Famous Birthdays, History Today — March 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Famous Birthdays Today: 1903 -Empress Kōjun of Japan.

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Empress Kōjun (6 March 1903 – 16 June 2000) was empress consort of Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Born Princess Nagako, she was the mother of the present Emperor (Akihito).
Her posthumous name is Kōjun, which means “fragrant purity”. Empress Kōjun was empress consort (kōgō) from 25 December 1926 to 7 January 1989, making her the longest lived empress consort in Japanese history.
The January 1919 engagement of Princess Nagako to her distant cousin (then-Crown Prince Hirohito, the future Shōwa Emperor), was unusual in two respects. First, she was a princess of the Imperial line (albeit a minor one), whereas for centuries the chief consorts of Japanese emperors and crown princes had come from one of the five senior branches of the Fujiwara clan (Konoe, Ichijō, Nijō, Takatsukasa, and Kujō), the most illustrious families of the court nobility or kuge. Second, although Princess Nagako’s father was an offshoot of the Imperial family, her mother descended from daimyo, the feudal or military aristocracy.
In a small step away from tradition, Hirohito was allowed to choose his own bride. Nagako herself had no choice in the matter. At the age of 14, she and other eligible young noble women participated in a tea ceremony at the Imperial Palace while the Crown Prince watched unseen through a peephole. On the basis of this brief glimpse in January 1917, Hirohito selected his future wife.
Princess Nagako married Crown Prince Hirohito on 26 January 1924 and became Crown Princess of Japan. She became Empress upon Hirohito’s accession to the throne on 25 December 1926. Unlike his predecessors, Emperor Hirohito decided to abandon his 39 court concubines, limiting himself to one wife. After nearly 10 years of marriage, there was still no son, though Nagako had produced four daughters. Then, in 1933, Nagako became pregnant again, giving birth to the present emperor, Akihito. The Imperial couple had seven children, five daughters and two sons.
Empress Nagako performed her ceremonial duties in a traditional manner. She initially came to live in the palace during the time when people spoke an archaic imperial form of Japanese that has largely disappeared. Her role required her to attend special ceremonies such as those for the 2600th anniversary of the legendary foundation of the Empire of Japan in 1940 or the conquest of Singapore in 1942.
The Empress was the first Japanese Imperial Consort to travel abroad. She accompanied Emperor Hirohito on his European tour in 1971 and later on his State Visit to the United States in 1975. She became known as the “smiling Empress”.
After the Emperor’s death on 7 January 1989, she assumed the title of Empress Dowager. At that time, she was in failing health herself and did not attend her husband’s funeral; and she remained in seclusion for the rest of her life. In 1995, she became the longest-living dowager empress, breaking the record of Empress Kanshi, who died 873 years ago.
At the time of her death at the age of 97 in 2000, she had been an empress for 74 years. In her final days, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Nagako was suffering breathing problems but that the illness was not serious. The next day, with her family at her side, she died.
Emperor Akihito granted his mother the posthumous title of Empress Kōjun. Her final resting place is in a mausoleum named Musashino no Higashi no Misasagi, near that of her husband within the Musashino Imperial Graveyard.
Source: Wikipedia, read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Kōjun

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