The other day, while I was strolling in a side street of Kanda, I happened to find an autobiography book of Aisin-Gioro Pujie (1907-1994), the younger brother of the last Emperor of China Puyi (1906-1967) on a bookshelf in a secondhand bookstore. I personally know Pujie, because I met him a few times and exchanged a few words while I was living in Beijing in the late 1980s. It was the time when the famous film “The Last Emperor” was released and attracted the world’s attention. I was very surprised when I saw him alive for the first time, because he was for me a historical figure related to the past of China and Japan: Qin Dynasty and Manchukuo.
I took it up immediately as I wanted to know more about him. I had only a little knowledge about him, though I knew his calligraphic works and his relations to Japan and heard about his Japanese wife, though I could not meet her because she passed away a few months later than my arrival in China. The book was priced at mere 200 yen, though it was as good as new. I read through the nearly 400 pages thick book in a day and discovered that many of the places where he spent time exist very close to my own daily milieu.
When Pujie first came to Japan in 1928, he lived with a family in Amanuma, north of Ogikubo, and went to Gakushuin, the school for children of the Imperial Family and aristocracy. Amanuma is not far away from my house and it is where my wife was brought up.
The stone in the garden of Marquis Saga
The couple lived in the house in Inage
They lived in Inage, however, less than half a year, because he had to carry out his duty in the newly born Manchukuo. When he returned to Japan in 1943 to attend Army War College, he and his family lived in Mamiana district, where I am now working. Shortly after he left for Manchukuo in December 1944, his house in Mamiana was burnt down in an air raid. Therefore, I cannot see the trace of his life in Mamiana. However, the old atmosphere is still alive in Mamiana. Some traditionally built wooden houses stand side by side in a deep valley with steep slopes and Russian Embassy and Tokyo American Club dominate the area.
The elderly daughter Huisheng
However, things did not go so smoothly as I briefly described. In the happy atmosphere after the resumption of communication with his family, Pujie received in 1957 tragic news from Tokyo: his elderly daughter Huisheng was found dead in the Amagi Mountains near Hattyoike in what appears to have been a double-suicide. Here, I again discover a coincidence that I live in the milieu of Pujie’s family, because I have my summer house in the Amagi Mountains not far from the scene of the tragedy.
The lines in his diary after he knew the accident are indeed deeply moving. I can vividly feel his warm love for his wife and daughters, though it might have been very difficult to have a mixed family in the very difficult time.
Among the houses he lived in Japan, only the house in Inage survived the war and passage of time and opened in 1997 as a memorial house of Pujie and Hiro. Having read the autobiography, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the house in Inage.
It was a sunny and pleasant morning. I first entered the garden to see the whole picture of the house. Interesting is the ornament on the roof is a Chinese one. The garden is rather small but kept clean and comfortable. Entering the house I found his calligraphy hanging on the wall. There were two poems he made when he visited the house after the war during his stay to Japan in relation to the third anniversary of her wife in 2001. They roughly mean as follows;
Inage was a popular resort for sea bathing before WWII and there were many cottages of rich people from the capital along the coast. The old house of Pujie was built in traditional Japanese style on a hill rising from the seashore. The beach was only tens of meters away from the garden of his house and Pujie must have seen people hunting crams on the muddy shore and bathing in the shallow sea. The house is very humble for a prince.
The same torii around 1950
Hiro decided to rearrange the Japanese style house and brought in tables and chairs. They often received students from China in their home and their servant dug clams from the beach and collected mushrooms from the nearby woods to enrich their dinner table.