Empress Dowager Nagako

March 6, 1903 - June 17, 2000

Empress Dowager Nagako of Japan Dies, Ending an Era

From News Services

Saturday , June 17, 2000 ; B06

TOKYO, June 16 Empress Dowager Nagako, 97, the widow of Emperor Hirohito and mother of Japan's current emperor, Akihito, died today in Tokyo's royal palace after witnessing an astounding swath of her country's history.

The empress dowager had difficulty breathing early Thursday and fell into a coma, the Imperial Household Agency said. The cause of death was not reported.

Empress Nagako saw Japan as it drove to catch up with the West, then saw its crushing defeat in World War II, followed by its rebirth as one of the world's richest nations.

She became empress Dec. 25, 1926, when Hirohito rose to the throne after the death of his father, Emperor Taisho. Two years later, Hirohito was formally enthroned as the 124th emperor of Japan in rites in the ancient capital of Kyoto.

The two were married nearly 65 years -- longer than any other imperial couple in Japan's history.

"Much of her life as empress was spent in tumultuous times," Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said. "Even as society went through big changes and faced difficult times, she always gave her best."

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