Emperor Hirohito, also a biologist, had shown a strong interest in slime molds since he was the Prince Regent. As the Prince, he had read ‘A Monograph of the Slime Molds’ written by Gulielma Lister and expressed Dr. Hirotaro Hattori of the National Biological Research Institute his wish to see the specimens. Having learned the rumor, Shiro Koaze approached Kumagusu and his friends from Tokyo University. In November 1926 the team prepared and presented Prince Hirohito with a collection of 90 specimens of 37 genera of Japanese slime molds. It bore the signatures of Koaze as the presenter and Kumagusu as the selector.
In March 1929, all of a sudden, Dr. Hattori secretly visited and requested Kumagusu to give a lecturer on slime molds to Hirohito, then Emperor, in his future royal visit to the Wakayama region. Kumagusu telegraphed his acceptance. With no precedent for a commoner giving an imperial lecture, he soon became the center of the public attention and extremely busy preparing specimens.
On the first of June 1929 the rain had started in the morning. Kumagusu headed for the Kashima Island in a frock coat he had bought in America and kept for years. After taking the Emperor for a walk in the woods on the island, Kumagusu, while showing specimens, gave a 25-minute lecture, on board the royal ship Nagato, on slime molds and marine life to His Majesty. He also presented the Emperor with gifts including 110 specimens of slime molds kept in empty taffy boxes. A chamberlain recalled: “Rumors of his eccentricity had made me doubt about his capability but my worry turned out to be utterly groundless when I met this well-mannered and polite man. He was a gentleman who had experience of living abroad as well as a traditional Japanese who showed a respect for the Imperial Family.”
It was the most glorious day in his life. In the afternoon Kumagusu took pictures of him and Matsue in their finest attire at a studio and shared the happiest moment with his relatives and close friends by giving sweets he had received from the Imperial Household.
Next year, in commemoration of the Emperor’s visit to Kashima, a monument was erected on the edge of a dense wood near the point where His Majesty had landed. Inscribed on the monument is a poem Kumagusu wrote hoping that the island would be protected forever by the benevolence and the power of the Emperor:
In May 1962, more than 30 years later, Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress visited southern Wakayama again. Inspired by a view of Kashima from a hotel room on the Shirahama Beach the Emperor composed a poem:
Through the rain I see the dim figure of Kashima in the distance
Which reminds me of Kumagusu who was born in Wakayama
The poem is inscribed on the monument erected in front of the Minakata Kumagusu Museum overlooking the Kashima island.
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