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In the Realm of a Dying Emperor by Norma Field Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2020

Nakaya Yasuko in the second story narrated by Norma field, In the realm of a dying emperor is depicted as a staunch Christian working as a cook in a day care facility. Her husband who had been working in the Japanese Self-defense force died sixteen years ago. After his death he underwent deification. Deification was an

idea that Yasuko has been opposing since his death. According to the state, deification involved preserving the soldiers who had given their lives to protecting the nation and especially the shrines such as the Yasukuni shrine (Field 103). Yasuko had the right to determine her husband’s final resting place according to the constitution of the time.

In fact, it was clearly illustrated the state’s procedures in such issues would only be executed if they were in tandem with the family’s wishes. This was, however, not the case here; the state itself went against the constitution and ignored the wishes of the deceased wife.

Despite her persistent struggle, she had not succeeded sixteen years down the line. She went to court and appealed the case several times despite failing to win. According to According to Heather (127) he persistent suggests that she was determined to show the world that she would never succumb to anything short of her Christian values.

At the time of the emperor’s death, Mrs. Nakaya was still struggling to free her husband’s spirit from the enshrinement. Though, her husband was given a religious burial, she considered the deification unconstitutional. This was just a condition that was laid by the emperor of the time and was profoundly opposed by the minority Christian community. This depicts the government of Japan then, was ruled first by the emperors’ wishes then the constitution.

According to this story, Mrs. Nakaya is portrayed as a strong woman who is firm in what she believes in. Besides, she is not easily swayed by the state orders as long as they do not conform to her faith. Being a Christian, she did not believe in the enshrinement of the members of the Japanese forces (Edwards 76).

This explains why she protested against the state’s action of enshrining her husband. The assertion that she had struggled for sixteen years with no hope of succeeding suggests a persistent spirit in her. She seemed to believe that giving up would mean the state’s spiritual practices superseded the religious practices she strongly embraced.

From her occupation, we can presume that Mrs. Nakaya was not an influential person in the society in position despite her husband being considered one of the heroes. The story does not bring out clearly whether she was working for a living or as a service to the community. The latter assumption, however, could be supported by her faith.

There was a possibility that she was doing the job as part of her Christian responsibilities to the community. Therefore, in conclusion, Mrs. Nakaya is a representation of people who have been denied their constitutional rights, but they do not give up the fight they know well they cannot win (Edwards 85).

From this story, the motivation behind Mrs. Nakaya’s actions illustrates her strong Christian faith. The society she lived in at the time was short of nonconformist. Perhaps, most people did what they did to be on the safe side of the state. The state, on the other hand, twisted the constitution to fit its needs according to the emperor’s requirements.

This suggests that people were always changing their beliefs and norms. According to Heather (98) the idea of enshrinement, for example, was not constitutional, though, it was also not against the constitution per se. Mr. Nakaya was not the only soldier who was enshrined. However, what makes this story worth writing about is the unending struggle of his widow against the practice. In fact, the entire book focuses on people who dared to oppose the rules of the state.

Besides her Christian believes, Mrs. Nakaya also seemed to have been motivated by the reason that most common people were not given a chance to have their say. Before the onset of World War II, the Emperor relied on the advice of statesmen, but this changed. He began to make his own decisions.

One such decision was that of enshrining the soldiers who died while on duty. Mrs. Nakaya considered accepting this, as a sign of defeat, hence, deciding to fight irrespective of whether she stood any chance of winning or not. Her unending struggle was an indication that she would never agree with the traditional practices which contrasted with her Christian beliefs.

From the reactions of Mrs. Nakaya Yasuko, several issues emanate both positive and the negative. On the positive perspective, it shows there was a support of the freedom to religion in the constitution (Edwards 75). This is an indication that before the reign of Emperor Hirohito, there was freedom to things such as the burial procedures to be followed after the demise of a state hero. There is no account of persecution for people of belonging to a different religion.

Perhaps, this indicates that Japan has been a liberal country since the earlier days. The other positive aspect illustrated by Mrs. Nakaya’s reactions is there was freedom of expression. Despite all the assertions of altering the constitution to fit his needs, the emperor was not dictatorial since there is no account where he persecuted an individual for fighting for their rights.

This is a sign which suggests the citizens of Japan have never been denied their rights of expression. The other pertinent lesson learnt is women were respected in Japan in an era where most regions in Asia believed that it was an abomination for women to stand and challenge their men counterparts.

On the negative perspective, it is an indication that the emperor misused his powers by altering the constitution to fit his needs. This means that the emperor had the final say even when the opposite was depicted in the constitution. Also, it shows some degree of neglect to the Christian faith whose followers were the minority. Mrs. Nakaya received considerable support from the church in her fight, but they lost owing to lack of support (Heather 98).

They were overpowered because of their small numbers that made them insignificant. Most of the citizens were inclined to traditional beliefs, hence, did not have a problem with enshrinement. This implies that most people did not see the point that Mrs. Nakaya was trying to bring out; this is why she did not get any support from the non-Christian section of the community which was the majority.

Also, from these reactions, we can deduce the fact the community was silent on the actions taken by the state irrespective of whether they were constitutional or not. The notion that this action was against the constitution would be enough to stir a wave of demonstrations against the state, but it seems the people were never bothered by such violations.

Emperor Hirohito does not appear directly anywhere in these stories. However, these stories have been placed in the context of his death since they were all because of actions taken during his reign (Marcel 76). Mrs. Nakaya’s plight, for example, is as a result of the rules he set. He stated that any member of the self-defense force who dies in service should be enshrined in the state’s shrine. In his views, it was in the defense of the country.

The opposition this decision faces from the widow of one of the soldiers is the plot of one of the stories in the book, hence Emperor Hirohito’s being included. According to Gordon (86), “the death of the emperor is indispensable in this book for two main reasons, the first one being the fact that he led Japan through three key transitions – before war, during war and post war eras.

Second his death was considered to have created an atmosphere of coercive consensus with government officials. This, stimulated self-control among the citizens” (311). The reactions in these stories were all against the emperor’s way of leadership, which changed after the death of Emperor Hirohito.

Works Cited

Edwards, Steve. In the realm of a dying emperor book review. London: Euston publishers, 1998. Print.

Field, Norma. In the Realm of a Dying Emperor. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. Print.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. Oxford, London: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.

Heather, Kelly. Japan in History: pre and post war events. San Francisco: Canfield Press, 2007. Print.

Marcel, Robert. Japan at century’s end. New York, New York: Cambridge university press, 2009. Print.

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