Hirohito's final illness began with his collapse in September 1988. His death would end the Shōwa Era, and he was posthumously renamed Emperor Shōwa. As he lay dying a curious mixture of new and old came into play. The Imperial Household Agency kept the public informed with daily bulletins of blood transfusion and blood count with a precision that only modern technology could manage, but at the same time terminology long disused came into play with archaic expressions of awe and respect. Japanese were asked to observe self-restraint, or jishuku [自粛] a term last heard during the darkest days of the Second World War.
Neighbourhood festivals were cancelled one after another, along with weddings in November, the preferred month for matrimony. On field days at school, races began limply without the pistol shot ... In addition to the national promotion of 'self restraint', numerous preparations were made for the day of the unthinkable itself: movie theatres consulted department stores about whether to close and for how many days, or how to stay open and still convey mourning. Athletic facilities consulted movie theatres. Decisions were made about supervising audience conduct at the instant of the announcement, about the status of the game, depending on the innings. [quoted from Norma Field's 1993 In the Realm of the Dying Emperor]Television stations searched for appropriate programming and video rentals soared.
The emperor lingered on beyond the baseball season, however, and his death was announced on 7 January 1989, a Saturday morning with schools in winter recess, the holiday rush over for the stores, and markets closed. Now came forty days of preparation for the state funeral, which received the designation of hōgyo [崩御 'collapse, crumble' + 'imperial honorific' (also 'control, govern')], a term reserved for emperor and empress, dowager-empress, and grand dowager-empress, and adopted by all newspapers except the two on Okinawa [which Hirohito never once visited] and the Communist Red Flag.
The services combined the present with the past. With the disestablishment of State Shinto, Hirohito's disclaimer of divinity in 1946, and the 1909 Imperial Household Mourning Ordinance superceded by the 1947 constitution, the Shinto ceremonies were private and paid for by the Imperial Household. A total of 160 world leaders, led by President George H.W. Bush, sat under temporary tents arranged for them on a cold and rainy day to watch on closed television what Japanese watched in the comfort of their homes: fifty-one members of the Imperial Guard, dressed in the style of a millennium before, carried in the one-and-a-half-ton palanquin as Shinto priests made ritual offerings of 'two-and-a-half cups of rice, twenty quail, seven carrots, three lotus roots, sweet bean paste, sake, nine apples, assorted freshwater fish and bales of silk' before the 'geat mourning ceremony', a purely secular event in which speeches by the new Emperor Akihito, the prime minister, and three other prominent Japanese addressed the departed emperor (who, 'even after his death ... both in the public and in the numerous private rituals, was treated as someone who could be communicated with, a property he would retain, as an imperial ancestor, into the indefinite future') after which the foreign representatives were called up one by one to bow to the coffin. Thereafter, the procession proceeded to the imperial mound at Hachioji, a suburb of Tokyo, where ceremonies lasting another five hours were attended only by members of the Imperial Household and not televised. All the structures utilized had been put together especially for the occasion.
12 March 2011
Wordcatcher Tales: Jishuku, Hōgyo
From the Editor's Preface by Marius Jansen in Hirohito: The Shōwa Emperor in War and Peace, by Ikuhiko Hata (Global Oriental, 2007), pp. xvi-xviii: