Royal Tutor – Elizabeth Vining

Aug 13, 2022Blog, Inspiration, Woman Power

Royal Tutor – Elizabeth Vining

The profound influence upon Japan of Ms. Vining, a Quaker English instructor can not be disregarded.

Quakers beliefs include the idea that the presence of God exists in every person―just like the Japanese―rejecting elaborate religious ceremonies and believed in spiritual equality of all

The Quakers also practice pacifism and played a key role in both the abolitionist and women’s rights movements.

Elizabeth Vining was personally selected by Emperor Hirohito to become the private tutor to then Crown Prince Akihito from 1946 to 1950.

Elizabeth Grey Vining Portrait- Land Of The Rising Son

Emperor Hirohito had two requirements.

He wanted a woman tutor, as he didn’t think the Crown Prince had enough feminine influence in his life.

Keep in mind, as was protocol in the Japanese royal family, Akihito was separated from his parents at the age of 3 to be raised by other adults in the imperial household.

He saw his parents only once a week.

裕仁と皇后 - Land Of The Rising Son

The other requirement was that the tutor be a Christian, but not a fanatic.

This meant Emperor Hirohito had no desire to see his son converted to Christianity, which as the head of Shintoism was an unfounded concern anyway.

Indeed unlike most other sects and faction of Christians, the Quaker do not actively try to convert others to the dogma of Christianity.

Even so, the influence of an American pacifist on the young prince was regarded with resentment by right-wing intellectuals who complained that Akihito had contracted a spiritual and intellectual ‘fungus’ from his tutor.

Mushrooms - Land Of The Rising Son

However, Ms. Vining carried out her mandate brilliantly opening a window to the world along with the desire to set him intellectually free.

She also expanded Crown Prince Akihito cloistered palace world by inviting Akihito and his classmates to her Western-style home one afternoon a week.

Elizabeth Gray Vining with Akihito and Friend- Land Of The Rising Son

As is often the case with foreigners who come to Japan unaware of the rigid hierarchy of structure of Japan, she gave each of her pupils an English name to break down formality and encourage more democratic interactions.

Even today in modern Japan today, the strict hierarchy structure of Japan does not facilitate any sort of “democratic interaction” among the rigid social system of Japanese society.

The nicknames “Jimmy” given to the Crown Prince Akihito was not embraced for when she first called him “Jimmy,” he replied:

“I am not ‘Jimmy,’ I am the Crown Prince.”

Culture point: The Japanese are very rarely on the first name basis with anyone―except the immediately family―and more often than not―not even then.

Elizabeth Gray Vining Shaking Akihito's Hand - Land Of The Rising SonSome of the important concepts instilled during Ms. Vining’s tenure came from reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln, discussing Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence, and shared hopes for world peace.

One could say the teaching of these universal principles planted seeds and lead to them rising from the ashes of the war―thus creating the Third Pillar of Civilization―Japan.

Indeed the merging of East and West civilizations started in earnest with overseas missions during the Meiji restoration― in particular, the Iwakura Mission.

Iwakura Mission - Land Of The Rising Son

The Iwakura Mission truly marks the beginning of the industrialization miracle of the Meiji Restoration, culminating Mr. Vining’s serendipitous trip to Japan where she blew her fairy dust on the Crown Prince, changing the course of the Japanese forever.

Interestingly enough, she also lectured at Tsuda College, which was established by the author of this article wife’s Great Aunty―Umeko Tsuda, who also became a Quaker during her time in the United States, starting from 1871.

One could say Tsuda Umeko is the tutelar deity of Oneness―just as Ms. Vining― their philosophy aligned that education should focus on developing individual intelligence and personality, creating harmony inside oneself, and by extension the world.

Tsuda Umeko on the new-five-thousand-yen-bill-Banner

One could say having this elegant female Quaker instilling the Crown Prince with the universal values innate in all those connecting to Oneness is herself a tutelar deity surely worthy of recognition.

Indeed, this mostly forgotten historical figure played a significant role in pointing the way of the future to 125th Emperor of Japan, and one can feel her influence permeating the “air” of Japan, even until this very day.

Elizabeth Gray Vining also wrote the book: “Windows for a Crown Prince” in 1952, and referred to her tutelage of Akihito “a fairy story.”

Elizabeth Gray Vining wrote the book- “Windows for a Crown Prince” in 1952 - Land Of The Rising Son

“It’s a fairy story, in that a quite Philadelphia Quaker was picked up and transported halfway across the world and dropped into the heart of the oldest and most mysterious royal court in the world.”

For this serendipitous miracle―an important catalyst for the merging of the Western and Japanese mind―she was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure shortly before her return to the United States in 1950.

Order of the Sacred Treasure - Land Of The Rising Son

Japan is continuing the natural progression of its ancient civilization as the Japanese continue to blend Eastern and Western values creating a common moral foundation to build our societies upon while seeing new world paradigms, tomorrow and today.

Emperor Akihito With Empress Michiko - Land Of The Rising Son