Emperor Hirohito’s Coronation (1928) gift set, part 1

So many treasures remain to be discovered! I want to introduce one of them today. This is a coronation set from Emperor Hirohito’s enthronement celebrations, which took place in 1928. Here is the full set.
Coronation set

Coronation set

Since there is a lot to write about, in today’s blog I’d like to take a close look at the invitation and the other paper items included here.

First, a little background. When a Japanese emperor takes the throne, celebrations are held not only in the Imperial Palace but also across the country. Each city has its own party for the rich and famous, and of course there were smaller community gatherings as well. In the big cities, a member of the Imperial Household Ministry was present, lending weighty pompness to the drinking and eating fest. (The emperor himself attends none of these gatherings except for the main one held in Tokyo. People invited to this main ceremony were obviously the highest ranking military men, politicians, and the civilians with the deepest pockets. )

At these official celebrations, gifts were given to the attendees. These were gifts given directly from the Imperial Palace (i.e., paid for with taxpayers’ money) and were marked accordingly.

Most often the gifts were distributed at the end of the meal. Never were they used during the party.

Concerning the ancillary parties held in different cities, it is unclear why some people were invited and others weren’t. I suspect that the wealthier supporters of the government were able to attend and probably military officers. Well, anyway, here is an official invitation card and envelope. The latter is first:

Envelope, front & back

Envelope, front & back

The envelope has the Imperial Chrysanthemum crest embossed on the reverse. Hand-written on the obverse is ‘Hyogo Prefecture, Kawabe District, Inamura Village, Gogazuka,’ the latter being the area where the soldier lived. The 2nd column reads ‘Army Second-Lieutenant Tanigaki Kazujiro.’ (The personal name may also be pronounced ‘Yukijiro’ or ‘Senjiro.’)

There is no postmark here, so this was either hand-delivered or delivered in a larger envelope.

Take a look at the invitation.

Invitation card

Invitation card

Excellent, high-quality thick board. Embossed Imperial mum in gold. Wonderful!

Taking a closer look at the card, we can see three separate kinds of writing. First, there is the printed text. Then there is a stamped in text (second column from the right). And finally to the far left is a hand-written line. Since the stamped text is the name of the prefecture, city, and building name, we can assume that the same printed text was used for other cities. And that means that each party across the nation was held at the same time on the same date. (Assuming that this printed text was the same for each party in the big cities.)

Rough and somewhat informal translation of the printed and very formal text: ‘On the 16th of this month there will be a first day celebration. Beginning at noon at Hyogo Prefecture Kobe City Kyosen-Jou we will serve a meal and this is an invitation for you to attend. Showa 3 [1928] November 1st, Imperial Household Minister Ichiki Kitokuro.’ The last column reads ‘Army Second-Lieutenant Tanigaki Kazujiro.’ The italic text is the part that was stamped in.

(See more on Baron Ichiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichiki_Kitokuro)

Also in this envelope were a program and a schematic drawing of the building where the party was held.



Translation: ‘Order of Events: First Bell, Everyone will take their seats. Second Bell, The higher ranked will receive their food and give a speech. Then all others will receive their food. Third Bell, The higher-ranked will lead all in three Banzai cheers for the Emperor. Dismissal.’ Very formal words used in the Japanese text, as expected. My English rendering of it lacks the elegant atmosphere, sorry.

It is interesting to see how these ceremonies were conducted, and having both an inviation card and a program (plus the name, address, and rank of one of the attendees) makes this set really wonderful. Below is the map of the venue.

Venue map

Venue map

Note that this is printed on flimsy rice paper and has none of the Imperial air about it as the other documents do. One can see the set-up of the tables and bathrooms, though, and that has some value to the imaginative. The address of the place is also given, so for those who can wander around Kobe it would be fun to see what is there now. (I did a cursory online search for this building but could find nothing.)

The last small piece of paper is a seating tag.

Seating tag

Seating tag

This is a great thing to have because we can see where Mr. Tanigaki was sitting! Well, we can at least see the table. The hiragana HO refers to one of the tables (each labeled on the venue map) and 3 refers to the seat number. These seats, unfortunately, are not numbered on the map.

In the next post I will take a closer look at the pieces included in this gift set.

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 6:32 am  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fantastic entry. I feel it’s these types of objects which are all too often ignored, overlooked, and yet it is precisely these types of objects which span the bridge between ordinary everyday life and big historical events.

    It’s a piece of ephemera – who keeps invitations, even invitations to a party in honor of the Imperial coronation? – and that makes it so much more real. Unlike an artwork, which can be disconnected from its historical context and analysed purely for its beauty, the technical skill that went into making it, the content of the painting itself, an object like this is intimately tied not only to a historical event (the Emperor’s coronation, and the nationwide parties associated with it) but also with a real person. Who was Tanigaki Kazujiro?

    Thanks for posting this. I look forward to the continuation.

  2. Yes, actually without the ephemera, the set loses a lot. Certainly the person who kept this treasured it, and in the inscription on the box lid, he wrote ‘This is a family treasure that we will cherish forever.’ (I’ll provide a full translation in a post later this week.) Too bad that the other people in his family didn’t feel it was so valuable.

    And also ‘Who was Tanigaki Kazujiro?’ is a fascinating question. Since his address is on the envelope, it is possible to find his family members still in the area.

    Cheers, Rich

  3. Does the Imperial Chrysanthemum crest embossed on invitation. Does this have any value to a collector?

    • Hello Tracy. The mum has value for the simple fact that whatever item it is embossed on is approved by the Imperial Household. Of course, some unofficial uses of the crest can be found here and there, but not on invitations like this. This is certainly the sign of an Imperial-approved event. Cheers, Rich

  4. I’m trying to find out some information about the events that took place at the coronation. I think my father, Capt. Coleman Driver, US Army, may have been there. Please email me. Thank you.

  5. I have in my possession a coin which is supposed to represent an invitation to Emperor Hirohito’s inauguration ball, as told to me by my mother – before she died.

    It is quite unique. My mother was in college after ww2, and her father in the army. They were in Japan at the time of the occupation. She attended college there.

    I have been doing some cursory research to discover the value and authenticity of this very unique “coin” – which can also convert to a necklace.

    Please, if this rings a bell with anyone, kindly reply and perhaps I might find a collector who would consider purchase – or take it to auction.

    Thank you,

  6. I have a similar invitation to some sort of royal event that was sent to my father, captain Coleman F. Driver, US Army, I believe the same year. Wondering if you would be interested to see it.

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