon by a score of beautiful girls of about seventeen, in diaphanous garments, serving delicacies of all kinds and pouring wine as if from a spring. All present enjoyed singing and dancing. But in the midst of these riotous pleasures only one thing was discussed - how to destroy 'the savages in the East,' the Kamakura bakufu." (A History of Japan)
Godaigo used his status as a spiritual leader to sow his
conspiring sons through the anti-Hojo Buddhist hierarchy. He cited
the hardship among his era's farmers as reason to tour the militant
temples where he prayed, bargained and gathered allies. History
doesn't record whether they met at an altar or an orgy, but
Godaigo's most fortuitous find of this period was Kusonoki Masashige
- educated bandit, loyalist and strategic genius from the mountains
wilds of Kawachi.|
Godaigo's careful plotting, however, was revealed to Kamakura by a Jimyoin spy and things got off to a disastrous start. Godaigo was captured by bakufu troops and exiled to a small rock in the sea. But Kusonoki remained at large, wreaking havoc on Hojo forces with nasty guerrilla surprises. He finally enraged their three main Kansai armies into attacking him simultaneously at Chihaya, his rustic mountaintop fortress up in moonshine country. Outnumbered nearly a hundred to one, Kusonoki's ragtag troops still decimated the Hojo legions with lethal pitfalls, ambushes and boobytraps. (And with a bit of wit - the upper-caste attackers' first and final attempt at mass wall-scaling met with a scalding deluge of Chihaya latrine sweets.) After weeks of aborted offensives and humiliating defeats the Hojo survivors fled in stench and confusion. When the headlines reached the provinces there was pandemonium. The mumbling fatalistic crowd suddenly awoke to Kanto's vulnerability and began flocking to Godaigo's cause. His irregulars won a few more skirmishes and he was soon reunited with Kusonoki and his other supporters for a triumphal return to Kyoto. Unfortunately, during his 20-year tenure winning was often harder on Godaigo than losing.
Taoists drew strength from the spiritual resonance of awareness, nature and sensual pleasure and sought spontaneous lives beyond organizational constraint. Godaigo invoked these ideals to serve his small Bureiko cabal. The Court, however, was vast and an organized hierarchy in itself. And when, after years of fighting for it, its scale and complexity finally thwarted him, botching his early reforms, he laughed strangely and locked himself up in the harem.
To make matters worse, the wounded Hojo and their hired cutlery were never very far out of the picture. A lot of intense adrenal history happened then - events of lust, stupidity, valor and more stupidity. But mostly a lot of fighting and running in and out of Kyoto by all parties involved. The urban warfare got on the nobles' nerves as they had serious property values at stake and this led to the greatest stupidity of all.
Ashikaga Takauji, the turncoat Kamakura general whose timely betrayal "on behalf of the Throne" finally destroyed Hojo power in 1333, was astonished to find Godaigo was serious about not setting up another bakufu, let alone naming Takauji to head it. He marched up to Kanto in a snit and pronounced himself in charge anyway. Scrounging up a feckless Jimyoin prince, Takauji declared him emperor and marched back west to liberate Kyoto in his name.
Fast forward here through several years and a few more reels of hacking, screaming and racing around, the throne changing bottoms a few more times, until finally Godaigo is sitting in state again, Kusonoki is guarding the city and Takauji returns from a Kyushu retreat with a huge replenished army for the Final Assault. Badly outnumbered, Kusonoki wants to let them flow into the city and then chop them to cat food in the narrow backstreets. The nobles in turn demand that all the bloody, sweaty stuff be conducted as far from their tea rooms as possible. Godaigo, who is, alas, caught up in real estate schemes of his own, votes with his blood instead of his brains and condemns his greatest ally to engage Takauji out in the open boonies. And Kusonoki, to the horror of the cast, stoically, loyally obeys and marches off to certain death. His touching farewell to his son before the battle, his defiant oath of "Seven lives for the Empire" and his manly harakiri after final defeat - all are revered rightist themes to this day. (In fact, as we shall see, Nancho probably owes its enduring renown more to this single imbecilic show of obedience than any other factor).
At any rate Takauji grabbed and held Kyoto, Godaigo bundled up the imperial regalia and took refuge to the south in the mountains of Yoshino. There he began Nancho, the Southern Court, and 50 years of civil war with the Ashikaga and their puppet Hokucho (Northern Court) sovereigns. Godaigo died soon after arrival in 1339, but three successive heirs doggedly took up the Nancho cudgel, winning some and losing some, until Gokameyama Tenno, Godaigo's grandson, decided things were going nowhere for either side and credulously accepted an Ashikaga peace bid. After insufficient meditation and ample warnings from suspicious retainers, Gokameyama descended to Kyoto with the regalia. Meeting in state at Daikakuji, he signed a "sacred covenant" with Northern Tenno Gokomatsu and the Ashikaga shogun guaranteeing a return to the alternate-ten-year-reign formula, and abdicated in favor of his l6-year-old Hokucho rival.
Gokomatsu, with Ashikaga backing, broke the treaty with dispatch, not only serving twice the agreed tenure but also naming his own 12-year-old son Shoko as crown prince. This betrayal was a mortal coup to Nancho hopes and sparked some violent and quickly snuffed protests among Southern partisans. Nancho appeared to evaporate at this point as its viable heirs met one by one with untimely, violent accidents. (Gokameyama's wary old Yoshino retainers laughed last, however. Smelling foul play from the first, they had hung back at the mountain stronghold. When the Kyoto carnage began they scuttled safely off to the north with two young princes of the blood.)
Shoko's accession not only dishonored, and in some eyes invalidated, the Hokucho line, it also foreshadowed a bad six centuries for Japanese womanhood. Ponsonby-Fain, gentlest of Imperial biographers, describes this Tenno as "a man of somewhat peculiar character. Though a fervent Buddhist and eschewing all meat, he was much addicted to drink, and when under its influence became at times violent, amusing himself by hitting the palace women with the back of his sword and such-like exploits."
Outside too, things went from bad to worse. The Ashikaga, quickly surpassing the Hojo in profligate indulgence, bankrupted the treasury and lost control of the provinces, including the imperial estates whose revenues supported the Hokucho aristocracy. The Court was plunged first into beggary and then into devastating civil wars that burned back and forth through Kyoto for more than a century. Through it all, however, the Hokucho "sovereigns" remained remarkably good sports, offering tea, sympathy and good offices to whoever happened to capture the town that day. Their amoral opportunism finally pulled them through to the l6th century and the safety and subsistence of Tokugawa patronage. They survived the Edo era in genteel poverty on bakufu handouts.
Across history, records Ponsonby-Fain, the Nancho and the Hokucho "remained extraordinarily true to type. All the Nancho or Daikakuji heirs were fired with intense zeal and enthusiasm for the overthrow of military power and the restoration of Imperial primacy; whereas the Hokucho heirs were entirely pusillanimous and content to suffer almost any humiliation provided they enjoyed the sweets of office."
In retrospect Godaigo is a very mixed bag, responsible for reprehensible deeds as well as intriguing folly. Among his virtues, and central to this discussion, were his courageous efforts to create a nonviolent Taoist society and his abiding faith in man's largely uncharted potentials.
For the two young princes fleeing Ashikaga's royal birth-controllers, this was their sustaining patrimony. And they took the
ideal back to the woods and villages where it was born. After
decades of wandering the wild northeast, stonecarving prayers to
mark their passage, Godaigo's last heirs settled in the rich
secluded valleys of Aichi. There they tilled, told their tales and
kept scrupulous genealogies. There they intermarried with commoners
and took the name Kumazawa. (Literally, "bear swamp". Some
descendants trace the choice to a parable-loving ancestor who noted
that Japan's lordly bears repair to bogs only when threatened or
attacked. There briars guard their flanks and the slick trackless
wastes deprive their pursuers of bearings, purchase and ferocity.
Crafty metaphor, but the aptness and survival of the Kumazawa name
probably had as much to do with the clan's centuries of swamp-like
silence as with their bearish sagacity).|
At any rate, they farmed well, prospered and maintained a respect for literacy and learning. By the Tokugawa Period they were sending out bright scions, like the rabble-rousing Confucianist critic Kumazawa Banzan, to explore and engage the great Edo culture.
At the turn of this century Kumazawa Taizen, Nancho heir of his generation and charismatic lay preacher at Tokyo's Enkoji Temple, decided to make the family's first claim in over 500 years. At the temple he gathered a devoted following of aristocratic wives, who interceded with husbands to present his documentation to the Court. Hence in Meiji 39 (1906) in a petition cosigned by a count, a viscount and a baron, Taizen sued for justice and a hearing before the Tenno and his ministries. After some scholarly review and a long and bitter controversy in the Diet, Emperor Meiji declared Nancho the historically legitimate line, ruled Taizen the true heir and offered him an audience to discuss the sticky question of what to do next.
Ultranationalists of the period, busy with colonial forays into Asia, knew exactly what to do with Nancho, however. The issue had taken on patriotic significance as the "glorious and unbroken imperial succession" became a nationalist symbol of Japan's uniqueness, superiority and manifest destiny. Unfortunately, tracing the line from god-born Jimmu Tenno through Ashikaga's Hokucho branch or Yoshino's Nancho diversion yielded quite different counts. Meiji's successor, for example, would be either Tenno #126 or Tenno #122. Since either/or uncertainties have never been sympathetic to absolutists, a clear-cut decision on the imperial arithmetic was demanded.
And here again the loyal bandit Kusonoki bursts from the underbrush to rescue his embattled sovereign's banner. Meiji militarists just loved the Kusonoki drama, especially the "Seven lives for the Empire" bit and the tragic last act. Sensing wide political utility in the tale, they wanted to boom it through the schools and media to apotheosize the suicidal obedience now expected from the people. Since Kusonoki's devotion was inseparable from Godaigo's cause, Diet rightists became born-again Nancho partisans, and mounted the strenuous and successful fight for its recognition.
Waiting for his congratulatory Imperial audience, Taizen was prepped in realpolitik by the Secretary of Home Affairs. His journal records the gentle warning: "Before your conference it is our pleasure to inform you that your family has been recognized as the true successor of the Southern Court. Unlike ordinary aristocrats your are descended from a glorious line that rightfully held the Imperial regalia. Now regarding your audience, it is true the present Emperor is descended from the Northern Court. But you will kindly bear in mind that this is also the Emperor who fought and won the Sino-Japanese War, who then engaged and routed mighty Russia...Conduct yourself accordingly."
Unfortunately, whether due to a Kumazawa attitude problem or vicissitudes of state, the meeting was several times postponed and never transpired. The what-to-do-about-the-Kumazawa dilemma was apparently returned to committee where it languished until Meiji's passing a few years later. Ironically, Taizen himself remained only a peripheral figure in the great Nancho debate. His line's righteous plaint and principles were romantic through the haze of history, but up close, in the flesh, and seconded by important friends, they were inconvenient to the extreme. No one wanted to face up to the logical or legal implications of the case and he was ushered back to the temple with a polite but imperative "don't call us, we'll call you."
During the twenties and thirties the family was sporadically hassled for loose talk and lese majeste. After Taizen's death in l929, the thought police dropped by so often that his eldest son, Hiromichi, took to the road and a long picaresque career as monk, farmer, peddler and shopkeeper. Official suspicions were ultimately vindicated when, on January l7, l946, a 56-year-old Hiromichi stepped out of a taxi at MacArthur's General Headquarters wearing the chrysanthemum crest and flanked by two "retainers" lugging six kilos of explosive documents.
"Pretender Claims Hirohito's Throne!" screamed the next day's Pacific Stars and Stripes above a long story detailing Nancho's history and familial hardships. The tone of the piece is peculiarly respectful, depicting Hiromichi as a "tall and dignified, quiet spoken man" who thinks the war was wrong, Hirohito is accountable and a MacArthur investigation of his claim would see the Nancho returned to the throne and a "historical injustice eradicated." It closes with his confident prophecy that "a new Japan will arise with restoration of the proper imperial family."
MacArthur, meanwhile, had an entirely different game plan for the "new Japan" and was anxiously trying to keep the cooperative Hokucho heir from justice. The problem was coincidentally highlighted by an adjacent article in the same paper, headlined "ANZACS Names Emperor as Criminal." It ran, "Australia and New Zealand have tossed a bombshell into preparations for the trial of Japan's major war criminal suspects by naming Emperor Hirohito at the head of their lists...It is understood that some effort is being made to have the Japanese ruler's name deleted, as its inclusion would cause considerable embarrassment at SCAP Headquarters which has been trying to keep the Emperor out of this delicate situation...It is assumed Australia's and New Zealand's demands will be subordinated if they cannot be persuaded to delete Hirohito's name."
The last thing MacArthur wanted at this juncture was an apparently reasonable alternative to the collaborating Tenno. His men were therefore instructed to tell Hiromichi that his claim was a matter of such profound social and historical significance that it could only be properly adjucated by Japanese courts; and to show him the door.
Hiromichi summoned the lawyers of his coterie and duly prepared a case. the judiciary bounced it around for a couple years before deciding, in apparent relief, that they had no jurisdiction over l4th century writs and instruments, anyway. "Why not," they suggested, "let the people decide?"
So Hiromichi hit the road again, barnstorming around the nations theaters, temples and village halls. By l950 his enthusiastic adherents numbered in the tens of thousands and Kumazawa Tenno rallies became provincial sensations. They apparently worked something like American chautauqua meetings - part history lesson, part show business, part populist revival. As a motto Kumazawa took the wisdom the court had bestowed, and his meetings would often break up with the chant "Yeah, let the people decide!"
The politics surrounding the campaign were quirky and hopeful. Even the curious figure up on stage speaking truth about the war and asking to be their new emperor showed that the country had come a long way very fast. Using all the psychology he had learned as Buddhist preacher and street peddler, Hiromichi wove spells around his audiences. Or, more accurately, he pulled them together, told them they deserved some control and respect, that the choices were theirs, and allowed them to charm themselves with their prospects. He stressed a human-scale future and respect for the past. He had lived the same lives as his listeners, though more precariously than most, and their concerns were truly his. One old witness remembers, "You left the hall wanting to paint over all the 'Japan' signs with 'Nippon', even 'Dai Nippon,' and yet you were very conscious of the world, of what we owed other countries, Asia. Or of our debt to America, how close we had come to disaster..."
Hiromichi himself apparently remained grateful to the Allies
even after the SCAP brushoff. But generally, populist sentiments
about the Occupation ran hot and cold. Hot when GHQ's fiery New Deal
lawyers promised them "a hand in the future" and lasting reforms;
cold when SCAP went into business with the old guard. After Mao took
over China and Korea heated up, SCAP was taken over by CIA types who
didn't like people in movement period. They hurt the unions while
boosting the war industries and the gangsters. They turned
heavy-duty war criminals loose with big money in their pockets to
help SCAP maintain "social harmony." "A-Class" rogues such as Kishi,
Kodama and Sasagawa profited immensely by reviving the mobs and
rescuing the "patriotic" societies. Kishi made prime minister; Kodama
became one of Japan's three most powerful men; and Sasagawa Ryoichi,
self-proclaimed "world's richest fascist," was several times seen jogging
around Africa with Jimmy Carter and the Gandhi Peace Prize in his
pocket. Older activists especially have a hard time feeling too
pro-American about those days.|
One of the attractions of Hiromichi's gospel was the ease with which he proposed national absolution and self-forgiveness. He gave the impression that Japan could somehow shift responsibility for all its natural and unnatural disasters over the last 500 years onto a dead emperor's perfidy, and his mortal breach of faith with divinity. "A festering sin of history," he called it and professed Japan's citizens could cure it all in a single stroke by heeding that fateful covenant, by returning the throne. Takanobu, Hiromichi's eldest son remembers, "Neither my father or grandfather ever asked for more than a return to the observance of the l392 Compact and the restoration of honor, not theirs so much as that of the throne itself. They were basically just saying that for Nippon to become truly great we must be honest with ourselves. We must face our history, take responsibility for our mistakes and move on from there. They were of course concerned with injustices against the family, but many other tragic things happened here during those centuries and they too must be confronted and if possible rectified.
"The usurpation of Nancho is perhaps only one small problem but it is symbolically important. The emperor as symbol of our people should express the truth of our history. If this great position is gained or maintained dishonestly, it sets a damaging precedent for the whole society." And whether the audience believed in Buddhist karma or the power of Shinto oaths to Amaterasu, they all had some sense of what he was trying to say.
The funny thing is that he might have been right. By shifting the blame, the people might have been able to start clean, releasing guilt and fresh energy, like the post-tyrant jubilees of recent Third World history. New freedoms were coming to them from SCAP, of course, but losing the war was not exactly their own achievement. Since they could take no real credit for the democracy they enjoyed, there was perhaps less motivation to preserve or extend it. Things were being done for them, to them. They needed to do something for themselves. "If we are such a special people, let's see us do some special things," he taunted them, of course suggesting they begin by taking their most ancient and sacred institution in hand. Japan must be redeemed. And they could do it! The crowds listened and cheered and prayed he was right. He wasn't, of course. At least no one ever found out.
Movements of hope are often as fragile as bubbles and when they stop growing they start to die. When Hiromichi's supporters saw the political skies close up in the early Fifties, saw that however right this man might be his chances of success were now receding, they pulled up their collars and started to drift away. Hiromichi continued to stump the countryside, but the crowds grew leaner and quieter. He finally had no convincing answer to citizens asking just how they were supposed to express this sovereign will of theirs. "Let the people decide!" had a fine ring to it, but where did this society permit such decision-making? The government didn't even allow jury trials, let alone plebiscites.
Hiromichi maintained a few stalwarts but slowly he began to provoke more mirth than hope, more pity than passion. In the late Fifties he finally retired to a Nichiren temple sinecure in Tokyo, a position once compared to that of old-boxing-champ doormen at Las Vegas casinos. He died there of cancer in l966.
And now what? It turns out there is another window of opportunity open ahead. Each emperor-to-be is given a two-year trial period or courtship with Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and national deity. Hours after his predecessor succumbs the prince designate performs a perfunctory accession rite and accepts the symbols of sovereignty, the seals and petty duties of state. But he must wait years for the epiphany that consecrates him as the chosen of Amaterasu. In a ceremony called the daijosai, the imperial aspirant purifies himself, prepares a feast and waits alone with it in a sacred hut. If she appears, if they touch, embrace and fuse, then the human walks out a Tenno, possessed of godhead and grave responsibility.
After this fateful private tryst, writes Holtom in The Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies, our man emerges as "a sacred living kami (god or divine power) in whose magical person is enfolded the entire welfare of the people, their protection from evil, both human and superhuman, their representation before the kami of heaven and earth, and above all their food." Now that's a potent political personage you might expect, and one whom the postwar Constitution was expressly designed to emasculate.
This millennia-old tantric seance pits the force of Japanese antiquity and tribal essence against the flimsy legality of the foreign-ghosted charter for the first time. Suppose our man bursts from the shack, intoxicated with visions and conviction. Suppose he strides up to the world's cameras and in moving voice proclaims, "With full gratitude to our gods, ancestors, and foreign mentors we today announce Nippon's coming of age. We shall henceforth set our own course, write our own Constitution, invent our own future. The apprenticeship is over. Novice Japan is dead. Long live Dai Nippon!" And what else might he say and how would a Japanese nation hungry for direction and identity respond? And just what if the face at the cameras was not...not the one everybody expected? What then?
Let the people decide....?
Epilogue: The colloquial history and hopes above were written shortly after Hirohito died, and as we all now know there was no noticeable divine interrupt of Hokucho business-as-usual, let alone a renaissance of Taoist democratic fervor. What there was, however, was an aging anguished Nancho heir, torn between his respect for his forefathers' truth and courage, and his respect for his womenfolk's stoic endurance and justifiable pleas not do anything stupid to imperil his three lovely daughters chances for "happy marriages and normal lives."(In a culture of arranged and well-researched marriages, a girl with a crazy romantic grandfather was still marginally acceptable, or at least no worse off than those with limps, lisps or loud laughs. But should the father too show signs of strangeness, then the problem was deemed hereditary. The eugenic instincts of the prospective groom's family then kicked in, trashing the maid's conjugal prospects with brute singularity.)Hiromichi bore three sons, all of whom were ultimately cast into ridicule, danger and dire poverty by his long quixotic campaign for restoration. The two younger were in fact adopted into heirless families whose names and shadowed security they gratefully accepted.
Meanwhile during the seven years that dad was acting out his itinerant passion play, the oldest son was being starved, beaten and drudged to delirium in a Siberian POW camp. He stumbled home in '52 sick and 78 lbs to discover that his country was newly independent and his family was starving and destitute. After just a few weeks of exhausted rest, he again stumbled out to feed his mother and sisters, accepting a grueling mountain laborer's job which he grimly held for years til their modest fortunes recovered.
By his own account, the first bitter years after his return were drenched with contempt for his mad father and his tragically foolish claims. The personal breach never really healed until the dispirited old man entered the temple and took the tonsure. After his death, however, when the son was sorting through his father's papers, he was stunned to discover that the old man actually seemed to be right and was by all historical evidence the most legitimate candidate for the Throne. He thereafter became an impassioned amateur historian and published several monographs on the Kumazawa line. His sense of paternal responsibility (and a vigilant wife) restrained him from any more overt activities, however, and when I first met him in the early eighties, he confessed he was totally unsure how to proceed. Over the following years though I grew to respect him, Nancho prospects did not improve. He spent all his spare time writing a book on his Siberian years, running a free calligraphy classroom for the neighborhood and teaching at a handicapped kids vocational training center on weekends. His mom&pop bookbinding business struggled but survived, though they continually took heavy hits from big companies who would order a few thousand catalogs or manuals and then brutally shortchange them when time came to pay. He also continued to read newspapers and bang the wall in despair over the mess the country or, more often, the people were in. "I feel paralyzed," he once said, "I still somehow feel there is an important connection between what my father stood for and the mess we are still in. But I'm not an orator or great writer and if I stood up and pleaded his case, repeated his words, who would listen? Besides, those who still hope for democracy here have no interest in imperial issues, and those who do have no interest in democracy. Where is the constituency for change? Who really cares?" "I seem to," I stupidly responded, "what is there to do?" "Whatever you can, " he shrugged, "Whatever you feel might help." And that has been our mystifying mandate ever since...
The Nancho Papers