The Emperor Akihito (明仁)
The Emperor Akihito (December 23, 1933-) is the 125th Emperor in Japan. He is the first prince of the late Emperor Showa. His mother is the late Empress Kojun. His childhood title was Prince Tsugu-no-miya. His Oshirushi (signature mark used by members of the Imperial Family to mark their belongings) is Ei (another name of paulownia). His rank is the Supreme Order (the highest rank in Japan). The honorific title provided by the Imperial House Law is "His Majesty."
Despite his age, being in his mid 70s as of 2009, he has quite energetically engaged in the public services and court rituals. He has frequently been admired for his high motivation to his duties as well as for his diligence.
It is said that he respects the Emperor Meiji and especially the Emperor Showa among successive emperors. Meanwhile, he once mentioned the Emperor Gomizunoo when he was the Crown Prince. Moreover, as shown in his statement made at the press conference held for commemorating the 10th anniversary of his enthronement, his heart has never ceased to ache whenever he thinks of World War II as a wartime generation. In the past, he made a remark with the content of 'I can never forget the following four dates, June 23 (the memorial day of Okinawa Prefecture commemorating all who died in the Battle of Okinawa), August 6 (Atomic-bomb Day of Hiroshima Prefecture), August 9 (Atomic-bomb Day of Nagasaki Prefecture) and August 15 (the anniversary of the end of World War II).
Since he is related by blood with Shimazu family (Hisamitsu SHIMAZU, the family head of Echizen [also called Shigetomi]-Shimazu family and the Father of Satsuma Domain, who became the family head of Tamazato-Shimazu family with 100,000 Koku [approximately 18 million liters of crop yield] after the Meiji Restoration, conferred the title of Duke under the Peerage Law to be the first head of Shimazu Duke family), he may feel warm affection for Okinawa Prefecture, which is shown in several pieces of Ryuka Traditional Okinawa Poem he composed before. He is the first emperor in history who composed Ryuka Traditional Okinawa Poem.
Also known as an ichthyologist, he is a taxonomic researcher of gobioidei. With a membership of "The Ichthyological Society of Japan," he has written 28 papers relevant to his research on the journals issued by the society. He wrote a paper titled "Early cultivators of science in Japan" on the magazine "Science" in 1992. Moreover, with his name listed under the first author, two theses were published on the foreign magazine "Gene" in 2000 and 2008 separately.
* In those theses, he is introduced as belonging to the Imperial Residence. The coauthors include the Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya Fumihito of the Akishino-no-miya family, the president of Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.
Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya Fumihito is introduced in those theses as belonging to the Graduate University for Advanced Studies.
The Emperor Akihito has been admired in various countries for his achievements in the field of ichthyology.
He became a foreign member of the Linnaean Society in London in 1980. The society offered him a title of an honorary member in 1986.
He is a research associate of Australian Museum.
He is an honorary member of the Zoological Society of London.
He is a permanent honorary member of "e Instituto Nacional de Investigación de las Ciencias Naturales" (Research center of the natural sciences in Argentine).
Besides, he received the Charles II medal from the Royal Society of London in 1998. He also took his place among the honorary scholar of Uppsala University in Sweden in 2007 when he visited five European countries.
As he has practiced the cello under a cellist Katsuo SHIMIZU since 1970, he can play the instrument fairly well. He is also fond of playing tennis (He became acquainted with the present Empress Michiko through tennis when he had yet been a bachelor.
It is so-called 'a romance on tennis court.'
In addition, he excels not only at equestrianism, but also in driving a car.
In the childhood
He was born at 6:39AM, on December 23, 1933 at San-den Hall (a maternity room) in Kyujo Palace (now Imperial Palace). As he was the first prince born between the Emperor Showa and the Empress Kojun, who had already had four princesses, his birth was celebrated on a national scale.
The Emperor Showa gave to his first prince both his childhood title 'Tsugu-no-miya' and his title 'Akihito.'
The source of these two names is in the Imperial Rescript issued on February 3, 1870 when the Emperor Meiji ascended the throne, which said 'Today's prosperity is due to successive deities ascended the throne to establish the natural order and nurture everything... Japanese people are expected to live following the deities' will.'
He left his parents on March 29, 1936 at the age of two, raised by Togu-fuikukan (a tutor in charge of the Crown Prince) at the makeshift palace established on the premises of State Guest House. He used to return to the Imperial Palace every Sunday at first.
However, he came to stay at the makeshift palace even on Sunday after about one month passed since he left his parents
In accordance with the custom, he was usually dressed in girlish costumes when he was a child. When he had his bobbed hair trimmed without notice to enter Gakushuin Primary School, he was shocked so deeply that he fell into a melancholy mood for several days. Afterwards, he made his utmost protest by saying, "Hereafter, never do like this without notice."
In 1944, the escalating war made him evacuate to Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture at first, and then to Hotel Nanma in a hot-spring town Yumoto, Oku-Nikko. The war ended when he was in the latter place. He returned to Tokyo after the war ended. Meanwhile, with the appointment to the second lieutenant of Army and Navy, the Crown Prince customarily enlisted in the Guards Division. Therefore, he was requested to join the Guards Division by the military, but the Emperor Showa refused to appoint him. As a result, he has no career in the military.
Following the policy of the Emperor Showa, 'Learn the thought and custom of the West,' he studied from October 1946 to December 1950 under a Quaker enElizabeth_Gray_Vining, a famous juvenile literary person in the U.S. (in Japan, she was known as 'Mrs. Vining'), who was invited as a tutor. He met Douglas MACARTHUR through Mrs. Vining. He refused to be called with an English nickname by Mrs. Vining (Mrs. Vining had seemingly prepared a nickname "Jimmy" for him) when she became his tutor. In addition, he was nicknamed 'Chab' by his schoolmates in his school days of Gakushuin Primary School, which originated in his looks that let schoolmates associate with an incense burner for burning the mosquito repellent stick, as well as in his swarthy-colored skin.
In his days of the Crown Prince
Both the official investiture ceremony of the Crown Prince and the coming-of-age ceremony were conducted at Kita-no-ma Hall (literally, the north hall) in the official section of the Imperial Palace on November 10, 1952. Furthermore, on the same day, the Emperor Showa conferred the Supreme Order on him, with the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum. Moreover, at the official investiture ceremony of the Crown Prince, balloons with a message celebrating the ceremony donated from each prefecture and other governmental bodies were floated in the skies over Tokyo to offer the nation's congratulations.
He went abroad officially for the first time spending more than six months from March 30 to October 12 in 1953. He made a round of visits to 12 countries in Europe, and the United States of America and Canada. He attended the coronation of Elizabeth Ⅱ (Queen of Britain) as the proxy of the Emperor Showa on June 2, 1953. Despite his status of the Crown Prince, he was treated as the Emperor by various countries, because he attended the ceremony as the proxy of the Emperor Showa. Later, in the interview held ahead of an official visit to Europe in 2007, reminiscing about the coronation, he made remarks expressing his appreciation to those countries that paid deference to him considering the heavy role as the proxy. However, the above-mentioned official travel resulted in the shortage of credits enough to advance to a higher degree in Gakushuin University, which meant that he would be one year behind with his long-time schoolmates. To avoid such situation, he dropped out the university, but he kept learning as an auditing student afterward.
He became acquainted with Ms. Michiko SHODA (the present Empress Michiko) on August 19, 1957 in a tennis tournament held at Karuizawa, where he had been visiting to escape the heat. Their relationship grew closer by playing tennis. He put a photograph of her entitled 'Onna tomodachi' (My girl friend) on an exhibition for the staff of the Imperial Household Agency. However, taking her in marriage met strong opposition from the inside and outside of the Imperial household, because she was neither from the Imperial family nor from the peerage despite being a daughter of a wealthy person (She comes from a long line of samurai class with a forefather Hayato IKUTA, a retainer of Yoshishige NITTA).
In 'a diary of Sukemasa IRIE' written by Sukemasa IRIE who served as the Grand Chamberlain of the Emperor Showa, there is a description that the Empress Kojun complained to the Emperor Showa with both Princess Chichibu Setsuko and Princess Kikuko, the wife of Imperial Prince Nobuhito, saying 'It is unforgivable to have a common woman as a wife for the Crown Prince.'
Women of the former peerage, including Nobuko MATSUDAIRA, a chairman of the Tokiwa-kai Association (alumni association of The Gakushuin School Corporation Women's division), also opposed so strongly that the Emperor Showa personally got Nobuko's consent to solve the issue over the Crown Prince's marriage, it is reported. The marriage was finally approved unanimously in the Imperial Household Council on November 27, 1958.
Nosai-no-gi (ceremony of exchanging betrothal gifts) was conducted on January 14, 1959 and Kekkon-no-gi (wedding ceremony) was conducted on April 10 of the same year. The new Crown Princess received an enthusiastic welcome from the nation, because she was the first commoner to be the Crown Princess after the Meiji period, as well as the process to the marriage had been reported. All over the country was excited by 'Mitchy boom' (Mitchy was a nickname of Michiko SHODA). With the grand scale parade to celebrate the marriage, the two received a heartfelt welcome from the nation. To watch their wedding ceremony, lots of people bought television that had been still expensive in those days. The Crown Prince Michiko's pregnancy was announced on July 15, 1959.
The first Imperial Prince Naruhito was born on February 23, 1960. The nation celebrated the birth of an heir on a large scale, because the new prince was born in the following year of the marriage, amid unrelenting Mitchy boom. The Imperial Princess Suga-no-miya Takako, the younger sister of the Crown Prince Akihito (the present Emperor Akihito), married Hisanaga SHIMAZU on March 1960, who was a Crown Prince's schoolmate. The Crown Prince visited the United States of America with the Crown Princess Michiko for 16 days from September 22 to October 7, 1960.
The Crown Princess Michiko convalesced after having a miscarriage in her second pregnancy in 1963. The Imperial couple not only worked hard in rearing their child, but also was anxious about various matters peculiar to the era (the leftist movement including demonstrations and student movements was most furious in the 1960s).
The Crown Prince Akihito reportedly made a remark 'The Imperial Family may come to an end in the Imperial Prince Naruhito's day.'
The second Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya Fumihito was born on November 30, 1965. Similar to his father the Emperor Showa, Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya Fumihito has established good relationships with countries in Southeast Asia like the Kingdom of Thailand as well as Madagascar, a rich repository of animals and plants. Therefore, the Princess Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand attended his wedding ceremony.
The first Imperial Princess Sayako (now Sayako KURODA) was born on April 18, 1969. Staying closely with the Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko as the Imperial family without having an independent imperial house, the Imperial Princess Sayako was trusted by the couple as a daughter to whom they could open their hearts.
Visit to Okinawa Prefecture
When Okinawa Ocean Expo '75 was held in Okinawa Prefecture in 1975, he visited the prefecture for the first time after being installed as the Crown Prince, where his father (the Emperor Showa) had also visited in the Crown Prince Hirohito days. Umi, sono-nozomashii mirai' (literally, Preferable future of Ocean), a book illustrated with photographs related to the exposition, and "An official long record film, Okinawa Ocean Expo," a record film of the exposition, recorded the Crown Prince and Crown Princess attending both the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony, which is still kept in libraries and so on.
Some incidents also happened during this Okinawa visit.
When he and the Crown Princess Michiko visited Himeyuri-no-to Tower (The Tower of Lilies) for offering flowers on July 17, two members of radical parties (Isao CHINEN belonging to the preparatory society for Okinawa liberation alliance and the other belonging to the communist alliance) lurking at the spot hurled a Molotov cocktail at the Imperial couple (so-called "The incident at Himeyuri-no-to Tower.")
(A photograph taken immediately before the two radical members hurled the Molotov cocktail at the Imperial couple appeared in the Yomiuri Shinbun Newspaper.)
(In addition, a film for a news show has left the scene that the Imperial couple and the persons concerned are evacuating after being hurled the Molotov cocktail). The Crown Prince made an unprecedented remark on the same night that he sympathizes with people in Okinawa Prefecture who were tormented by the Battle of Okinawa.
In addition to the radical groups to which the criminals caused "The incident at Himeyuri-no-to Tower" belonged, various political organizations held meetings nationwide, as well as demonstration parades with 1,000 participants, raising the rallying cry of 'Let's oppose the Imperial couple's visit to Okinawa Prefecture' and so on. Furthermore, some of those political organizations acted terrorism, such as hurling an empty bottle at an automobile into which the Imperial couple got soon after they arrived at Okinawa Prefecture (the terrorist involved in the incident was arrested for obstructing officers in the performance of their duties), according to "Police White Paper of 1976." However, the Imperial couple returned safely from the Okinawa visit without being injured. The Imperial couple visited Okinawa Prefecture again to attend the closing ceremony on January 18, 1976.
Visiting Okinawa Prefecture to attend the National Sports Festival of Japan as the proxy of the Emperor Showa who was sick in bed at that time, he read a message on behalf of the Emperor on October 24, 1987 at Okinawa Prefecture Peace Memorial Hall built at the southern battle site of Okinawa Prefecture as follows.
Okinawa Prefecture, a battlefield of the last war, was so damaged that its islets were seriously disfigured.'
Not only countless precious lives including those of common residents were sacrificed in the war, but also people in Okinawa Prefecture have been suffered hardships for long since the end of the war.'
Considering the historical background of Okinawa Prefecture, I feel grief with distress.'
Then Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Junji NISHIME made a remark as follows.
I was quite impressed with the Imperial message.'
The postwar period of Okinawa Prefecture may have finished at last.'
Afterward, he has kept worrying about Okinawa Prefecture as before, making the third visit to Okinawa Prefecture after he ascended the throne.
As the Emperor Showa was to have visited Okinawa Prefecture in 1987 until he got sick in autumn of the same year, the Japanese government had started the preparation from the previous year by earmarking an extraordinary budget to improve the environment, such as gathering the remains of the war dead in the southern battle site.
Furthermore, then Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Junji NISHIME declared, 'I hope that the Emperor's visit may result in the end of the postwar period of Okinawa Prefecture.'
Thus, not only the government but also people in Okinawa Prefecture dedicated themselves to the preparation of the Emperor's visit
As for security, learning a lesson from the incident at Himeyuri-no-to Tower, the National Police Agency enforced tight security measures by mobilizing the increased number of police officers dispatched from the mainland. The Imperial visit was completed as scheduled.
After the enthronement
Following the demise of the Emperor Showa on January 7, 1989, he ascended the throne. The era name was changed to Heisei on the following day, January 8.
The following remark made by the Emperor Akihito at the rite of audience after the enthronement became a topic; 'Observing the Constitution of Japan with the nation, I sincerely hope for Japan's further prosperity, global peace and the promotion of the welfare of the people.'
Letting people confirm that the Constitution of Japan gives a definition of the Emperor, the remark was criticized by a small group of right-wing organizations for its probability of being interpreted as protecting the Constitution.
With a large scale of preparation, for example the imperial throne was brought to the Imperial Palace from Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Enthronement Ceremony was carried out on November 12, 1990. In contrast to the Emperor Taisho and the Emperor Showa, both of whom held the enthronement ceremony at Kyoto Imperial Palace, the present Emperor held the ceremony in the Imperial Palace to be the first emperor ascended the throne in Kanto region.
Since his enthronement, observing the spirit of the constitution, he has tried to find the ideal image of the Emperor in the Heisei period. The Emperor received the members of Self Defense Forces dispatched to Iraq with the Empress. While the Emperor had already received the members of Self Defense Forces dispatched for the United Nations' peacekeeping operations and those engaged in disaster relief works, it was unprecedented that the Emperor received the members of Self Defense Forces dispatched to a battlefield. Therefore, the reception is considered to have been impossible in the postwar Showa period. Moreover, he has received reports and lectures on the affairs of the state more frequently than his father, the Emperor Showa, from people in the political and business worlds, intellectuals and others. His attitude as the Emperor is also commented as follows; 'The Emperor is pitching balls with all his might inside the strike zone (namely, the Emperor is doing his utmost while observing the Article four of Japan's constitution)' (the source; an article written by Katsumi IWAI in Bungei Shunju magazine). Moreover, he has sincerely reflected the losses Japan incurred from the defeat in the days of the Emperor Showa, by facing the negative assets in the Showa period through journeys to comfort the war dead. He has devoted himself to his duties so hard that no other successive emperors can compare with him.
For celebrating the 10th anniversary of his enthronement, a national festival was held on November 20, 1999 under the auspices of the government. The Emperor waved his hand for showing his gratitude to the cheering people gathered to celebrate the anniversary from the Niju-bashi Bridge on the same night. The Imperial Household Agency published a collected record titled "Michi" (road) for memorializing the 10th anniversary of the Emperor's enthronement.
He has vigorously visited various districts within and outside the country since his enthronement. He realized the Imperial visit to Okinawa prefecture in 1993, which had been the earnest wish of the Emperor Showa. He made an unscheduled visit to the cenotaph to comfort the souls of Himeyuri students, which was publicized in 2007 on TV shows. He visited all of 47 prefectures by 2003.
Battles with diseases
He was diagnosed as contracting tuberculosis in December 1953. As specific remedies for tuberculosis like streptomycin had already been developed, he almost recovered by 1957 after being treated by those remedies. He voluntarily revealed that he had contracted tuberculosis, which had been kept secret for long, in the speech delivered in the 60th National Meeting of Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association held in March 2009.
He had the polyps of the large intestine removed in 1995.
He was diagnosed as having prostate cancer in December 2002 when he was hospitalized for a complete physical checkup. Afterward, the Imperial Household Agency officially announced the name of a disease following the Emperor's wish. He received prostatectomy on January 18 of the following year at The University of Tokyo Hospital so as to ensure the success of the surgery, not at Hospital of the Imperial Household where members of the Imperial family usually have medical examinations.
The Imperial Household Agency announced on February 25, 2008 as follows.
Neither recurrence of the prostate cancer nor spread from its original site to other organs has been detected at present.'
However, as the bone density has been in decline due to the side effect of hormonal therapy, the Emperor's bones may become so fragile as to be diagnosed as osteoporosis if being left as they are.'
Then, examining whether the number of official duties and court rituals can be reduced, as well as trying to find other effective measures, the agency started reviewing the lifestyle of the emperor as a whole.
At the press conference on December 9 of the same year, the Imperial Household Agency announced that the Emperor had a supraventricular arrhythmia in the beginning of December, in addition to the inflammation of the stomach and the duodenum that was detected by an examination of the digestive tract.
The Imperial Household Agency expressed its view that mental and physical stress is the root of these disorders, mainly coming from the anxiety over the issue related to the succession to the Imperial Throne, saying 'The Emperor is concerned about various problems related to the Imperial household including the issue over the succession to the Imperial Throne.'
As the Emperor had desired that his official duties and others should be reviewed after 2009, the 20th anniversary of his enthronement, the Imperial Household Agency did not announce the measures to reduce the Emperor's burden until January 29, 2009.
Official travels record (since the Heisei period)
the Kingdom of Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia
the People's Republic of China
Some people blamed this visit by saying, 'It was planned to delete the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.'
Furthermore, from the standpoint that anti-Japanese sentiment in China became stronger after the visit, lots of people criticized the visit, saying that it should not have been carried out. In addition, there are other strange stories in connection with this visit as follows: When People's Republic of China tried to confer the Kin-in (the Golden Seal of the King of Japan) to the Emperor, the close aides could narrowly save a difficult situation by hastily refusing the proposal, There was a rumor circulating before the visit that the Emperor himself decided to visit China, and so on. However, the Emperor had often referred to the visit to China by composing Waka (31-syllable Japanese poems) and other means until anti-Japanese sentiment in China became stronger. Although the People's Republic of China requested the Emperor to attend the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the Imperial Household Agency turned down the request.
Belgium (The Emperor attended the state funeral of King Baudouin I [the King of Belgium])
Italy, Belgium, and Germany
The United States of America
France and Spain (The Emperor also stopped at Germany)
Brazil and Argentina (The Emperor also stopped at Luxembourg and the United States of America)
England and Denmark (The Emperor also stopped at Portugal)
The Netherlands and Sweden (The Emperor also stopped at Switzerland and Finland)
Poland and Hungary (The Emperor also stopped at Czech and Austria)
Norway (The Emperor also stopped at Ireland)
There is a strange story in connection with this visit to Saipan that a group of South Korean stretched a banner with disrespectful comments only to remove after being protested by the Chamorro, indigenous people.
Singapore and Thailand (The Emperor also stopped at Malaysia)
Imperial princes and princesses
He has three children between the Empress Michiko.
Imperial Prince Naruhito (childhood title: Hiro-no-miya Naruhito, 1960-)
Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya Fumihito (childhood title: Aya-no-miya Fumihito, 1965-)
Imperial Prince Akishino-no-miya
Sayako KURODA (title before marriage: Nori-no-miya Sayako, 1969-)
wife of Mr. Yoshiki KURODA
As he was the first prince born after four princesses, his birth was celebrated on a gigantic scale. The whole country celebrated the birth in grand style, which was exemplified by the lantern procession parading through the metropolitan area of Tokyo. The celebrating movement was so enthusiastic that even a celebrating song with a lilting tune titled 'The Crown Prince was born' (songwriter: Hakushu KITAHARA/composer: Shinpei NAKAYAMA) was produced. Since the song became quite popular, some elders who had been schoolboys in those days and others have still remembered the song enough to sing it even now.
A Waka 'The child inheriting the throne was born' was composed when he was born. He was blessed as the born Crown Prince.
In his boyhood
He is believed to have been a left-hander in his childhood. He was later cured of the habit of left-handedness, with the result that he can now use both hands equally, it is believed.
Having many friends, he also did various mischiefs with his subjects, naughty boys. Amusing anecdotes are told about him as follows: He talked about women with his friends, He ate a deep-fried dragonfly, He pressed on a notebook his own made stamp with a design of a container of mosquito repellent stick.
He evacuated to Hotel Nanma in a hot-spring town Yumoto, Oku-Nikko during the war. He received letters from the Emperor Showa while he evacuated.
When an officer explained the war situation to the Crown Prince, the Crown Prince had doubts about suicide squad. Therefore, he put a question to the officer, saying 'I think the suicide squad only results in the waste of manpower resources,' which embarrassed the officer in finding the answer.
When the Emperor's announcement of Japan's surrender was broadcasted, the Crown Prince had listened the broadcast with other students of the Gakushuin School on a corridor of the second floor of the hotel. However, a chamberlain, who was quick-witted enough to think about the complex footing of the Crown Prince (he must have imagined the worst scenario in the light of the humiliating contents of the announcement), took him to Gozasho (living room for the Crown Prince) to let him listen the broadcast with close aides from the Togu-daifu (the Lord Steward to the Imperial Prince). He was not shaken by the broadcast at all, but he shed tears silently without moving an inch after the announcement was completed.
Soon after the Togu-daifu's detailed explanation of the Emperor's announcement, he got over the grief, making a resolve to be the Crown Prince and the future Emperor undertaking the tasks aimed at Japan's revival from the defeat and nation's restoration. He also wrote his strong resolution in his diary of that day.
However, he must have had lots of agony in his adolescence when Japan was thrown into confusion by the aftermath of war.
His schoolmate revealed later that he grumbled in spite of himself, 'Heredity is stressful.'
Such painful experience that he had been obliged to live separately from his parents led him to make a resolution to keep his children at hand, it is believed.
He and his schoolmate Akira HASHIMOTO was such a close friend that they often quarreled with the Crown Prince's statue neglected.
Belonging to the Equestrian club in his school days of Gakushuin School, he played an active part as the captain since the autumn of his second grade year of high school. He won the championship in the first Kanto high school tournament held in January 1951.
In his Crown Prince days
The ceremonial investiture of the Crown Prince was conducted at the age of 18 in 1952. Commemorative postage stamp was issued for commemorating the ceremony. The stamp was initially designed by using the portrait of the Crown Prince Akihito, which was turned down after meeting opposition from the Imperial Household Agency. Meanwhile, of four kinds of commemorative postage stamps issued for commemorating the wedding ceremony held on April 10, 1959, two kinds of stamps, 10-yen stamp and 30-yen stamp, used the portrait of both the Crown Princess and the Crown Princess for their designs. Moreover, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications presented "Stamp Book for Commemorating the Crown Prince's Wedding" to the Imperial family and Shoda family.
He traveled abroad officially from March 30th to October 12th, 1953 for attending the coronation of Elizabeth II (Queen of Britain). As Japan had restored sovereignty in the previous year, the Crown Prince Akihito's visit to Europe was expected to be the first step for Japan to come back to the international society.
When the Crown Prince left Japan, as many as one million people reportedly saw him off waving a small flag on the route from the Imperial Palace to the Yokohama Port. Moreover, as the Crown Prince's departure was regarded as the first and the largest-scale event since broadcasting service was started, each broadcasting station broadcasted the departure. Especially, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) succeeded in taking a close-up picture of the Crown Prince standing on the deck by using a 600-mm telephoto lens, which surprised viewers.
He took the passenger boat President Wilson (managed by American President Line, with a speed of 19 knots and a displacement of 15,395 tons). The Japanese often used this ship: for example, a Japanese novelist Yukio MISHIMA took this ship two years ahead of the Crown Prince's boarding. The ship prepared even boards and stones for playing the game of Go (a board game) for entertaining Japanese passengers. On the board, the Crown Prince accepted a proposal to be photographed with each member of the Waseda University volleyball club. On the sailing route from the United States of America to the United Kingdom, he enjoyed playing Mah-jong, Shogi (Japanese Chess), Go, table tennis, etc. with two Chinese women on board and accompanying reporters. Especially, he was reportedly engrossed in playing Mah-jong until he arrived at Southampton. Playing Mah-jong has become one of his hobbies since this official travel. Not only he explained to the Emperor Showa how interesting the game is, but also he is said to have played Mah-jong with his younger brother, Hitachi-no-miya and others.
After arriving at Europe, he watched a German Grand Prix in Nürburgring of West Germany. Accepting a proposal of the sponsor, the Crown Prince served as a presenter at an award ceremony, giving Giuseppe Farina of his blessing.
(Giuseppe Farina, a star player since the prewar period and a member of Ferrari, became the first Champion of F1 Grand Prix in 1950.)
In other words, the Crown Prince Akihito was the first Japanese who mounted the winners' platform of F1 Grand Prix. Considering the F1 boom in the beginning of the Heisei period, the Crown Prince Akihito's experience in Nürburgring can be referred to as an event with a strange turn of fate.
He said at that time, 'F1 Grand Prix is more interesting than horse racing.'
With the United Kingdom still having bad image toward Japan as a hostile country in World War II, the Crown Prince could finally meet Elizabeth II after being kept waiting for long hours, despite being given the 13th order of seats in the coronation (a seat in the center of the front row, next to the Crown Prince of Nepal). Moreover, Elizabeth II shook hands with the Crown Prince Akihito, without exchanging glances.
Moreover, this official travel lasted for long period resulted in the shortage of credits enough to advance to a higher degree, which obliged him to drop out of the Department of Political Science of Gakushuin University.
Therefore, the website of the Imperial Household Agency introduces his final academic background as follows: 'The Emperor Akihito completed the general education course of Gakushuin University.'
However, he remained in the university as an auditing student afterwards. Yoshinobu SHIMAMURA, the first chairman of "Nippon Kaigi Kokkaigiin Kondanakai" (Japan informal gathering of Diet members) was a classmate in the Department of Political Science of Gakushuin University, who passed the college entrance examination while still enrolled in Tokyo Metropolitan Ryogoku High School. SHIMAMURA was granted a bachelor's degree in March 1956. He became a Cabinet member for the first time 39 years and five months later in August 1995, being certified as the Minister of Education by the present Emperor Akihito.
The Crown Prince Akihito visited the Imperial Palace a few times a week even after the marriage to be independent, having a meal with his father, the Emperor Showa frequently. It is believed that he learned the art of kingcraft through these opportunities.
Submitting various matters for the Emperor Showa's approval even after his independent, he informed the Emperor of all kinds of affairs.
Having belief of 'I only say what I can do, without saying what I cannot do,' he scolded the member of Imperial household when the member neglected his or her duty, saying 'I can no longer leave the duty to you.'
Enjoying the fullest confidence of the Emperor Showa as the proxy, he won the highest praise from the Emperor who said ' I am quite free from anxiety because the Crown Prince helps me.'
The Crown Prince brought to Japan the bluegill native to Mississippi river system, which was donated by the Mayor of Chicago in 1960, donating it to the laboratory of the Fisheries Agency. He introduced the bluegill into Japan considering the serious food situation in those days, but the bluegill was later revealed to be a fish that damages the ecosystem indigenous to Japan by preying aquatic insects, roe, and small and young fishes.
Therefore, he later made unprecedented remarks, 'I regret that the bluegill has inflicted serious damage on the ecosystem of Japan.'
After his enthronement
A large portable shrine came from Meiji-jingu Shrine in his enthronement ceremony.
When the 41st U.S. President George H. W. Bush came to Japan in 1992, pairing with the Crown Prince Naruhito, he played two doubles tennis matches with the U.S. President paired with Michael Armacost, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and won both matches. Especially, the defeat in the second match seemingly gave President George H. W. Bush a shock. In the Court Dinner held at the official residence of Prime Minister on the same night, the first lady Barbara Bush joked about the President's defeat in the tennis matches in her speech made on behalf of the President who was down with influenza. As a result, these tennis matches became a topic of conversation.
The Emperor Akihito has grieved over the damages caused by natural disasters broke out nationwide along with the nation, having consoled the victims.
When Mt. Unzen erupted in 1991, he visited shelters to console evacuees from Shimabara City, with his knees on the floor of the shelters.
When the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake occurred on January 17, 1995, he visited the disaster-stricken area on January 31, only two weeks after the earthquake occurred, and sat in the correct manner on the floor of shelters while listening attentively to victims' words without putting on a pair of mules. Not only Japanese newspapers but also foreign newspapers made much of the Emperor's attitude, which caused a sensation on a global scale. He encouraged the victims as follows.
Although you must face various difficulties at present, but you will become happy someday.'
I strongly hope you hold on without yielding to the earthquake.'
It was reported that the victims shed tears with the Emperor's consolation. A girl, one of victims losing her head unexpectedly clung to the Empress Michiko. The Empress embraced the girl warmheartedly without scolding her. A photograph remains, showing the scene in which the Imperial couple is waving their hands from the window of a microbus to encourage the victims.
When islanders were allowed to return to the Miyake-jima Island in 2006, whose volcano had erupted in 2000, the Emperor visited the island, though there was still a risk that the volcanic gas might spew. The Emperor encouraged the islanders.
When September 11 attacks struck at the United States of America in 2001, he sent his sympathies to U.S. President George W. Bush through the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, James Baker. It was unprecedented that the emperor sent his sympathies to foreign countries for other reasons besides natural disaster.
He explained his unprecedented message sent to the U.S. as follows:
It is a rule of the Imperial household to respect precedents, but some of the precedents are those that had newly been created without having had their own precedents.'
I believe that the Imperial household should also keep pace with the current of the times flexibly, while making much of tradition.'
When the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake occurred in 2004, he visited the disaster-stricken area by helicopter of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. When the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake occurred in 2007, he not only visited the disaster-stricken area to console the victims, but also cancelled his summer vacation out of consideration for the victims. During the Imperial visit to Niigata Prefecture, he visited former Yamakoshi Village (present Nagaoka City) on September 8, 2008, where was seriously damaged by the earthquake in 2004. Having a friendly talk with victims after the inspection, he encouraged them. Moreover, the Emperor was pleased after being informed that the boy (two years old at the earthquake), who was rescued four days later from the occurrence of the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, is growing up soundly.
He granted Miyazaki Prefecture and Kagoshima Prefecture, both of which were severely damaged by typhoon No.14 in 2005, a sum of money as a gift for showing his sympathy.
As for the Noto Peninsula Earthquake in 2007, he has not yet visited the disaster-stricken area, but sent a message that 'I hope every victim would get over the difficulties.'
He visited Fukuoka Prefecture from October 29 to October 31 in 2007 to visit the area struck by the Fukuoka Prefecture Western Offshore Earthquakes, and visited temporary shelters to console the victims on October 29. The traffic regulation within Fukuoka City started from the morning of October 29 resulted in a traffic jam lasted until the evening of the same day. However, since the scale of guard was kept at the minimum, the city looked as usual. People in the city celebrated the Emperor's visit by holding the lantern procession in the evening of October 29. The Emperor also visited the Genkai Island having suffered the most serious damage in the Fukuoka Prefecture Western Offshore Earthquakes occurred on October 30, 2007.
Katsuo SHIMIZU, under whom the Emperor practiced the cello, died on February 20, 2002. He gave a performance on the cello to the Empress's piano accompaniment for thinking of the deceased. He also recollected the late Mr. Shimizu's personality in an interview.
Despite being busy everyday, the Emperor Akihito is known for his broad knowledge over mundane affairs.
There is an episode as follows: When an entertainer "Mr. Demon Kogure" became a topic of conversation between the Emperor Akihito and a musician, the Emperor showed the musician that he knew who "Mr. Demon Kogure" is by saying 'Mr. Demon Kogure is an entertainer putting on white makeup, isn't he?'
This episode was later introduced in a radio program with Mr. Demon Kogure in the program host. However, given the fact that Mr. Demon Kogure graduated from Waseda University, as well as being well versed in professional Sumo wrestling and Japanese culture, it comes as no surprise that the Emperor knew who Mr. Demon Kogure is.
As shown in the above-mentioned Mr. Demon Kogure's episode, the present Emperor knows a lot about public entertainments and popular music and the sports. When guests from the public entertainment and music world and the sport world are invited to the tea parties held at the Imperial Palace, or to the garden parties held at Akasaka Imperial Garden, the Emperor asks them questions in detail.
Therefore, those guests asked by the Emperor frequently make comments to the press that 'I am quite embarrassed because his Majesty had so profound knowledge of me as to make me surprise.'
However, he sometimes shows a friendly atmosphere. When a reporter missed the Emperor while climbing a mountain, who was accompanying the Emperor for collecting data, the reporter tried to find him by calling 'Dad' by mistake. Then, by unexpectedly turning up behind the reporter while saying comically 'Dad is here,' the Emperor gave him a startle.
During the Imperial visit to Saga Prefecture in 2007, there was an episode that some citizens welcomed the Emperor spontaneously started singing Japan's national anthem. The Emperor proposed stopping for a short period to the Empress, and listened to the anthem with her. The Imperial couple waved their hands as a token of their gratification, when those citizens finished singing. During the visit, the Emperor received hearty welcome, such as the lantern procession.
The Emperor Akihito is fond of driving a car. In the past, he used to drive two cars regularly, the Nissan Skyline manufactured by Prince Motor Company (now Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.) and the SOHC manufactured by Daimler Motor Company. By the way, the original company of the Prince Motor Company changed its name to "Prince Motor Company" by adopting the title "prince" for commemorating the investiture of the Crown Prince Akihito.
When he was a single, he enjoyed driving on his cherished car, the Nissan Gloria. In Karuizawa, he also drove a schoolmate's own car, the Alfa Romeo. He has driven various cars such as the Honda Accord, the Honda Legend, and Honda INTEGRA, all of which were manufactured by Honda Motor Co., Ltd., in addition to the above-mentioned cars.
When he went for a drive to Karuizawa, he was attended by Japanese police officers getting on patrol cars. Those patrol cars were sedan, whose performance was inferior to that of the Crown Prince Akihito's car, so that the police officers had to drive with all their might for fear of falling behind him.
He drove nine series of Prince (a car manufactured by Prince Motor Company) in all. His fondness for the Prince resulted in the adoption of the Nissan Prince Royal manufactured by Prince Motor Company as an official state car (a car used by the government to transport the nobility) in the past.
Aritsune TOKUDAIJI, who is known as an automotive commentator, described in his book an astonishing experience that he encountered the Crown Prince Akihito driving the Nissan Skyline, coming from the opposite direction.
It is reported that the Emperor even now drives the Volkswagens type 1 once in a long while. He is reported to have received the elderly driver sticker in 2007 after attending a lecture to teach the elders the driving technique.
His close relationship with cars leads him to the official duties related to cars, such as visiting a Tachograph manufacturing plant.
He also shows deep interest in railway. He reportedly wrote a thesis on the history of railway in Europe when he was a student of Gakushuin University. An official state car (a coach prepared for the Imperial family) is also prepared. However, as the Emperor detests being treated exclusively, he often uses a first-class car of ordinary train as an Imperial coach, instead of the official state car.
As shown in a photograph, he had an experience of sitting down on a cockpit of a warplane at Canada Air force Base.
He once proposed visiting Ginza to his schoolmate Akira HASHIMOTO (a cousin of former Prime Minister, Ryutaro HASHIMOTO) in his school days (to be exact, on the day when he finished the final examination in his third year of Gakushuin High School).
Asked, 'When shall we go there?' by the schoolmate, he replied, 'Let's go to Ginza today.'
Furthermore, making a proposal to take one more schoolmate (Takahiko SENKE) out, he obtained SENKE's consent.
The schoolmates cheated the Crown Prince's attendants including the newly appointed chamberlain of the Crown Prince, Minoru HAMAO, by saying 'We would like to show His Highness around Mejiro tonight.'
The three succeeded in throwing those attendants off the track, and wandered about Ginza.
During the visit, they happened to meet four boy students of Keio University who were reported to have saluted the Crown Prince by saying 'Good evening, His Highness.'
After meeting Mr. Hashimoto's girlfriend at a high-class teahouse 'Hanabasha' (literally meaning, a carriage filled with flowers), they ordered coffee, 99 yen for each cup, by splitting the cost. Then, they visited a cake shop 'Colombin' to eat apple pie and drink tea. They enjoyed Ginza fully. However, as a matter of course, the plot laid by the three came to light soon. The whole Imperial Household Agency was thrown into an uproar after the attendants missed the Crown Prince. After locating his whereabouts, the agency placed police officers around the Crown Prince at intervals of 20-30 meters, with the result that they could no longer wander about Ginza. Needless to say, the schoolmates who took the Crown Prince out were rebuked severely by the police and people related to the Imperial household. This is the famous "Ginbura accident" (an accident that the Crown Prince wandered about Ginza).
The parade of the wedding highly contributed to the spread of the television that had still been an unattainable object in those days, when only five years had passed since commercial broadcasting was launched. A sales message of 'Let's watch the wedding parade on TV' was so famous that people have never forgotten it.
Asked about protein shortage spreading among Thai people by the Chakkri Dynasty, he donated 50 tilapias, a kind of freshwater fishes having characteristics of easily cultivable. Thailand succeeded in breeding the tilapia so much that the country donated as many as 500,000 tilapias to Bangladesh having brought to a food crisis. The overseas Chinese later applied a Chinese name '仁魚' to tilapia ("仁" is the Chinese characters used in the name of the Emperor Akihito [明仁], and the Chinese characters "魚" means a fish).
Asked by Indonesian government, he also bred Butterfly Koi (Carp) through selective breeding of carps when in his Crown Prince days.
He visited Yasukuni-jinja Shrine five times in his Crown Prince days, but after the enthronement, he has not visited there.
However, he said to Toshiaki NANBU, the chief priest of Yasukuni-jinja Shrine, 'Please take care of everything concerning Yasukuni-jinja Shrine.'
He loved dishes using Tofu (bean-curd) as a foodstuff in his childhood. After he had grown up, he liked Chinese cuisine.
The Crown Prince is so reliable and noble that not only I have faith in him from the heart, but also I feel reverence for him.'
Michiko SHODA made this remark when she was asked about the Crown Prince's personality in a press conference for announcing the Crown Prince's and her engagement on November 27, 1958. It became a fashionable turn of phrase.
I believe that I would gradually find the ideal image of the Imperial family by learning the history of the emperor.'
He made this remark in 1977, when he asked about the art of kingcraft.
Observing the Constitution of Japan with the nation, I sincerely hope for Japan's further prosperity, global peace and the promotion of the welfare of the people.'
This remark was made on January 9, 1989 at the rite of audience after the enthronement.
The Constitution of Japan provides that the Emperor is the symbol of Japan, as well as the symbol of the unity of the Japanese people.'
Considering this provision and the successive emperors always wishing people's happiness, I believe that serving the country and the people to the best of my ability is the duty imposed on the Emperor.'
Although activities of the Emperor should not change dramatically with the times in principle, it is undeniable that some of them may undergo a change with the times.'
He made this remark on December 18, 1998 at the press conference held for commemorating the Emperor's Birthday.
I am worrying that everyone must feel cold in the rain.'
This remark was made on November 20, 1999 in the ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the enthronement.
I personally realize the relationship with the Republic of Korea, because there is a description in Shoku Nihongi (Chronicle of Japan Continued) that the real mother of the Emperor Kanmu was a descendant of Muryeong-wang of Baekje.'
He made this remark on December 18, 2001 at the press conference held for commemorating his birthday.
This remark made the headlines in South Korea, attracting many South Koreans' strong interest. Refer to the article of the Emperor Kanmu for the detail of the Emperor's remark on this issue.
For me, as a person descended from Shimazu family, it was a painful task to know fully the history of Okinawa Prefecture.'
However, I have tried to do my best, keeping the following belief in my mind: The more difficult the task is, the more efforts I must make so that I can deepen my understanding of Okinawa, having a proper understanding of the feelings of people in Okinawa.'
In line with my above-mentioned belief, I want to help people in Okinawa Prefecture as much as possible.'
He made this remark on December 18, 2003 at the press conference held for commemorating his birthday.
The wife of Prince Kuniyoshi, Chikako--the mother of the Empress Kojun who was the mother of the present Emperor Akihito--came from Shimazu family.
In the end, I believe that those matters (flying the national flag and singing the national anthem in unison) should not be forced on anybody.'
He made this remark, following the comment made by Kunio YONENAGA, a member of The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education, 'Making schools all over Japan raise the national flag as well as sing the national anthem in unison is my work.'
The Emperor made the above-mentioned remark on October 28, 2004 in the garden party in the autumn.
With many groundless opinions expressed following the Crown Prince Naruhito's remark that his wife Crown Prince Masako's personality has been neglected, I was frequently depressed.'
The Emperor made this remark following the Crown Prince's above-mentioned remark. This Emperor's remark was quoted from the answer in writing released on the birthday in 2004.
From the beginning of the Showa period to the end of World War II in 1945, Japan had hardly enjoyed peaceful times.'
I believe that trying to understand correctly the past history along with that of the postwar period is extremely important for the Japanese, which is also quite essential when the Japanese aim to be a member of global society.'
I think that the female Imperial members have played their part tangibly as well as intangibly to a considerable degree.'
(omission of a sentence) I believe that it is not only the tradition of the Imperial household but also my ideal image of the Emperor and the Imperial family to discharge duties while praying for the nation's happiness, as well as trying to share joys and sorrows with the nation.'
This is the remark made on December 19, 2005 at the press conference held for commemorating his birthday.
The state of things of the prewar period and that of today greatly differ in some respects.'
This remark was made in reply to the question from representative of Foreign Press in Japan, 'Will including the expression of patriotism following the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education result in the conversion of the education style to the prewar nationalistic education?'
The Emperor made this remark on June 6, 2006 at the press conference held ahead of the visit to Singapore and the Kingdom of Thailand.
Unfortunately, we have few chance to see our grandchild Imperial Princess Aiko who has just become a kindergarten child, because she often catch cold.'
(omission of a sentence) I hope that we can see her more often, and that we and Aiko can talk freely in someday.'
This remark was made on December 20, 2006 at the press conference commemorating his birthday.
The bluegill is the fish that I brought to Japan from the United States of America to donate the laboratory of the Fisheries Agency about 50 years ago.'
Cultivation of bluegill was started with large expectation that the fish is useful as edible fish, but I regret that the bluegill has inflicted serious damage on the ecosystem of Japan.'
This remark was made at the National Meeting for the Healthy Ocean (全国豊かな海づくり大会) in 2007.
It is a matter of course for all family members to support the sick Crown Princess (Masako).'
While praying for the health of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, both of whom are ordained to assume heavy position in the future, the Empress and I would like to assist them as much as possible.'
This Emperor's remark was quoted from the answer in writing released on the birthday, December 23, 2008.
I am happy because the Empress and I have exchanged opinions with each other on everything, including the issue of what each of us should be.'
The Empress also has interesting and joyful character in addition to her serious nature.'
Therefore, I remember that our life has always been full of laughter.'
(omission of a sentence) I think I could form myself of today by absorbing a lot through the window opened after the marriage.'
With gratitude to the Empress, I would like to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary with her.'
This remark was made on April 8, 2009 at the press conference commemorating the 50th wedding anniversary.