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Century-old film footage of Empress Teimei, Crown Prince Hirohito found in Japan

ISE, Mie -- Video footage dating back some 100 years showing Empress Teimei and Emperor Hirohito (posthumously known as Emperor Showa) when he was crown prince has been found at a university in western Japan, providing a rare glimpse of scenes from the Taisho era (1912-1926).

    This image provided by Kogakkan University shows Emperor Hirohito (posthumously known as Emperor Showa) visiting the Fushimi Momoyama Mausoleum in Kyoto when he was crown prince.

    The footage, found at Kogakkan University in the Mie Prefecture city of Ise in western Japan, shows Empress Teimei following a visit to Ise Jingu shrine in Mie Prefecture to pray for the recovery of Emperor Taisho, who was unwell, and Hirohito as crown prince visiting the Fushimi Momoyama Mausoleum in Kyoto with the crown princess to report on their marriage. It also includes rare footage of scenes around Yamada Station on the Sangu Railway (present-day JR Iseshi Station) at the time.

    A total of 3 minutes, 50 seconds of the footage shows Empress Teimei visiting Jingu Kogakkan University (now Kogakkan University) on Nov. 5, 1922, with bureaucrats from the Home Ministry and court ladies accompanying her to Ise Jingu shrine. Another 4 minutes, 15 seconds of footage taken on Feb. 27, 1924, shows the 24-year-old crown prince visiting the mausoleum.

    Both videos are in black-and-white and do not have sound. The footage was found on a Beta videocassette, apparently after being copied from films in 1982 when the university marked the 100th anniversary of its founding. The videocassette had been stored at the Museum of Shinto and Japanese Culture on the Kogakkan University campus and was apparently found among historical material stored in a room that staff members and others used for sorting. It is believed that the footage was released at the university alone. The location of the original films is unknown.

    Most of the footage of Empress Teimei was captured on the Kogakkan University grounds. At the beginning of it is a title saying, "Jingu Kogakkan University Imperial Visit."

    Rei Hasegawa, 35, an assistant professor in the Department of Japanese History in the Faculty of Letters at Kogakkan University, commented, "The footage of Empress Teimei was probably left as a record by someone affiliated with the university at the time. Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine how and why the footage of Emperor Showa as crown prince was recorded on the same videocassette, but both recordings are extremely rare footage."

    Jingushicho, which manages Ise Jingu shrine, commented, "We have many old dry plate photographs in our possession, but we're surprised to hear that footage from the Taisho era remains. We imagine that the sight of Empress Teimei at Ise Jingu shrine must be very valuable."

    (Japanese original Toshihiro Ozaki, Ise Bureau)

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