Biography illustrates Prince Mikasa’s 100-year life

Courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency
Prince Mikasa and Princess Yuriko are seen at the Akasaka Imperial Grounds in November 2015.

A biography of Prince Takahito of Mikasa, who was the youngest brother of Emperor Showa and died in October 2016 at age 100, was published Thursday.

Drawing on recollections from his wife, Princess Yuriko, 99, and unreleased materials, the biography vividly illustrates the prince’s life, including a tense scene on the eve of the end of the Pacific War when he had a heated discussion with a young army officer who insisted that the war go on.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The biography of Prince Takahito of Mikasa

Prince Mikasa served as an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army during the prewar and war periods, and worked as a historian in the postwar period. The biography, published by Yoshikawa Kobunkan, describes the prince’s century-long life, which spanned the Taisho, Showa and Heisei eras. The book also contains 11 interviews about him with Princess Yuriko, to whom he was married for 75 years.

Talking about her wartime memories, Princess Yuriko mentioned an event that occurred on Aug. 14, 1945. Prince Mikasa, who wanted the war to end, and a young army officer who insisted that the war continue had a heated discussion in front of a bomb shelter at Prince Mikasa’s residence. Princess Yuriko recalled: “They were so tense that they seemed on the verge of shooting each other. I remember that the atmosphere was very scary.”

When Prince Mikasa tried to head for the Imperial Palace to see Emperor Showa, he was stopped by the young officer. That same night, an attempted military coup occurred at the Imperial Palace. “If Prince Mikasa had been there, he would have been in big trouble,” she said.

The biography was compiled by a publishing committee comprised of historians and others, working since February 2021. Princess Akiko, the granddaughter of Prince Mikasa, chaired the committee. The 1,332-page biography also uses unreleased documents such as 162 daily logs recorded by personal staff, including a nanny for little Prince Mikasa, and a diary kept by the prince himself during his service in the military to describe the details of his life from his childhood through the war.

Takahisa Furukawa, a professor of modern Japanese history at Nihon University, said: “The biography details drastic changes that occurred to the Imperial family from the prewar to postwar periods, using the method of historical science. It is of great significance to be able to trace the detailed history of Prince Mikasa’s growth by fully using unreleased documents and materials kept by Prince Mikasa’s family, because it allows us to correctly understand his personality and ideology.”