The brother of China’s last emperor on honeymoon in Japan
or: Wooden witness of a turbulent past
It is actually kind of sad that some people in Germany (and not only there) have difficulties in telling China from Japan. Nevertheless, I want to console all those who think they can’t go through all the trouble finding the difference and even give them some excuse (as silly as that may be): After all, there is also a number of Chinese in Japan – lately quite a lot in fact.
There were even times when those interrelations between Japan and China were rather welcome (even though they may not always have reflected mutual interests). And that is – historically speaking – not that long ago.
Based on a rather humble, yet most interesting property that I had the fun of visiting on the occasion of an excursion provided by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens” (OAGドイツ東洋文化研究協会 ). I would like to tell the story of a very special Chinese in Japan.
Latest since the movie “The Last Emperor” by Bernardo Bertolucci, that was quite successful in 1987, names like “Puyi” or “Pujié” don’t sound that exotic any more to western ears. “Puyi” (to be precise: “Aisin Gioro Puyi”) was the last Chinese emperor of the Qing Dynasty, that ruled China from 1644 to 1912 and came from Manchuria in the northeast of China. This part of China had been reason for some contention between the regional powers and was eventually occupied by Japan in 1931 (until the end of World War II.). In nowaday’s China the term “Manchuria” is being avoided – the region is being refered to as “Northeast China”. I don’t want to bore you with further details of the historic events surrounding the last representatives of the Qing Dynasty – have a look at the respective sources!
In any case, this Puyi had a younger brother, called Pujié (in fact: Aisin Gioro Pujié) who lived from 1907 to 1994. From 1937 to 1950 he also took on the title of “heir apparent” – initially forced on him by the Japanese Government – even though regular succession to the throne would have counted him out. But who should have cared at times like that? And not every dynasty can be as picky as the Japanese Imperial Family when it comes to the continuance of the dynasty…
As Puyi, China’s last emperor, who was – let’s say – “sponsored” by the Japanese goverment, was not able to produce a rightful heir apparent (i.e. his marriage remained childless), it was seen to it, that his brother, Pujié got a Japanese wife. In 1937 he got married with the Japanese noblewoman Hiro Saga (嵯峨浩 / さがひろ) (1914-1987) (he had previously been married to a Manchurian princess). The way Pujié and Hiro Saga “met” could be called a typical Japanese “omiai” (お見合い / おみあい) – an arranged marriage, where the prince was “allowed” to select his wife-to-be from collection of photographs. Nevertheless, if the impression of the photographs that are on display in the building we are talking about reflect the reality, this arranged wedding seems to have developed into a happy marriage.
The young couple spent their honeymoon – a number of months – at a village near Tōkyō (the neighbouring prefecture of Chiba (千葉県 / ちばけん)) at a villa located right at the beaches of the Tōkyō Bay. This building still exists – and it is open to the public. And that is the building I am talking about here.
The name of the building is not only hardly legible, it is also almost unpronounceable. But try it anyway:
Aishin Kakura Fuketsu kagū
However, it is easy to explain the name:
- „Aishin Kakura“ is the Japanese way of reading the prince’s name, “Aisin Gioro”,
- “Fugetsu“ is the Japanese way of reading his first name, “Pujié”
- and „Kagū“ simply means “temporary residence“.
Japanese is so simple, if you know it…. And if you don’t think you’ll ever memorise these words, don’t worry! You’ll easily find it under its usual name “Chiba Yukari no Ie” (千葉市ゆかりの家 / ちばゆかりのいえ).
As mentioned above, this rather modest villa is worth a visit, even if you are not that much interested in the complexity of Chinese/Japanese politics in the first half of the 20th century, simply because this residence is a very pretty example of traditional Japanese sophistication in home culture – enhanced with modern western-style dining room in accordance with the prevailing taste of the time.
The main building of the residence (about 172 sqm floor space) is nestled in a lush garden. The whole property measures about 1,129 sqm and also features a picturesque tea house (almost 19 sqm floor space). And, of course, most of the rooms are filled with memorablia of the noble couple.
During the years of war also a bunker had been installed in the garden behind the main building an the tea house.
But the tea house is a gem of particular charm:
Something that stretches the capacities of imagination a touch: Until the early 60s of last century, the estate was located right upon the beaches – on top of a small hill next to the Tōkyō Bay. Even if you wanted to – and even with the best possible eye-sight – you wouldn’t be able to detect the location of the sea any longer. In the meantime about 2 km of newly created land block the view – and if it’s not the distance, it’s the armada of huge apartment buildings that have been erected here. To give you an impression of the location of the house “before & after” have a look at the map showing the location in the “good old days” and the detail from Googlemaps below!
Address of the house of Pujié:
1-16-12 Inage, Inage-ku
9.00 am to 4.30 pm (last entry at 4 pm)
Closed on Mondays and holidays (exception: 3 and 5 May) and during the New Year holidays. In case a holiday falls on a Monday, the estate remains closed on the following Tuesday as well.
No admission fee
How to get there:
Take the trains of the Keisei Electric Railways (京成電鉄 / けいせいでんてつ) from Ueno (上野 / うえの) via Tsudanuma (津田沼 / つだぬま) to Keisei Inage (京成稲毛 / けいせいいなげ) and from there for about 400 metres in southwestern direction.
- Time of travel, if you use an express train (特急 / とっきゅう) about 50 minutes
- Fare (presently) 540 Yen (from Ueno)
Take the JR Keiyō-Linie (JR京葉線 / JRけいようせん) from Tōkyō (東京 / とうきょう) to Inage Kaigain (稲毛海岸 / いなげかいがん) and from there for about 1 km in northeastern direction.
- Time of travel by rapid train (快速 / かいそく) about 35 minutes
- Fare (presently) 640 Yen (from Tōkyō)
Right next the estate:
- The Sengen Shrine (浅間神社 / せんげんじんじゃ)
- The former guest house of the Japanese “king of wine”, Kamiya Denbē (旧神谷伝兵衛稲毛別荘 / きゅうかみや でんべえいなげべっそう).
Open daily, except on Mondays, from 9 am to 5.15 pm, no admission fee