The Mikado's Daily Life
While we fret over heat and cold, clamor for a summer palace
or a winter resort, that august personage the Mikado serenely sits always in
the apartment called "Omote Gozasho" or Gakumonsho "study,—indeed, heat and
cold may not approach him who, as we say, lives above the density of
ninefold clouds, beyond the ageless pine forest for the Chiyoda castle;
—and studiously assumes his daily work of ruling the Rising Sun Empire. It
goes without saying that he possesses many palaces in the country and more
than five detached palaces even in the city of Tokyo; but they are left
entirely in the hands of other members of his family to draw enjoyment from
them. And he rises and falls with this little study. Six o'clock is the
time for him to get up without fail; he appears in the Onkuchi Sosogijo or
"Honorable Mouth Rinsing Place" after changing his nightgown for a
Habutae hitoe (a kimono of a single thickness). He will rest for a
short while after his seven o'clock breakfast; at nine o'clock, the Jii or
doctor on duty is asked to examine his body. Then the tenji
gon-tenji, the court ladies in waiting, will make their
presence; and His Majesty the Emperor will put on his dress of Daigensui or
supreme generalissimo to make his daily appearance in his study at ten
o'clock. He usually wears the decorations of "Daikuni Kikkasho," "Kun Itto
Hakushoku Toyosho," "Zuihosho" and "Kenpohappu Kinensho," and sometimes many
more; and always he wears his hoken or sword. He retires from his
study at noon for his luncheon, and rests till two o'clock; and he will be
busy at work till five or sic o'clock. But when his work does not press he
will leave the Gakumonsho study at three, and go straight to his bathroom.
His supper will be announced at six o'clock; and after that, he makes it his
nightly custom to talk on poetry and literature with the Empress or the
court ladies. At nine o'clock one from the Jii Kyoku or
Doctors-on-duty-office will appear to give him a massage; and he goes to
sleep at half past ten or eleven o'clock every night.
He will put off his army dress with his retirement from the Omote Gosho for his black frock coat and trousers. He stands above the yearly fashion; it is said that his frock coat is old styled, trimmed at the edge, and that he is a staunch adherent to old fashion, and that is not only in his taste in dress. His nightgown is made with white habutae; and when he has worn it once, he will not use it again, and it will be given to the officers on duty in the palace or some court nobles of old time who may be without any office. And also his shirts, under trousers, stockings and other things will make no repeated service, but are speedily given away. It is twice in a year that he makes his official presence in the old Japanese dress of eboshi and sho joku; that is on New Year's Day, and the Shihohai Day which happens to be on the third day of January, the feast of worshipping the four corners of the universe. But on the other days of the year he wears his generalissimo's army dress. One autumn, when a grand naval manoeuvre was held in Yokohama Bay, he appeared for the first time in his naval dreaa; and it is said that [he] has made it his custom to wear it on any naval occasion. The Imperial dress-making shop was founded in the palace some years ago; there many tailors in white dress, after purification of their own bodies, are busy at work.
What does he eat? His diet is simple,—perhaps the simplest among the kings and emperors of the world. And we can say too that it is more simple than that of the richer class of Japanese. For breakfast, and luncheon he has "niju " or two kinds of soups, and "sansai" or three kinds of dishes; and for his dinner five kinds of dishes besides two kinds of soups. He takes, beside these Japanese soups, one go of chicken soup at his luncheon and dinner. One of these niju is made of miso or a kind of bean sauce as for the breakfast of the poorest Japanese family; and the other is a shoyu soup. (The shoyu is a kind of sauce madeof fermented wheat and beans, not unlike Worcestershire). Fishes are the main thing for the preparation of the sansai and gosai, sometimes appearing as a sashimi or sliced raw fish, sometimes as a fish fry seasoned with shoyu or salt, and sometimes boiled in shoyu. And eels are used quite often; also kamaboko or a sort of fish bread.
The Imperial cook is called Daizen Shoku; the dishes he prepares have to be brought before the doctors on duty who, examine them carefully. This is called Odokumi or tasting to test whether a thing is poisonous or not. And then, after having a doctor's approval, the dishes will be offered to the Emperor. This Odokumi is quite old and was already known even among the lords of little castle of the feudal age; and it became very elaborate affair in the household of the Tokugawa feudal prince. It is said that a second set of the same dishes used to be prepared for examination, besides those which were to go to the prince. It is quite proper, of course, to pay strict attention to such matters. The table the Mikado eats from is white in colour, as it is the custom since time immemorial; and it is small like any other Japanese table. The dishes have the designs of chrysanthemums and kiri leaves and they have sometimes the designs of young pine leaves, crane or tortoise. And they are invariably the Kyoto ware. It is said that his chopsticks are nine inches long, and they so polished like ivory. Since their material is strong, they will never break, although they are rather thin for their length.
Takajiro Maraki of the Nippara village of Tokyo province furnishes trees generally called Katsu no Ki for the manufacture of the Mikado's chopsticks; and the man who makes them by special appointment is Eitaro Watanabe, who lives at 3 Kotohira Cho, Shiba, Tokyo. He keeps several men who work under him; but he will not let anybody do the "finish" except himself. To make the finish of one chopstick it is said, you have nine times trouble. Eitaro will take a cold water bath to purify himself before he goes to work on the Mikado's chopsticks, and hide himself in an inner room where nobody even of his own family is admitted. He will use a special tool to make them, and as I said, while he is busy on them, no one is allowed to see him. I am told that he regards the work as holy as any shinto service. And fifty pairs of chopstick are the largest number that will be sent to the Imperial house; those that are rejected on account of their bad shape or for some other reason,will be burned up.
The Mikado loves bananas best among fruits; and so the gardeners who attend to the Imperial garden at Naito Shinziku manage to have them throughout the year. Beside bananas, the French peaches, the Shanghai and Tenshin peaches, and the "French Daiyen" (the white egg-plants delicious to eat baked with shoyu on) are raised in the garden. And all kinds of vegetables of Kyoto seed are planted also. Among the fishes the Mikado loves the Hamayaki Tai (Tai is said to be the best fish in japan) and the Ayu trout. He likes foreign cakes, especially sponge cake and the pyramid shaped chocolates; among Japanese cakes, one particular kind of cake called "Yomogi ga Shima" made of white lima beans, is his favorite. He uses to drink the Japanese tea called Gyokuro—this delicious tea bearing the poetical name of "Pearl-dews" after his Japanese dinner[,] but he heats fruits according to the season when he happens to have foreign food. (By the way, he is not particularly fond of it). Some years ago, he could not be without a bottle of Japanese sake called Sobana at each dinner; but lately he took up the best foreign wine. The Empress is a scanty eater like any other Japanese woman; she does not even touch her chopsticks, so I hear, to the breakfast things which are formally offered, and she cares only for a piece of bread and a cup of milk. She sits at the foreign table only when special guests are invited. She likes a fry oysters and shimaebi shrimps, and Tai, especially the Okitsu Tai, is her favorite fish. In the morning she will have white bean soup; and the luncheion soup will be changed to the Hatcho Miso soup which is made of the miso from the Sanshu province. She likes variety.
The Emperor and Empress have their different bath rooms. His Majesty takes a bath every day. In winter he dips himself in a tub full of hot water; but he enjoys shower bath in summer time. The court ladies will bring the hot water in lacquered buckets at the proper time; the Mikado sitting on the four-foot square platform of the bath house, will take his shower bath. There is a pipe arrangement for the cold water.
Everybody who serves in the palace must regard it as the first and most important thing to purify herself. She has to wash her hands twice when she comes out of the water closet. It goes without saying that her time of "monthly defilement" will oblige her to shut herself within her own chamber, not taking any part in the service at all. And she has to regard her own body as a thing unclean; therefore, from five o'clock in the morning until ten or eleven at night (sometimes till one or two the next morning when the Mikado is engaged on some pressing work)—during those hours of service, she has to wash and purify her hands whenever she happens to touch her own body. It is an unwritten rule that, suppose something touches her cheek, she should not use her won hands, but a piece of paper which she keeps in her bosom called "breast paper" to brush it away. And if she has not her paper convenient, the end of her sleeve or skirt will do service for her. Such a matter is carried almost to an extreme as it appears. But the palace is supposed to be a divine place where purity is the highest virtue.
The Mikado shaves each other day; and his hair used to be trimmed by Count Ayanokoji until the day of his death. And now a certain old court lady does a barber's work. The Mikado does not follow any style in hair dressing either.
His daily service on horseback or with a bow has been neglected for some time. And now and then he gets on his wooden horse, and takes some exercise on it or another enjoyment is to take a short walk in the palace garden leading a Yorkshire terrier which was presented by the Marshal Oyama; and that dog is seventeen years old. Riding on the wooden horse is simply to keep himself in training, as he is too busy with other matters to go horseback riding. So it is said that his horsemanship which is quite wonderful and gained from long training since the day of his youth, is still kept up to its reputation. You have to observe every rule even on the wooden horse. His beloved horses are about ten in number, and they usually come from the northern countries like the Oshu province. Famous Kinkazan who died some many years ago was from Sendai, and Tomozum or "Friend Crane" from Miharu; and Hatsunari which is the chief favorite of the Emperor is also, from Sendai. His taste in horses as in any other thing is not frivolous at all; once he likes forever he likes. He prefers a horse of rather small size; he chooses one about four feet five inches in height from the hoof of his foreleg to his neck. Before the great Restoration day the number of swords which were kept in the palace was small, being only some thirty or forty. But when his love of them became known to the public many lords of feudal days began to present their own swords and today they are counted more than three hundred,—of course counting only his favorite swords. The most famous among them is called Oni Maru made by that famous swordsmith Awataguchi Yoshimitsu; and the other by Bungo Yukihira. The latter is called On Makura Katana, meaning the pillow sword, with which he sleeps at night.
The Mikado keeps many shampooers in the palace Doctors-on-duty department, who treat him by turn or by appointment every night. He will lay himself on the lacquered bed with the design of gold chrysanthemums, which is some two feet high; and when the lady in waiting announces the shampooer he will hide his own head under the drapery, and say just one word "Un" which is the signal word "Begin." And he uses to go to sleep when the shampooer finishes his work; but if he desires once more to be rubbed, he will say nothing, but tap his own knees. Then the shampooer will start again. The Mikado is a man of few words and he rarely speaks with anybody as a rule. A certain Okamoto who has treated his body for more than thirty years was not addressed by him even once in his life yet. The Emperor is silent, and the shampooer of course; and only the silk kimono's rustle is heard.
Though his mind is always fully occupied, he sometimes finds a little time to amuse himself as an artist artizan. A year or two ago he got one large pumelo, one third of which he kept; and after he had thrown all the seeds away, he filled it with ashes to take out its dampness. And when it was dried, perfectly, he carved on it some beautiful picture. It is quite often that he shows his ability as a designer when he wishes to give some souvenirs at his palace dinner given to foreigners. Once tried to do something with a hubbard squash, but his attempt failed as it went to rot under the season's rain. . When he took the rotten squash up, and it fell down on his knees spoiling his dress, he laughed mightily; it is said that his laugh is the rarest thing. Really, he must have felt quite jolly at that time. One of his hobbies is the little clocks; he has set at least one in every room in the palace. And also stuffed birds and animals which are counted more than two hundred, varieties. Besides he shows great taste with old curios, lacquers, china wares and other art things. But along all those things which he enjoys, the making of uta poems is his first and last delight. It is already known even in foreign countries that he is one of the great uta poets of present Japan. He writes, it is said, fifty or sixty utas a.day; and it is no small thing at all even for a professional uta poet. When you come to think of his daily work as the Emperor of a rising nation, his writing so many utas will appear only as a miriacle. What a comfort and again what an encouragement his utas were for us people in the late war. His uta is not a manufactured sort, but it is his own heart. Once he sang:
Fumi miru tabini omokana,
(Whenever I open the ancient books, the one thing I ponder
is, how goes it with the people I rule.)
We are perfectly glad to have him as the head of the Empire since he faces us with the heart of the poet; the heart of the poet is Love. He rules the country with love; and with love we look upon him and think of him as the father of the nation. Be blessed Japan and the Japanese.