PROMINENT ETHOLOGIST DISSECTS JAPAN’S PROBLEMS
I recently picked up a fascinating book. Its title at first actually turned me off: Narrow-Waisted Women See through Men’s Hearts (WAC Inc. Tokyo; May 2021). But I quickly realized that the book, featuring some 60 articles in seven chapters, was written by someone I adore—well-known ethologist and essayist, Ms Kumiko Takeuchi. The articles listed were each so enticing, I wished I had three sets of eyes so I could read three simultaneously.
I have always respected what she has to say and make it a rule to cut out and save every single article she writes. I immediately started reading the book. This intriguing heading soon jumped out at me from the first entry of Chapter 4—‟Male Lizards Acting in Solidarity to Stop Female Partners from Being Stolen Closely Resemble Male Left-wingers.”
I have long felt that in both Japan and elsewhere in the world left-wingers have a stronger sense of solidarity and pursue political activism more zealously than their conservative counterparts, their movements lasting much longer. By contrast, while conservatives set goals and make sincere efforts to achieve them, they regrettably tend to grow too complacent once they attain their initial objectives.
Why do left-wing movements last longer? More to the point, why do these liberal forces manage to achieve solidarity and remain implacably committed to their causes—not only in Japan but the world over? Against this backdrop, the heading referring to the solidarity of lizards made a lot of sense to me.
Takeuchi notes in passing that the Japan Ethological Society, which she founded in 1982 with her mentor and colleagues, was eventually taken over by a band of its left-wing members. She must have been very disappointed.
Seemingly with the words and deeds in mind of those left-wingers who took over her organization, Takeuchi defined “Japanese-type liberals” as “those willing to engage in fabrication, alteration, cover-up, or obstruction of research in pursuit of their ideology.” Her definition quickly reminded me of a mass-circulation liberal daily, i.e., the Asahi Shimbun, which has run a host of fabricated articles over the years, including some about wartime Korean “comfort women” and others about the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster.
Takeuchi searched for animal equivalents of the left-wing forces rampant in human society and managed to come up with the side-botched lizards which inhabit the semi-dessert areas of western North America.
Respect for Family of Crown Prince Akishino
For further details I ask the reader to read the book, but let me briefly state here that the author breaks these lizards broadly into three groups in accordance with the differences in the color of the collar and body size. The male members of the group that are the most drab, most unattractive, and least interesting apparently have dull blue collars. Takeuchi states that these males, aware that their female partners can find more attractive male lizards with glowing orange or yellow collars, collaborate closely with each other to prevent their females from being taken away from them.
For the male members of this least attractive group of lizards, keeping their eyes on their female partners from every angle is a battle for the preservation of the species which they cannot afford to lose, as it determines whether or not they will be able to leave their own offspring. Their fight against the more attractive charmers is one that is spurred by instinct and sustained by tenacity, lasting until their death, according to Takeuchi.
Depicting the scene of their battle, the author concludes that it reminds her of “something similar I have witnessed somewhere else…” I can easily empathize with what she presumably is hinting at: I think she is referring to what she has observed in a place more specific than just “somewhere”—likely Tsukiji, one of Tokyo’s plush eating and drinking districts.
The theme of the book then takes a sudden turn, with the author discussing the family of Crown Prince Akishino, heir presumptive of Emperor Naruhito. Takeuchi contributed an article to the monthly Bungei Shunju in 2006 following reports of Princess Kiko’s pregnancy, in which she pointed to a high possibility that a baby boy would be born. (As it turned out, Prince Hisahito, second in line to the throne after his father and the only heir of his generation in the traditional patrilineal imperial succession, was born on September 6, 2006.) At the time Takeuchi explained that from a biological standpoint the older a woman becomes and the more time lapses following her last childbirth, the greater the possibility is for her giving birth to a boy. She explains the reasons in great detail in her book, in case the reader is interested.
The author states there also was something other than her biological knowledge that convinced her of the expected arrival of a boy, noting: “Somehow I felt sure that this nation will be protected by the power of Heaven.” I reckon that was exactly how most of we Japanese felt at the time. I of course felt the same way and thanked our gods from the bottom of my heart for having saved Japan with the birth of Prince Hisahito.
The author goes on to tackle “the insane press bashing against the Akishino family” over the years. But above all, she emphasizes the courage shown by Princess Kiko in giving birth to Prince Hisashito, daring to put her life at risk by undergoing a Caesarean section at the age of 39. I am sure the entire nation was grateful then, deeply moved by her determination. The reference to this incident is the author’s reminder that we should not forget how the nation felt for Prince and Princess Akishino at the time.
Takeuchi urges the reader to recall how devoted the Akishinos were performing imperial affairs wholeheartedly during the years before the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, she points out that, immediately following an official visit to Latin America in early 2014, the couple smilingly resumed their official duties as members of the Imperial Family, readily attending an imperial garden party just a day after returning to Japan.
Lessons for the Japanese People
The author also introduces an anecdote in which, following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Akishinos and their entire staff hand made 300 medical gowns under experts’ instructions and delivered them to a hospital in Tokyo. “This is a fine example of how members of the Imperial Family should behave,” writes Takeuchi. I can’t agree with her more. Let us bear firmly in mind that the Akishinos worked very hard at the time because they genuinely wanted to help alleviate the distress of the people.
Takeuchi adds further:
“The Akishinos are perfect members of the Imperial Family, except for the incident involving their daughter Princess Mako.”
The case involving Princess Mako’s engagement is quite complicated, as most of us are well aware. [Editor’s note: Princess Mako (29), oldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, was engaged to Kei Komuro, a commoner also 29 years old, in September 2017. The wedding was originally to take place in November 2018, but has been postponed due to a financial dispute within Komuro’s family.] Would I be wanting in courtesy if I were to point out that despite what she has been going through, Princess Mako is playing a very important historical role?
Through the controversy involving her engagement, Princess Mako has effectively exposed to the public the money problems the Komuro family is faced with and the sorry lack of common sense on the part of her fiancé in his posture toward a member of the Imperial Family, including how he approached her. The moral of this incident is that founding a female-headed branch house of the Imperial Family should never become a reality, as it would invite these and other unwelcome situations.
An atmosphere favoring the possibility of a matrilineal succession grew under the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006), the proposed founding of female-headed imperial branches having since come up for occasional discussion. But Princess Mako’s romance has put the debate in a completely new light. If the princess still wishes to marry her fiancé against the overwhelmingly negative sentiment of popular opinion, then I dare propose that she find at least some positive historical meaning in her decision.
We Japanese should all pray for the happiness of Princess Mako and Komuro as they take responsibility for their own lives and follow their own path.
Our ethologist author makes one last point: that the breast milk of Japanese mothers is the best in the world, and so is the innate intelligence of Japanese children. Knowing this, we should be confident we can accomplish anything as a nation if we try and do our best going forward.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 950 in the May 20, 2021 issue of The Weekly Shincho)