Princessing Lessons

“My solitude grew more and more obese, like a pig.”
—  Mishima Yukio

Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto

Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto

Not too long ago, a young career diplomat named Owada was purchased to grace the bedchamber of Emperor Hirohito’s princely grandson.

She was sold by her grandfather, who just happened to be a big wheel in the chemical company that poisoned all those Japanese fishermen with mercury back in the ’60s. The court case, which dragged on for several decades, was miraculously settled in her grandpa’s favor the day after Owada agreed to pour her robust blood into the inbred royal family’s languishing gene pool.

In the days when she was still merely the future Crown Princess of Japan, Owada was compelled to kneel down and submit to certain attentions from the Head Chamberlain of the Board of Ceremonies. Within the confines of the Imperial Court this was known as “re-education.” Unfortunately, the curriculum this strange old man had been authorized to impart, and the syllabus he had laid out, were not exactly designed to transfix the attention of a woman schooled at Oxford and Harvard.

Her engagement to the Crown Prince hadn’t yet been leaked to the press at that time, but Owada was expected to hunker on a rice-straw mat for several hours each day while this ninety-four-year-old former classmate of Hirohito ranted into the close air between their faces. Fortified with powdered rhinoceros horn and benzedrine-spiked “health drinks,” he liked to drum calligraphy brushes on the low-slung lacquered table in the Main Hall of the Togu palace.

Upon considering him for the first time, she’d noticed that his femurs and tibias were peculiarly elongated, as if the law of gravity had been repealed in his vicinity, and that his skin was hairless as a Japanese woman’s, his voice squeaky. But he’d read her thoughts before she herself had time to fashion them from unconscious impulse.

Prefacing his introductory lecture with a demure glance down at his own indigo-draped lap, he’d said, “The Japanese court never fell into that most dangerous trap: We never maintained a class of eunuchs. And why is this? Well, young lady, as I will try again and again to impress upon your consciousness, we inhabitants of these chambers are all members of a single and unique tribe, the true Yamato people, the great- great- great- great- (et cetera  —  no need to belabor the point) grandsons and -daughters of Amaterasu the Sun Goddess. And one simply does not emasculate one’s brothers and sisters.”

Quickly catching himself in his own absurdity, he switched to a language he considered more appropriate for giggling, and added, “Surtout pas des soeurs!”

He called a brief halt in whatever brainless drill they happened to be engaged in — the ikebana, the waka, the anal-retentive penmanship, the lexicon of rarefied pronouns she had to master before speaking or being spoken to as Princess — and he dismissed the retainers from the Main Hall for a couple of minutes (thus guaranteeing their eavesdropping on the other side of the paper door).

Clearing his throat, he declared, “Numinosity, the supernatural sublime, is all. That’s why you mustn’t fret, my dear, when we take the better part of the night and the day to deck you out in your wedding dress.”

Stretching out a bony, hairless hand and clamping onto her wrist, the ancient courtier let Owada know in no uncertain terms that suiting up was infinitely the most important part of her re-education. The very soul and essence of her existence from now on would be the clothes she was to wear at the hyper-secret court ceremonies, of which her wedding was but the least arcane.

“I’ve heard your mother complain in the broadcast media that she could never get you into traditional garb as a child. Nevertheless, you did eventually master the difficult art of donning kimono, did you not?”

“Yes,” lied Owada.

“Excellent. Wonderful. Now forget everything you ever learned. On lofty occasions you’ll be wearing Heian-style clothing, which requires several hours longer to put on, with you standing motionless on a special wooden turntable most of that while. The Heian period is pre-kimono — I assume you assimilated that much during what little schooling you received in our empire between bouts of globe-trotting.”

He almost swished himself flat onto his back.

“The twelve-tier bridal gown allows you artfully to show your under layers, in all the subtle varieties of shade and pattern. The Heian authors could gush on for hundreds of pages, rhapsodizing over this style. Clothes were even a medium of exchange back then. You allowed your left wrist to dangle coyly from the window of the Imperial palanquin in the afternoon, and by evening the entire eastern end of the Silk Road was positively convulsed!”

He left her to ponder that sobering thought until deep in the night, when the unconscious is spread wide open and receptive in all but the most unhappy, displaced insomniac. Then, under cover of wee-hour blackness, he materialized in the princely bridegroom’s bed chamber, a bit blurry around the edges, and smug as a ghost to whom had been granted, by Imperial fiat, the right to slide open the beige paper door without having all four of his extenuated limbs fractured by the retired police matron who stationed herself in the corridor throughout the night.

It was the first of the prescribed three nights preceding the nuptials, when “bridal breach” was supposed to be effected by the prince on a rice-straw floor mat, according to ancient and esoteric Yamato tradition. At the key moment (and to the bride’s eternal gratitude), Prince Naruhitohad clambered to his minuscule feet and vanished as sheepishly as the Son of Heaven can vanish. And when the door slid back open, it was not a flaccid husband who stood there in the shadows, but the cagey pseudo-eunuch himself, decked out in a kimono of deepest indigo and matching slippers, come to provide his catechumen with yet more Shintoist wisdom.

He squatted, or perhaps fell, on crackling knees and shoved his face right down next to hers. Heavy purple European wine laced his breath.

“Tell me, girl,” he croaked. “Who is the happiest person you know?”

Owada covered her nipples with the fringe of Prince Naruhito’s silken futon. “I don’t understand the question,” she said.

“Come now. How easy can a question be? Who is it?”

She widened her eyes and waited. Eventually the old man flitted one eye toward the shoji door.

Even if her heavy breath hadn’t been seeping through the paper panel, it would’ve been a safe bet that Owada’s babysitter / bodyguard hulked out there. Did that mammoth creature stand till dawn? Owada had never seen a chair anywhere up or down the length of the gloomy hall.

From the very first coy whispers of a princely pulse quickening, Owada’s babysitter / bodyguard had manned her post faithfully as a Saint Bernard. The woman was a given in Imperial life, yet she filled a position that had by no means developed into a tradition, therefore received no mention in this seminar on tradition. Hers was the sole presence in the palace for which the Head Chamberlain offered no explanation and n no gossip. Owada had never been provided with a proper means of referring to her. Somehow, “my babysitter / bodyguard” seemed a tad impertinent, so Owada said nothing. For a full minute they listened to the woman’s labored breath.

As if some major point had been made, the Head Chamberlain sprang back to his feet with strange effortlessness, and began to pace back and forth in the tiny space available to him. In a whistling wheeze that seemed to emanate feebly from the shallower lobes of his humid lungs, he addressed the next Empress of Japan, naked and perfumed in her unconsummated bridal bed. He told her revised versions of stories she’d heard at bedtime all her life.

“Offended by her younger brother’s spreading his feces all over her nice private things, torturing dumb animals, and waving his genitalia in her face — all those sorts of naughty, masturbatory, infantile high jinks which have been the hallmark of Japanese maleness ever since —  Amaterasu the Sun Goddess retired to a cave, something like I imagine your cold dorms of Oxford to have been. She deprived the outside world of her sunshine presence, plunging all into darkness and chaos, only to be distracted from her self-pity by the feigned, and more than a little lewd, merrymaking of her fellow divinities: giggling strip teases and so on. The divine whore, Uzume, was recruited to make the goddess crack a smile, and to bring light back to the world by luring her out, utilizing a mirror to bounce her smile abroad.

“And Amaterasu was given this magical mirror as a souvenir of her own petulance. To this day it is preserved as one of the Royal Regalia, along with the sacred sword which her little brother plucked from the Hell-Serpent’s tail, only to surrender it immediately to her in a gesture of abject apology and eternal self-subjugation.”

The Head Chamberlain segued to a Frenchy English and said, “Remember, mon cheri, that also counted among the Royal Regalia are the Most Auspicious Curved Jewels. These shapely gems were presented to the Imperial Progenetrix directly from the hands of the Celestial Deities in the dim days before history began. That places the Empress — and this means you, eventually — in a position unique in the cosmos. Make no mistake about it.”

He leaned close again to whisper, switching now completely to sluttish French. “These treasures may be handed to your husband when he ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne, but everyone who is not woefully ignorant knows he’s just a custodian on behalf of the — ”

The Head Chamberlain interrupted himself in shock that he could, even in a Romance language, use such a term as “custodian” to describe the future father of the Japanese people. But the sentence on his tongue must be brought to full period, linguistic fastidiousness being characteristic of courtiers in all places and times. To compensate he got Teutonic.

” — on behalf of the Ewig Weibliche,” he hawked, and translated unnecessarily: “The Eternal Feminine.”

Crossing to the not-so-far wall, he began stroking and petting the various bric-a-brac on the bureau which the newlyweds were to share until Naruhito’s accession, probably twenty or thirty years in the future, when space would become a tad more plentiful.

This chamber overflowed with evidence of the Royal Family’s unwholesome penchant for marine biology: mutated catfish corpses, pickled jellyfish parts, white worms, sea slugs — so many bottled atrocities. Shinto gods were to be conceived among jars of lifeless and limp things. It was the occasion for a question from a recent princessing lesson: “Which book of the holy Kojiki refers to the ‘slime like no other slime,’ from which this august lineage emerged?”

The Head Chamberlain fiddled thoughtfully with a large specimen jar. It contained a black river snake that had, as its last act on earth, gorged itself on a whole, snowy-white kitten. It had then been split open with a scalpel and pinned wide to reveal its lunch’s furry little head, eyes surprised, bewildered and imploring, among the fanned-out rib cage. The whole assemblage had been lovingly floated in formaldehyde.

The Head Chamberlain took this sloshing qualm into his arms and brought it to the foot of the floor mat. Owada didn’t have time to retract her feet before he plopped down.

With the jar nestled in his crossed legs, he began rocking his stringy buttocks back and forth over her insteps, and saying things like, “Have you ever watched that retired police matron out there as she performs her duties at your feet? Is there a deeper look of contentment to be seen on a primate face anywhere in Asia? Don’t you know that she’d be delighted to crawl on her belly across molten asphalt for the privilege of opening a limousine door for her Princess? Do you think she’s odd? Far from it! Look hard at her face sometime. It’s the face of humanity — ” Milky tears began to uncoagulate from the crotches of his lashless eyelids. “She’s not only the happiest, but the realest and, deep down, the most typical person either of us will ever know. She knows where contentment lies: in service to the Gods. A life of simple unquestioning service: That’s the natural and perfect condition for ninety nine-point-nine percent of homo sapiens, once their vanity’s been pulled down. Followed by still more full-time service in rosy afterlife.

“Of course,” he sighed deeply, starting to unscrew the lid of the jar, “you and I both know that Schopenhauer and the Hindus are right: When we die, it’s like a glass of water being emptied into the ocean. But that’s an insight the rank and file cannot be allowed access to. Look at the subcontinent. Do you want Japanese set adrift like that? Certainly not! Someone must provide them first with a functioning system of eschatological carrots and sticks, and then with a satisfactory object of devotion. Numinosity, I say, is all.

“Look at Europe. The dethroning of Mother Mary coincided with the end of the last golden age of the white races. Marx got the opiate part right, but he was disdainful rather than appreciative. People were awakened from the Edenic poppy dream, grew self-aware, and now everybody thinks he’s entitled not to sweat or stink. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the active ingredient in air conditioners and underarm deodorants is the very stuff that will cause the death of all life on the planet through ultra violet poisoning — the white races first among humans, which is only poetically just?

“When the Mother Goddess retires to her cave, pitiful pragmatism rushes in to supply the vacuum she leaves behind. And look at what it’s done to these once-so-beautiful islands. The sea that was poured out from Heaven like good soup to feed us has become a sizzling basin of metallic toxins that twist and choke our babies. Even the skies are serrated with aluminous slivers and shards whose borrowed glare blots out more of our view of the sanctified stars each year. This orbiting junk gone ballistic already cracks the Americans’ shuttle windows, and will soon make a simple space walk a suicide mission. It alone ensures we’ll never escape the planet we’ve defiled like a diaper — which women have always known.

“But this, in itself, should be no cause for despair. People aren’t a cancer on the earth; populist democracy is. That bit of male pride and puffery presupposes mass education, which requires mass prosperity, and we’ll all suffocate on leaden smog long before that even begins to happen on a world-wide basis. What if every hundredth Chinaman who’s been encouraged to lust after a car actually got one? Over the broad scope of human history, the middle class has been an ephemeral phenomenon, especially here in Asia, destined to dissolve. It’s doing so, right now, apace, even in the United States. And well it should!

“Do you think the salary men of this archipelago lead anything like real lives in their stifling fluorescent-lit offices? Their souls are parched! Even the faintest, the most fleeting, the most rudimentary one-time-only glimpse of the Sublime that dwells beneath the maple veneer of their existence would cause them to fling their HDTVs and graphite golf clubs into the Pacific. They would follow this Sublime’s numinous lead, straight to the gates of inconvenient, uncomfortable Hell if need be!

“Man needs to use his back muscles for something more than petty acts of purchased adultery and Sunday afternoon visits to the driving range. He yearns to have his vanity pulled down, his tired brain disburdened of the false cravings for ‘self-actualization’ foisted upon him by those flaming red, social-climbing, over-educated, Occidentalized rabble rousers who have infiltrated the Teacher’s Union for fifty years. Oh, how the male of the species hankers after hard work that is directly and unambiguously tied to his own and his children’s sustenance!

“The ideal disposition of human affairs has always been feudal aristocracy. And you can rest assured that the world will re-stabilize eventually in such a blessed medieval state, with or without our help: Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people drudging away at pre-industrial tilling methods, scratching nothing more nor less than their due carbohydrates, fiber by fiber, from the very dirt to which they contentedly return in the accidental form of replenishing corpses after no undue period. And everyone is kept happy in the meantime — not merely pacified, but truly fulfilled, their hearts and imaginations engaged — by a vigorous, and necessarily feminized religion. No need for mind-numbing pachinko parlors and jumbo-jets full of prepubescent Filipina sex slaves in such a regenerate society, where the Great Goddess has been reinstated.

“And you, good lady, are soon to be named the Spiritual Mother of the one industrialized nation that still has not completely lost track of these truths!

“The very surnames of our people shriek out for reunification with the soil. We have no messrs. Baker, Smith or Glover. We have messrs. Wide Field and Mountain Meadow. Much of our staple grain is grown by common salary men in their spare time on tiny plots of land with market values so hyperinflated that they could sell out tomorrow and retire to Golfers’ Heaven, Arizona, leaving the rest of us to pick away at bowlfuls of imported Californian rice. But these salary men will never even briefly consider doing so. They’ll never be voluntarily unlanded: For they are the ancestor-worshiping scions of families whose metaphysical destinies shall always remain inextricable from that asymmetrical little paddy they’ve nurtured and passed down for centuries.

“Owada-sama! Most fortunate Empress-to-be! Can’t you see that most of your job is already done — or, rather, hasn’t yet been undone? The donkey is saddled up, the palm fronds are strewn along the path, and the time is ripe for your triumphal ride into town! To make the trip a little easier, let us now rid ourselves of any superfluous emotional saddlebags, shall we? Yes we shall.

“I have gathered, from looking at your face whenever his name comes up — or, indeed, the name of anyone who could be remotely construed his representative — that relations between you and your male grandparent are, shall we say, severely strained of late. Am I right? Well, then you should stop pouting and welcome this mighty new apotheosis of yours! Hug it tight with all four youthful limbs! One would be hard-pressed to come up with a deeper and more thoroughgoing rejection of paternalism! Daddy and Grandpappy and Hubby, et al., may not know it, but you and I are going to turn the clock back to a time when people didn’t even bother to memorize their fathers’ stupid names!”

“But,” interposed Owada, “if I act in disdain and bitterness, doesn’t that negate, or at least vitiate — ”

“Believe me, child. Your personal peeves are as gnat flatulence in the face of such a momentous task as the redemption of an entire people. Only a feminized religion can dissuade men from pampering and priding themselves into an ethical stupor, because it is based not on fuzzily focused faith in a featureless Father Figure, but on direct sensual experience of the immanent Numinous. And that can only be embodied satisfactorily in the smooth female form: Astarte, Ceres, Cybele, Demeter, Ishtar, Isis — to reckon merely a third of the foreigners’ alphabet. These goddesses exert the ideal crowd control, and we must return to their bosoms. And so I can say this to you without qualification: the survival of the race depends upon you, personally, Owada-sama. For you are no exhibitionistic, blabber-mouthed, ruddy-mugged Windsor slut. You are, quite precisely, the only woman on earth to whom genuine numinosity is still available. You are the embodiment of the last true religion.

“An economical three-color print of your benevolent face will more than fill any vacancy left by a VCR. The strains of the devout chanting your name in the corner shrine will drown out, once and for all, the profane stridor of the karaoke bars. You see? Right there we’ve nearly halved the nation’s electrical requirements!”

Focusing directly on her for the first time in several minutes, the Head Chamberlain gave off a broad wink. It was apparently an attempt to elicit a reaction to his joke.

“But,” he said, sobering under her neutral gaze, “I can see the skeptical questions forming behind your eyes: Is this old dodderer talking about the redemption of the most productive and civil population on earth? What’s to redeem? Did he use the phrase ‘crowd control’? And did he speak of the invigoration of the numinous in the hearts of history’s least religious people? How can a mere spiritual system — a womanly one at that — ever hope to wring even a mild sense of wonder from the Hollywoodized youth of today’s Nippon? This frumpy old sycophant is babbling about alterations in the fundamental structure of the human psyche which would require millennia to effect. Or perhaps an across-the-board cataclysm, leaving only flattened, smoldering ground — scratch, as they say — from which to build up all afresh.

“Well, if Her Imperial Majesty will be so kind as to permit me to talk like a lowly fry cook: one across-the-board cataclysm, comin’ right up!

“You’ve doubtlessly committed to heart all the prophecies of economic, social and environmental doom for our nation. Our bubble has indeed burst to smithereens, never to puff itself up again. Even as our decadent youth window-shop till they drop, the population grays at such an alarming rate that soon our proud Yamato blood will be tainted with that of the Gastarbeiter. Every one of our citizens but the pesky Okinawans lives well within the circle of Pyongyang’s neophyte nuclear striking capability; and America intends, at any rate, to starve us all into submission with blustering blockades. Our sewage is sterilized by extravagant means while our precious paddies are pumped full of carcinogens that wring unrealistic yields from the expired soil; and the dread greenhouse effect will liquefy the polar caps tomorrow, anyway, leaving us with nothing to cultivate but oyster beds, which we’ll guard jealously while bleating and clinging like goats to the upper crags of the few formerly lofty volcano tops that remain uninundated.

“Just so. I can swallow all of it. In your lifetime, my lady — and I cannot emphasize this strongly enough, so I will say it again, more loudly: in your lifetime, my lady, the Yamato tribe will be beaten and blasted to its knees, just as roundly as fifty years ago!

“But this time, when our humble and comely folk separate their tear-glued eyelids and look up in their agony, who will be there to meet their gaze? I can tell you right now that it won’t be a corncob-sucking outlander, a fat-bottomed MacArthur, ready to bully a democratized delusion down their throats like a fifty-year-long overdose of noxious methedrine. No — ”

The Head Chamberlain’s eyes began to get circular, and his voice became rich, and it almost seemed as though the weight of his crotch lessened on her feet with each of the following ecstatic syllables.

” — they will behold none other than their own Princess, hovering at the eastern brink with, ah!, bright wings! Smooth and numinous in her Heian silks, gentle and soft-spoken in her persona, she shall glow with renewal in the old ways!

“Greed will succumb to quietism and a beatific annihilation of the will; consumerism will make way for prayer. Oh, it’s going to be so nice around here! Thank you, Your Highness, for taking this heavy burden on your slim shoulders — though I realize, even if you, yourself, don’t yet, that you are moved by forces greater than your own small will!”

At the mention of the substantive “will,” the Head Chamberlain’s face began to grow damp, and he lost control, predictably enough. Straightening of the spine and acceleration of the speech were his ways of achieving erection. He panted on awhile about the orgiastic side of this feminized religion: the temple prostitution, ritual castration, cannibalism and infant sacrifice — unpleasant but essential in the absence of the sacramental rationality which a male deity brings. But, as the entity whom this misbehavior was intended to propitiate, Owada could remain aloof. She did not have to listen to this part.

Instead, her heart began to writhe with a question. Finally it unglued itself from her tongue with a whisper: “But, Sensei, what about love?”

As if that question were some prearranged cue, Owada’s babysitter / bodyguard slid open the shoji door from the outside, to the accompaniment of a shamisen being plunked and slammed by a tone-deaf toady in a neighboring chamber. The fanfare was apparently intended to underscore the entrance of somebody important. But in the odd, dim light it was impossible to tell who hesitated so diffidently in the former police matron’s considerable shadow.

The Head Chamberlain was on his feet again, a man capable of not only intuitive, but also physical leaps. He escorted in someone half his height to take his place at the foot of the futon. Owada squinted to see whose bony knees were squashing her toes this time.

In the outlet next to her left ear was her Hello Kitty night light, the Prince’s sole concession in the decor department. With regular changes of the bulb inside Kitty’s skull, this tiny appliance had burned at her bedsides, both at home and abroad, for more than a quarter of a century. It had followed her here to the Togu Palace, surreptitiously tucked by grandfatherly hands in a bottom nook of her suitcase, along with a note she’d saved but never read. It chose this inauspicious moment to sputter and go out, depriving her eyes of its pinkish glow.

But, as if to compensate, the biological specimens began to exude the pale phosphorescence of decay from their respective jars and bottles. And it was by such an illumination that Owada recognized her life-mate.

The Prince knelt at her feet in full Heian bridegroom costume: a sandwich board of stiffened silk, the shoulders padded and bolstered wider by several centimeters than the height of the wearer. On his head was perched a little but still too-big cap whose front rim pushed and folded down a flap of scalp that impinged, in turn, upon his already low brow and brought an extra layer of sallow forehead flesh to bear upon his expressionless eyes, making them look even tinier than they were. The chin strap meanwhile puffed and pouted out his premature jowls. To provide a crowning glory for this sacred headdress, someone had thumb-tacked something like a shoehorn to the back of his skull. It was the long, flexible type designed to accommodate the lower-back problems of gerontocrats.

Even though she averted her eyes by automatic reflex, Owada knew what her husband solemnly fondled in the palm of his right hand. They clicked like miniaturized and very ineffective versions of the famous Japanese ben-wa, or joy balls.

Several months before, when his parents weren’t home, he’d caused her to look at those very items. In an unauthorized dry run, Naruhito had insisted that she sneak with him into the very nerve-center of the Japanese state religion, the womb and font of the spiritual life of the Yamato tribe: the Most Inviolable, Taboo and Totally Sacred Chamber of the Royal Regalia.

She’d allowed herself to be led (but not by the hand) into that most holy-of-holies. She had watched her fiancé caress the grubby little things in one hand, while fiddling with his similarly withered gonads in the other — a younger-brotherly, yet joyless type of sex-play that would have turned her stomach even more than it had if she had only known just how aberrant it was outside the context of Japanese manhood.

The Sky Gods’ gift to the Mother of Humanity, these genuine and original Curved Jewels were, as far as Owada had been able to ascertain in the gloomy closet, a couple of lumps of dimly discolored quartzite shellacked to look like jade. Their false surfaces had been rendered dull and grainy by the obeisances of a few millennia’s worth of devout fingers’ skin oils. Shaped like soixante-neuf with terminal coitus interruptus, Yin and Yang pried apart, Aristophanes’ fancy: two alienated halves of a former hermaphroditic whole, divided by a curve of the same amplitude as the incriminating cut in Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s Jello box, which sent them, male and female, two by two, to their separate but equal dooms.

And so Owada had the answer to her question. This was love for the Empress of Japan: the very least of her duties.

Gagging on silent giggles all the while, the Head Chamberlain now performed campy mumbo-jumbo over the Prince’s uncomprehending, but, as always, smug head. The old trickster flitted behind his future Lord and Sovereign and pretended to whang the shoehorn like the string of a washtub bass. He leaned his chin on the Son of Heaven’s broadened shoulder and made pompous toad faces at the bedded but unbreached bride. It looked as though he were about to anoint the spawn of Hirohito with crumby formaldehyde from the snake-and-kitty jar. Was this yet another time-honored Shintoist sacramental rite, or was Owada’s re-educator just improvising?

“Love and work, cashews and commas, ooga-boo” the old man chanted. He snickered awhile, catching drunken mirth in his withered right palm. Then his swirling eyes focused on his darling protégé, and saw something in her face than made him frown and grow a bit pettish.

“Oh, please, you mustn’t despair,” he said, in a loud voice, in one or another of the several languages her husband would never know. “This mooncalf is irrelevant. After all, Snuggles,” (he called her that whenever his Confucian screen dropped completely away, and he became a gossipy, wrist-patting old woman — pure English now) “it’s your blood, the thick sauce that infuses your supple limbs — I imagine it scrubbing against the interior walls of your young capillaries, almost gritty with bits of wholesome iron and all the right minerals, sifting and shifting like Tottori dune-sand — that’s going to produce a viable heir, not his milky turquoise piss.

“And, inexpressibly more important than coughing up this viable heir you’ve been hearing so much about, will be your duty to strike out into the wilderness of Tokyo and unearth yourself a good daughter-in law. And I mean a really good one! When Showa-tenno’s mother, the grand Empress Temei, manifested her auspicious self at the Gakushuin School for Female Peers and selected the current Empress-Dowager from among the blushing ranks of pre-screened and -selected candidates, do you suppose she was performing work of less than the uttermost cosmic significance? Well, suppose otherwise! Love itself” (gesturing dismissively down at Naruhito) “pales and withers in comparison; it reduces to a recipe of fluids and friction.

“When we release your official wedding photos to every wire service and TV network in the free world, do you think anybody’s going to glance at this plucked rat in his pathetic clown suit? Of course not! If there’s to be numinosity, it must exude from your half of the frame. And it will, Love, it will.

“Speaking of which, I do believe it’s time for the hands-on portion of our little night tutorial. It’s time for a certain somebody I know to mount the wooden turntable that will spin her back to the Golden Age of our civilization!”

When Owada hesitated (her bridegroom still knelt dumbly on her toes), the Head Chamberlain got just a little impatient — but not enough to spoil the mood. He said, “Come, come. Shall we go? Since yours is a very special case, I think we can put this much-touted ‘bridal breach’ nonsense off for a more convenient time. Just elbow that bony-assed twit aside. No need to get dressed. Rest assured that we will do that for you from now on! The Americans say, ‘Rise and shine.’ Well, I say the same to you now, in a sense as nearly literal as possible. Rise, my Princess, and do shine!”

Tom Bradley, a resident of Japan, is the author of five novels. He's also written extensively on everything else.