Windows for the Crown Prince Critical Essays

Elizabeth Janet Gray


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Hirohito, the emperor of Japan, made the unprecedented decision in 1946 to ask Dr. George D. Stoddard, the head of an American education mission sent to survey the Japanese educational system at the end of World War II, if he could obtain an American tutor for his son the crown prince. In so doing, he set in motion many rounds of consultation and planning that resulted in the choice of an American woman, a Quaker, to tutor Crown Prince Akihito, as well as other royal family members and peers of the prince, for a period of four years. This arrangement presented a rare opportunity for the tutor, Vining, who provides a warm, personal account of her close relationship with the royal family during the years from 1946 to 1950.

The crown prince was twelve years old when Vining began her work with him. Thus, the young adult reader has the chance not only to contrast the differences in the educational program provided for a future emperor but also to gain valuable insights about Japan and its customs and about how a foreigner in Japan goes about the process of acculturation to a non-Western culture. The book also offers a rare glimpse of intimate details of the daily life and routine of a future emperor, as Vining received an inside view of life in the palace that remains unavailable even to most Japanese citizens.

Almost in diary form, Vining records what she saw candidly but sensitively, focusing both on her reactions to her assignment and on...

(The entire section is 560 words.)