Gender, media and Japan's imperial succession

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Event Details

4 November 2019 at 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
J.V. Neustupny Auditorium, Japanese Studies Centre, Clayton Campus, Monash Univesity
Open to:
School of Languages Literatures Cultures and Linguistics; Japanese Studies; Japanese Studies Centre


An International Symposium supported by

The Japan Foundation, Sydney,

The Japanese Studies Association of Australia

and the Japanese Studies Centre
at the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics
Faculty of Arts, Monash University


2019 is a highly significant year for Japan, marking the beginning of the Reiwa era, and offering a new definition of the “postwar”. The Heisei Emperor Akihito on April 30 abdicated in favour of his son Crown Prince Naruhito, who formally succeeded as Emperor on May 1. He will be formally enthroned as Emperor in November. This changeover opens the possibility for change in the role of the Emperor, change within Japanese society, and change for Japan’s international relations. It also brings into focus the gendered nature of succession, bypassing the only child of the Emperor, Princess Aiko.

This symposium aims to explore:

  1. the nature of the Japanese and international media coverage of the reign change and accompanying rituals
  2. changing Japanese attitudes to the Emperor system
  3. the significance of the rituals surrounding the accession and enthronement and how that significance has changed in this fifth enthronement in the modern era
  4. the recent law excluding female succession and the impact of this exclusion on the status and morale of Japanese women, and how it reflects the status quo of Japanese women’s position
  5. the reactions of other countries to this momentous changeover, particularly those of China and Korea
  6. the extent to which the imperial succession provides a chance to reassess Australia-Japan relations

To register your interest in attending, please email Dr. Tokita at


  • Professor John Breen, International Research Centre for Japanese Studies
  • Professor Yohei Mori, Seijo University, Tokyo
  • Professor Ayuu Ishida, Momoyama Gakuin University, Osaka
  • Dr Emerald King, La Trobe University
  • Commentators: Professors Koichi Iwabuchi, Ross Mouer, and Carolyn S. Stevens, Monash University


10:00 Opening remarks: Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne, Mr Kazuyoshi Matsunaga

10:15 Professor John Breen, International Research Centre for Japanese Studies

What are emperors for? Reflections on the Reiwa Enthronement

Commentator: Ross Mouer

11:15 Break

11:45 Dr Emerald King, La Trobe University

Reading the garments worn by the Imperial ladies in the Reiwa accession ceremonies

Commentator: Carolyn S. Stevens, Monash University

12:45 Lunch

1:45 Professor Yohei Mori, Seijo University, Tokyo

Defining the Role of the Imperial Family in Post-War Japanese Society

2:30 Professor Ayuu Ishida, Momoyama Gakuin University, Osaka

The function of women's imperial media coverage in Japan: Why does it attract Japanese national interest?

3:15 Commentator: Professor Koichi Iwabuchi, Monash University

3:30 General Discussion

3:55 Closing Remarks: Alison Tokita

4:00 Close

To access presentation abstracts, click here

Guest Speaker profiles

Mori Yohei is Professor, Department of Mass Communications, Faculty of Arts and Literature, Seijo University, Tokyo. He researches the relation between imperial family and the people in Japan, and the role of mass media in reporting imperial family.

His publications include Imperial Purse (天皇家の財布) 2002 which analyzes the imperial household’s economy. His paper “Michi Boom and afterward”(ミッチーブーム、その後)2013 describes how Princess Michiko (Michi) had won popularity, but increasingly lost it.

He has worked as a reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun in Tokyo, and for the Ryukyu Shinpo in Washington.

森 暢平




共編著『皇后四代の歴史 昭憲皇太后から美智子皇后まで』吉川弘文館、2018年

Ishida Ayuu is a professor in the Faculty of Sociology at Momoyama Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan. She holds a PhD from Kyoto University. Her research activity covers sociology of media, history of women’s magazines, and the cultural analysis of advertising. She is currently a visiting researcher at the Japanese Studies Centre from April 2019 to March 2020. Her publications include: Cosmetic Advertisement Illustration under the Wartime in Japan (1931-1943) (Sogensha 2016). Advertising, Gender and Magazines in Japan (Seikyusha 2015), Mitchie Boom (Bungei Shunju 2006).




『図説 戦時下の化粧品広告(1931-1943)』創元社、2016年



John Breen is a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, where he edits the journal Japan Review. (For the latest issue, see here) He has published widely in English and Japanese on the imperial institution and on Shinto. Among his publications are A Social History of the Ise Shrines: Divine Capital (Bloomsbury, 2017; with Mark Teeuwen), Henyō suru seichi Ise (Shibunkaku 2017; edited) Shinto monogatari: Ise jingū no kingendaishi (Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2015), Girei to kenryoku: Tennō no Meiji Ishin (Heibonsha, 2011), and A New History of Shinto (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011; with Mark Teeuwen). He is presently writing a book on the making of Japan’s modern emperor system.

Most recently he has published “Abdication, Succession and Japan’s Imperial Future: An Emperor’s Dilemma” in Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Volume 17 Issue 9, Number 3,May 1, 2019.

ジョン・ブリーン(John BREEN)




『変容する聖地 : 伊勢』、思文閣出版、2016年

『神都物語 : 伊勢神宮の近現代史』 歴史文化ライブラリー405、吉川弘文館、2015年

Yasukuni, the war dead and the struggle for Japan’s past. Oxford University Press, 2013

『儀礼と権力 天皇の明治維新』、平凡社、2011年

Emerald L King is a lecturer in Japanese at La Trobe University. She studied in Australia and Japan before receiving her PhD in Japanese literature from the University of Tasmania in 2012. She worked at Victoria University of Wellington from 2013-2018 and was appointed head of Japanese in 2016. Emerald's research interests include violence in text; masochistic theory; kimono in Japanese literature; costume representation in anime and manga; and cosplay in Japan and Australasia. See Dr. King's website at