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Mitsuko Coudenhove-Kalergi


Known as the “Dark-Eyed Countess,” Mitsuko Coudenhove-Kalergi (also, Mitsuko Thekla Maria) was one of the first Japanese people to immigrate to Europe. The third daughter of a conservative antiques dealer, she was born Mitsuko Aoyama in 1874 in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo (Tozawa). At the time, Japan was still in the early stages of the Meiji Era, which marked the end of the Edo period, characterized by Japan’s self-isolation for over 200 years. Now, Japan’s ports were open for international trade. It was during a visit to Japan that Count Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire became acquainted with Mitsuko. One story says he fell from his horse outside the Aoyama’s shop and Mitsuko came to his rescue (Tozawa, Part 1). By March 1892, at the age of 18, Mitsuko married the Count. Whether or not it was against her family’s wishes is unclear.

[Wedding photo from 1892]


Mitsuko moved to Europe with her new husband and before leaving, had an audience with Empress Dowager Shōken, wife of Emperor Meiji. She told Mitsuko, “Even if you’re in a foreign country, don’t forget to be proud of being Japanese” (Tsunoda, Part 1). During her marriage to the Count, Mitsuko had seven children who went on to become prominent and influential figures of their own right. To assimilate to her new home, Mitsuko studied French, German, mathematics, geography and history. Their high-class life in Europe was disrupted suddenly with Heinrich's death in 1906, at the age of 46. His will stated that Mitsuko would inherit everything, but the inheritance was opposed by relatives who said, “Giving the Coudenhove property to an Asian woman is out of the question!” (Tsunoda, Part 2). This, however, did not deter Mitsuko. After studying legal knowledge diligently and fighting her way through the lawsuit, she ended up winning the case saying, “If it’s to protect [my] children, I’ll fight even if it means turning the world against me” (Tsunoda, Part 2). Thus, she took over and managed the estate.


With the end of World War I in 1918, the defeated Austrian-Hungarian Empire collapsed.

The Coudenhove family, having lost a large amount of money that had been invested in the war, fell into ruin (Tsunoda, Part 3). At one point, she even disinherited her son Richard for a time because of his marriage to actress Ida Roland (Tozawa, Part 3). But in 1925, when Mitsuko suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage, it was Olga, her second daughter, who stayed be her side and took care of her until her death in 1941 at the age of 67 (Tsunoda, Part 3). Mitsuko never returned to Japan and is interred at a cemetery in Vienna, Austria.


Mitsuko and Heinrich's Children


Johann Evangelist Virgilio “Kotaro” Coudenhove-Kalergi (1893-1965)

Richard Nikolaus “Eijiro” Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894-1972), founder of the Pan European

Union

Gerolf Joseph Benedikt Maria Valentin Franz Coudenhove-Kalergi (189-1978), father of

journalist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi

Elizabeth Maria Anna Coudenhove-Kalergi (1898-1936)

Olga Marietta Henriette Coudenhove-Kalergi (1900-1976)

Ida Friederike Görres, née Elisabeth Friederike Coudenhove-Kalergi (1901-1971), Catholic

writer

Karl Heinrich Franz Maria Coudenhove-Kalergi (1903-1987)


Related Media


Biography Without Borders: The Coudenhove Family, an NHK drama broadcast in 1972

(see program information and short video here, in Japanese)


Mitsuko: The End of Two Centuries, a five-part NHK Special broadcast in 1987

(see program information and short video here, in Japanese)


MITSUKO ~Love Beyond Borders~, a 2011 Takarazuka Revue production

written by Shuichiro Koike, music by Frank Wildhorn

(see Kei Aran, who portrays Mitsuko, perform “Don’t Look Back”)


Further Reading


Mitsuko and Her Seven Children (2009) by Masumi Schmidt Muraki (in Japanese)


Mitsuko Coudenhove: The Dark-Eyed Countess (1997) by Shanjiro Minamikawa,

Masumi Schmidt Muraki (in Japanese)


Visit


Nando-machi Park, site of Mitsuko’s former residence, in Shinjuku, Tokyo


Pobežovick Castle, residence of Mitsuko and Heinrich in Vienna, Austria


 

Works Cited


Tozawa, Hidenori. “Life of Mitsuko Coudenhove-Kalergi (1)”. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi

Forum, 8 Apr 2013. http://www.law.tohoku.ac.jp/~tozawa/RCK HP/mitsuko2-1.htm


Tozawa, Hidenori. “Life of Mitsuko Coudenhove-Kalergi (3)”. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi

Forum, 8 Apr 2013. http://www.law.tohoku.ac.jp/~tozawa/RCK HP/mitsuko2-3.htm


Tsunoda, Akio. “The Life of Mitsuko Coudenhove, the ‘Dark-Eyed Countess’ called the ‘Mother of the European Union,’ and the First International Marriage in the Meiji Period (Part 1).” Reikishiya, 16 Oct 2021. https://rekishiya.com/coudenhove_mitsuko1


Tsunoda, Akio. “The Life of Mitsuko Coudenhove, the ‘Dark-Eyed Countess’ called the ‘Mother of the European Union,’ and the First International Marriage in the Meiji Period (Part 2).” Reikishiya, 17 Oct 2021. https://rekishiya.com/coudenhove_mitsuko2


Tsunoda, Akio. “The Life of Mitsuko Coudenhove, the ‘Dark-Eyed Countess’ called the ‘Mother of the European Union,’ and the First International Marriage in the Meiji Period (Part 3).” Reikishiya, 18 Oct 2021. https://rekishiya.com/coudenhove_mitsuko3

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