Windows for the Crown Prince Critical Context - Essay

Elizabeth Janet Gray

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Vining’s work is one of only a few books, if not the only book, that provide a personal profile of a future emperor of Japan in such depth. As tutor to the crown prince, she saw her experience as an opportunity to “bring before the Emperor’s son in his formative years the ideals of liberty and justice and good will upon which peace must be based if it is to endure.” For the young reader who may perceive the life of a prince as one of luxury and freedom, the account records the almost unbelievable restrictions that custom and protocol imposed on Akihito even as a young child. His fifteenth birthday could not be observed with the usual family celebration because it was the day of the execution of several war criminals and to do so would be inappropriate. Studies for the crown prince required many more hours than for the average Japanese student. Whatever special privilege was enjoyed was balanced by heavy responsibilities and duties. Windows for the Crown Prince serves as a valuable and inspiring model for youths who take freedom for granted.

The book is also a treasure house of cross-cultural information about Japanese life and custom. Even if the life-styles portrayed are limited to a privileged class, it is insightful to observe how this American woman interacted with the most important family in Japan, making permanent contributions to the development of the future emperor’s character and outlook.