Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have three children: Crown Prince Naruhito, the eldest son (born in 1960); Prince Akishino, also known as Prince Aya (born in 1965); and Princess Nori, also known as Princess Sayako, (born in 1969). For part of their education the Emperor’s children were sent overseas to study and learn foreign languages. The all married commoners.

Emperor Akihito Emperor and his family live relatively frugally on an annual stipend of about $3 million. They live a life of privilege and relative luxury but are not showy or extravagant. You don’t see them racing around in sports cars and blowing money at casinos like stereotype European playboy princes.

According to the Times of London: “While young British royals chase posh totty and dress up as Nazis, their Japanese counterparts prefer birdwatching, rambling and the study of catfish....The Windsors make full use of the holiday season, killing woodland creatures with powerful firearms. For Emperor Akihito’s family, it is a time of perpetration for the Imperial Near Year’s Poetry Reading.”

Other members of the royal family include Emperor Hirohito's younger brother Prince Hitachi and his wife Princess Hanako as well as various princes and princess that were offspring of Emperor Hirohito's three brothers.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources on Emperor Akihito and the Royal Family : Wikipedia article on Emperor Akihito Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Empress Michiko Wikipedia ; The Royal Forums ; Modern Imperial family The Royal Forums on the Imperial Family of Japan ; Royalty/nu Links ; Imperial Family of Japan Blog imperialfamily.blog54 ;Unofficial Japan Royals Pages


Good Websites and Sources on the Emperor of Japan: Imperial Household Agency of Emperors of Japan ; article on the Japanese Emperor ; History on Unofficial Japan Royals ; Stanford SPICE links to articles (compiled in 2004) ; Japanese Creation Myth Washington State University ; ; Wikipedia article on the Emperor of Japan Wikipedia ; Opening Imperial Tombs ; Book: Secret History of the Yamato Dynasty

Imperial Palace in Tokyo Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Imperial Household ; Map / Good Article by Robert Poole, National Geographic, January 2001. Imperial Palace in Kyoto Imperial Household Agency ; Kyoto Travel Guide Shugakuin Imperial Villa: Imperial Household Agency / ; Photes ; Wikipedia Wikipedia Katsura Imperial Villa: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Imperial Household Agency ; Tour of Katsura Rikyu Katsura Rikyu ranked No. 2 as the best garden in Japan by the U.S. publication the “Journal of Japanese Gardening” . Ise Shrine ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ; Map: Japan National Tourism Organization JNTO and Ise area JNTO ; Ise Jingu Udo Jingu Shrine (near Nichinan 20 miles south of Aoshima In Miyazaki Prefecture) is located in a large sea-eroded cave on the Pacific Ocean at the tip of Cape Udo. It is dedicated to the mythological father of the mythological first emperor of Japan.

Family tree of Japanese royal family

Line of Succession to the Japanese Throne

Line of succession to the Japanese throne: 1) Crown Prince Naruhito (Emperor's oldest son); 2) Prince Akishino (Emperor's second son); 3) Prince Hisahito (Prince Akishino’s son); 4) Prince Hitachi (Emperor's brother); 5) Prince Mikasa (Emperor's uncle); 6) Prince Tomohito (Emperor's cousin); 7) Prince Katsura (Emperor's cousin);

Until Prince Hisahito was born to Prince Akishino, the Emperor’s second son in September 2006 all the young members of the royal family were girls. Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko have two daughters:Princess Mako (born in 1991) and Princess Kako (born in 1994). Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako have one daughter: Princess Aiko (born 2001)

Education for Japanese Royal Family

Gakushuin opened in 1847 near the end of the Edo Period near the Imperial Palace in Kyoto for children of court nobles and moved to Tokyo in 1868 as part of the Meiji restoration. Regulationd for Imperial family members — enacted in 1926 — stated that all Imperial children must attend Gakushuin University or Gakushuin Women’s College. The regulations were abolished after World War II but the tradition of sending royal children there continued. In 1963 a kindergarten was opened so the crown prince could attend.

These days more and more royals are bypassing Gakushuin family schools — whose curriculum is regarded as too old fashion and course offerings does not offer classes in fields the young royals are interested in — and choosing other schools. The crop of young royals that entered university in 2008 and 2009 chose Waseda University, Josai International University and Christian International University over Gakushuin University.

Prince Hisashito, perhaps the future Emperor, is attending Ochanomizu kindergarten in part because his parents, Prince Akishino (the crown princes brother) and Princess Kiko, wanted him to attend a school with a three-year kindergarten program rather than one with two year program like what Gakushuin’s. Imperial Family watchers say it is likely that the young prince will attend Ochanomizu primary school and become the first royal not to attend Gakushuin primary school.

In August 2009, the palace of the crown prince and his family were remodeled to be more energy efficient.

In December 2009, it was announced that three-year-old Prince Hisahito would attend Ochanomizu preschool, affiliated with Ocahnomizu University, rather than Gakushuin Kindergarten which most royal family members attended.

Crown Prince Naruhito

The heir to the Chrysanthemum throne is Crown Prince Naruhito. Born on February 23, 1960, he got his undergraduate degree in economic history from Gakushuin University in March 1982. He got a Masters in history at Gakushuin and studied commodity transport on the River Thames in the 18th century at Oxford University, where he said he spent “the happiest time of my life.”

On his time at Oxford Prince Naruhito said he enjoyed eating vinegar-drenched fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, complained that British students don’t properly clean their coffee cups, did his own laundry and said the haircuts he received from a local barber were awful. He said he often visited pubs with his friends and enjoyed being anonymous. In his memoirs he described his first and last trip to a disco. “I felt overwhelmed by the noise in the hall. On the dance floor I saw young people dancing all sorts of steps. I joined them doing my own kind of dance steps and finding myself face to face with a girl... I was not the least bored.”

Prince Naruhito lived with his parents until he was 30. During that time he had no known girlfriends. Mean rumors circulated that he was more interested in books than women and that he might possibly be impotent.

When asked about his marriage plans at a press conference he said, "In the sense of abstaining from luxuries, I prefer someone who has the same plain tastes and modest money sense as myself: a cultured person who values simple beauty. Not a person who wants to buy this and that at, say, Tiffany's in New York.”

The Crown Prince likes James Bond films and writing scholarly papers on medieval Japan. He plays the viola and violin and sometimes plays with an orchestra or chamber group in public. He enjoys hiking and is a member of the Japanese Alpine Club. In 2008, he scaled Mt. Fuji for the first time 2008. He tried in 1988 but gave up due to bad weather. Like the Emperor, he plays tennis.

The Crown Prince began engaging in official duties after his Coming of Age Ceremony in 1980 and became Crown Prince when his father ascend ti the throne in 1989. He was invested as Crown Prince on his 31st birthday in February 1991.

Duties, Health and Travels of Crown Prince Naruhito

Crown Prince Naruhito has been authorized to assume duties of the Emperor while the Emperor is traveling.

In June 2007, the crown prince had a benign polyp removed from his duodenum (part of the small intestine). Because the polyp was located in a difficult part of the body to reach he underwent surgery at Tokyo University Hospital and required a week of hospitalization.

In 2007 Prince Naruhito he traveled to Spain and Mongolia. In July 2007, he visited the family of sumo wrestler Asashoryu’s in Harhorin, Mongolia and drank koumiss with Asashoryu’s father in the family ger (tent). The prince told the family that his daughter Princess Aiko was a big fan of Asashoryu.

In the summer 2008, the crown prince made trips to Brazil and Tonga without his wife Princess Masako. In Tonga he attended the coronation of a new king there.

The Crown Prince has taken up an interest in water issues. In 2009 he made trips to Vietnam and Turkey to attend conferences on water issues there.

What About the Crown Prince Now that The Emperor Is Getting Frail?

With the Emperor getting older and the crown prince being tied down by his wife’s problems, Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor, has taken up many Imperial Japanese family duties. He was wife made an official visit to Costa Rica in 2011. After the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 they were as visible visiting survivors and evacuees as were the Crown Prince and Princess Masako.

At the December 2012 press conference, The Emperor said he was engaging in close monthly meetings with sons. "I have no worries, I feel rather reassured, because the crown prince and Prince Akishino will assume my duties when I become ill," the Emperor said at the press conference before his 79th birthday. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun , December 25, 2012]

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “His clear refusal to reduce his official duties shows the deep trust he places in Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino. Though a lack of communication with the crown prince was once a concern, the distance between the Emperor and his oldest son is said to have shrunk recently Since 2011, year, regular meetings between the Emperor, the crown prince, Prince Akishino and the agency chief at the Imperial Palace have been held, and meetings have been held once a month since July this year, according to a source close to the agency.

Revisions on the Imperial system, including one to allow the creation of Imperial branches by letting female members maintain their Imperial status after marriage, were discussed this year, and the review of the Emperor's funeral is also under way in accordance with his wishes. These and other important issues regarding the Imperial family's future seem to have been thoroughly discussed in the meetings.

After November 2011, when the Emperor was hospitalized with bronchitis, the crown prince conducted state affairs on his father's behalf on three occasions in three months, while Prince Akishino met people who received the autumn decorations for contributions to society on behalf of the Emperor. At a press conference in February, the crown prince said, "I would be happy to do anything if it would help to reduce the Emperor's burden.”

Crown Prince Naruhito Marries Princess Masako

On June 9, 1993, Prince Naruhito married Masako Owada, an intelligent young woman with an impressive resume and who is an inch taller than her husband.

The wedding was less of a media event than the wedding of Akihito and Michiko in 1959 but still quite a sensation, helping to renew public and media interest in the royal family. During the Shinto wedding ceremony, Princess Masako wore a waxed wig and 12 layers and 30-pounds of garments, including two ceremonial kimonos (one over the other) similar to ones worn by women in the 10th century by members of the Heian dynasty.

For their honeymoon, Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako made a dutiful visit to the Imperial shrine at Ise. Before the wedding Masako reportedly received 62 hours of private tutorials on matters such as the correct way to walk and the proper angle for an Imperial bow.

Princess Masako

Princess Masako is daughter of a career diplomat and former ambassador to the United Nations. Her grandfather was the president of a chemical company that poisoned hundred of people by dumping toxic mercury into Minamata Bay in Kyushu. Her ancestors were samurai. Other members of her family include prominent professors, scholars and headmasters.

Masako speaks six languages: English, Russian, French, Japanese, Spanish and German. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford and received a law degree from Tokyo University, Japan’s No. 1 university. Her thesis at Harvard was entitled "External Adjustments to Import Price Shocks: Oil in Japanese Trade." One of her professors at Harvard told the New Yorker, Masako "was a quiet, unusually intelligent young woman and a very hard worker, unassuming and a bit shy, thoroughly assimilated into the Harvard environment of the day."

After completing her studies, Masako worked for the Japanese Foreign Ministry, performing such duties as interpreting for U.S. Secretary of States James A. Baker III and putting together position papers on controversial foreign trade issues such as the sale of semi-conductors between the United States and Japan.

Masako loves sports, music and the outdoors. A natural athlete, she skied, enjoyed hiking, played tennis and once tried out for an all-girl wrestling team under the name Nancy. At Oxford, she was the coxain on the all-male, rowing eights.

Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article on Princess Masako Wikipedia ; Hello Magazine ; Masako Book ; Blog Report ; Wikipedia article on Princess Aiko Wikipedia

Crown Prince Naruhito Woos Princess Masako

Prince Naruhito met Masako Owada, when she was 22, in October 1986 at an afternoon tea in honor of Princess Elena of Spain. It is said he immediately took a fancy to her. Recalling the meeting he later said, "She is so pleasant, she makes me unaware of the passing of time."

Prince Naruhito spent six years trying to convince Masako to marry him. The process began with a discreet meetings and an introduction to the Emperor and Empress, who were "favorably impressed." The meetings between the prince and Masako were always in the company of chaperons.

The prince's first proposals and later proposals were politely turned down for more than five years. Finally in December, 1992 Masako accepted. In a phone call before the acceptance, the Empress reportedly promised Masako there would be no mother-in-law problems. If Masako had turned down the offer of marriage, it was rumored, she and her family would have been ostracized.

Princess Masako as Princess

In her debut as Princess, Masako sat between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin at a palace banquet for the leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations. She spoke Russian with Yeltsin and English with Clinton and no doubt probably translated for them. She also small talked in French with Françious Mitterrand.

Many people have commented what a tragedy it was for her to get married and sacrifice her career as a diplomat. People hoped that she would be a Japanese blend of Hillary Clinton and Princess Diana. Many were disappointed. Rather than challenge the Imperial status quo she dutifully played her role and disappeared into the “gilded cage,” rarely speaking in public or making public appearances.

Unlike some members of the Imperial family in the past, she kept in touch with her old friends and they came over tea and meals at the palace residence. Masako reportedly spent much of her time writing waka, traditional Japanese poetry that "members of the royal family are expected to master."

Crown Prince, Princess Masako and Married Life

The marriage between Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako appears to be a happy one. In July 1994, the couple moved into the new Crown Prince's residence in the Akasaka Palace compound in Tokyo. They raised two Akitas — Pippi and Mari.

The crown prince and princess were photographed hiking and skiing in the Japanese Alps. They toured the Middle East in November 1994 and again in January 1995 and made a favorable impression. In 1999 the attended the wedding for Belgium’s crown prince.

Crown Princess broke tradition by no longer bowing when her husband stepped out of out a car. She held her first press conference without her husband three years after her marriage (compared to seven years for her mother-in-law Empress Michiko).

In 2000, Princess Masako wrote the following poem about her husband:

“With my husband as my guide through
these seven years,
Our words of the heart grow deeper with
each passing day.”

In August 2009, the palace of the crown prince and his family were remodeled to be more energy efficient.

Princess Aiko, the Crown Prince and Emperor

In February 2008, the crown prince was told by the Imperial Household Agency that the Emperor wanted to see Princess Aiko more and that the crown prince and his family should visit the Emperor more often. Afterwards the crown prince vowed to visit his parents more frequently.

There are reports that the crown prince and the Emperor don’t communicate much and the comments made in public by the crown prince have upset and unsettled the Emperor and Empress. The Imperial Household Agency has reportedly urged the crown prince on many occasions to visit the Emperor more and the request was not fulfilled. There have been hints that the Empress’s health problems have been a result of strains between her and the crown prince’s family.

According to Imperial Household Agency the crown prince’s family visited the Emperor only three times in 2007 on a voluntary basis in addition to royal events they were expected to attend with the Emperor. That year there were 16 confirmed visits including royal birthday parties, top spinning, rice planting and dinners. By contrast the family of Prince Akishino visited the Emperor 45 times in the same period. When the Emperor was crown prince he and his family used to visit the Imperial Palace once a week.

Prince Akishino

Prince Akishino is Emperor Akihito's second oldest son. He is tall, handsome, with a thin mustache and long , streaky, gray hair that is parted in the middle. He holds a doctorate from the Graduate University for Advanced Studies. In his thesis he investigated the origins of domesticated chickens and their dispersal patterns. He and his wife Princess Kiko have two daughters Princess Mako (born in 1991) and Princess Kako (born in 1994) and son (See Below).

Prince Akishino, also known as Prince Fumihito, was the first child of the Emperor’s children to get married. His wife, Kiko Kawashima, is the daughter of an economics professor. The prince met her at a bookstore at a Gakushuin University. He proposed to her on a pedestrian crossing about a year later but the were not married until four years after that, in 1990.

When Prince Akishino he was told he should postpone his marriage and let his older brother gets married first he threatened to leave the royal family Princess Mako was born in 1991 and Princess Kako was born in 1994. Princess Mako entered the International Christian University in Tokyo in 2010 and spent the summer of that year studying English at the University College in Dublin, Ireland.

Prince Akishino once skipped a state dinner with President Clinton so that he could go to Thailand to study catfish. There were rumors that the real reason he went to Thailand was to visit a mistress he kept there.

With the Emperor getting older and the crown prince being tied down by his wife’s problems, Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor, has taken up many Imperial Japanese family duties. He was wife made an official visit to Costa Rica in 2011. After the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 they were as visible visiting survivors and evacuees as were the Crown Prince and Princess Masako.

New Prince

On September 6, 2006, Princess Kiko gave birth to her third child by cesarean section. The child, a boy named Prince Hisahito, was the first prince to be born in 41 years. The last one was his father. The birth brought an end to the debate on revision of the imperial succession law — which says that only males in the paternal line can become emperor — which would have allowed a woman to take the Japanese throne.

Prince Hisahito weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces at birth. He was delivered by caesarean section three weeks before the due because the princess’s cervix was partially clogged by the placenta.

Newspapers printed millions of supplements to spread the news of the birth; the rich and powerful elite of Japan offered their congratulations; and Imperial enthusiasts gathered in front of the royal palace, waving flags and shouting “Banzai!”

The birth caused divisions between Kiko supporters and Masako supporters. One Tokyo area housewife told Time. “Princess Kiko should have supported in Masako... But she is like a chameleon, Whatever s required, she’ll do...That’s why I dislike her.”

A Kiko backer told Time, “The Emperor had been worried and depressed that the crown princess had no more children” so Kiko “decided to have another child to lift the burden from the Emperor’s shoulders.” A lower house politician said, “Princess Kiko was courageous to give birth to a third child in a society of low birthrate. This is what women should learn from her.”

There is good chance that Prince Hisahito will be the Emperor in the future. He is currently third in line to the Imperial throne after Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino. After Prince Hisahito’s the birth, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko began having a more high-profile role. They visited more countries, received more media coverage and participated more in public events in Japan.

Prince Hisahito Starts to Grow Up

In December 2009, it was announced that three-year-old Prince Hisahito would attend Ochanomizu preschool, affiliated with Ocahnomizu University, rather than Gakushuin Kindergarten which most royal family members attended.

In September 2011, Prince Hisahito, the eldest son of Prince and Princess Akishino and the grandson of Emperor and Empress, celebrated his fifth birthday. According to the Imperial Household Agency, Prince Hisahito moved up to the second grade in his kindergarten, attached to Ochanomizu Women's University, in April. Prince Hisahito sometimes visits the first grade class to help with the younger children and holds their hands when he takes them to a playroom. At home the prince climbed a maple tree and played with his sisters, Princess Mako and Princess Kako. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 7, 2011]

The agency also reported Prince Hisahito is interested in animals and keeps a Japanese rhinoceros beetle, a stag beetle and a Japanese oak silkmoth that he received from the Empress. He often looks at illustrated guides to insects and fish and sometimes watches insects while listening to explanations by the Emperor and Prince Akishino.

The Imperial Household Agency is considering holding Hisahito's Chakko no Gi ceremony, in which children from the royal family dress in hakama (traditional formal clothes) and prayers for their future health are offered, this autumn. It had been postponed because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Prince Hisahito Celebrates 5th Birthday

Prince Hisahito celebrated his 5th birthday in November 2011. Born as the first male of the imperial family since 1965, Hisahito is third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne behind his father, Prince Akishino and his uncle, Crown Prince Naruhito. [Source: Mainichi Daily News , Kyodo, November 4, 2011]

To celebrate his big day, the Imperial Household Agency released photos of the young Prince playing on the grounds of his family’s home, Akasaka imperial estate. It was different from the usual shots of Hisahito simply wearing traditional Japanese attire. According to the IHA, the boy has an interest in fire engines, and he enjoys collecting insects. Hisahito raised a silkworm larva given to him by his grandmother, Empress Michiko. He also likes to look at picture books of insects and fish with his dad.

Prince Hisahito is a student at a kindergarten affiliated with Ochanomizu University in Tokyo. This is a break from tradition for the Japanese imperial children. Hisahito’s two older sisters — Princesses Mako and Kako — and his cousin, Princess Aiko, were or are students at the exclusive Gakushuin school.

Prince Hisahito to enter Ochanomizu University Elementary School

In December 2012, Kyodo reported: “Prince Hisahito, the son of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, will enter the elementary school affiliated with Ochanomizu University in Tokyo in April 2012, the Imperial Household Agency said. The 6-year-old prince, the third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, will be the first Imperial family member in the postwar period to attend an elementary school other than Gakushuin Primary School, which is also in the capital. [Source: Kyodo, December 15, 2012]

The agency said Prince Hisahito will be studying at Ochanomizu University Elementary School to be with many of his friends from kindergarten. The young prince has been attending the kindergarten affiliated with the university since spring 2010, being the first Imperial family member to do so. Prince Hisahito was formally accepted Friday afternoon to the elementary school after two days earlier undergoing an entrance examination based on behavioral observation, the agency said.

Princess Nori

Princess Nori, also known as Princess Sayako, is the third child and only daughter of Emperor and Empress. She obtained a degree in literature from Gakushuin University. After graduating she worked part time at the Yamashna Institute for Ornithology in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture.

In December 2004, Princess Nori formally announced her engagement to Yoshiki Kuroda, a former banker who works as a Tokyo metropolitan government official. He was a Gakushuin University classmate and close friend of Princess Nori’s brother Prince Akishino and had known Princess Nori since she was a little girl. The couple courted by playing tennis matches set up by a matchmaker. Even though he is related to a viscount he is regarded as a commoner

Princess Nori was 35 and Kuroda was 39 when the engagement was announced, When he formally proposed Kuroda said he said, “Would you do me the honor of being my wife?” The Princess said, “I accepted on the spot.” The move was significant in that many thought she might remain single her whole life and this in turn was viewed as significant because there are many women who are 35 or older and still unmarried in Japan and this is seen as one reason why Japan’s population is declining.

In November 2005. Princess Nori, and Yoshiki Kuroda were married in a Tokyo hotel. After she became married she lost her status as a member of the royal family and became a commoner. She took the name Sayako Kuroda and moved out of the Imperial Palace as stipulated by Imperial House Law into a condominium in Tokyo.

Other Members of the Royal Family

Prince Takamado, the Emperor's cousin and 7th in line to the throne, was one of the more popular members of the Japanese Imperial family. He died tragically at the age of 47 while playing squash at the Canadian Embassy. His death was caused by an abnormal cardiac condition.

Princess Kikuko, the widow of Prince Takamatsu and grandchild of the last Tokugawa shogun, died December 2004 at the age 92. Prince Takamatsu was the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito,

In October 2003, a con man and a female companion were arrested for fraud by pretending they were members of the royal family and staging a wedding in which they collected ¥12 million in wedding presents. The man, 41-year-old Yasuyuki Kitano, claimed he was Prince Arisugawa. He sent out 2,000 invitations. About 400 people attended. The largest cash gift was ¥300,000.

In July 2007, Prince Tomohito, a 61-Year-old cousin of the Emperor, said that he was undergoing treatment for alcoholism at the Imperial Household Hospital. In a speech he entitled the “Welfare of Our Country,” he said, “I’m Prince Tomohito, the alcoholic” and admitted drinking a lot in recent years because his anxiety over the imperial succession issue and problems within his own family.

Princess Mako Turns 20, Says She Will Try to Act Appropriately as Adult

In October 2011, Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, said on her 20th birthday Sunday that she will try to act appropriately as an adult as she has come of age. "I would like to try to conduct myself appropriately as an adult. I would like to take part in various events, including official ones," the princess said at a customary pre-birthday news conference held Saturday. Prince Akishino is the second son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He is the brother of the Crown Prince and second in line to the throne. [Source: Kyodo, December 2, 2011]

Princess Mako, a sophomore at International Christian University in Tokyo, became the 19th adult member of the Imperial Family on her birthday. Speaking about her experience this summer working as a volunteer in northeastern Japan that was hard hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the princess said, "Although I thought I had understood the situation after the disaster from media reports, I realized that there are some things you cannot understand until you actually go there."

The princess was a volunteer in a project offering lectures to children in towns in Iwate prefecture and the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. Talking about her father, she said he had a short temper as he used to scold her often, and said humorously, "Well, you could say that he had somewhat of a short fuse. But he has mellowed out these days." Asked about her goals or dreams for the future, she said she hopes to form her thoughts over time and by giving it a lot of thought during college.

In August 2012, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Princess Mako, a granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, would attend Scotland's University of Edinburgh as an exchange student from September to May 2012. The princess, 20, the oldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, is currently studying at International Christian University in Tokyo. In Edinburgh, she will focus mainly on art research and will stay in a campus dormitory, to the agency said. [Source: Kyodo, August 4, 2012]

Prince Tomohito Dies

In June 2012, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, died, the Imperial Household Agency said. He was 66. According to a Kyodo report “the prince, sixth in line to the Imperial throne, had gone through a series of operations for throat and tongue cancer since 1991, the most recent being his 16th cancer-related surgery to remove throat cartilage in March. His death brought the number of Imperial family members to 22, including Emperor Akihito. [Source: Kyodo, June 7, 2012]

“Prince Tomohito, nicknamed "the Bearded Prince," described his fight against cancer in his book "Gan wo Kataru" ("Talking about Cancer") published in 1991. He also served in various honorary positions, including as president of the Social Welfare Organization Saiseikai Imperial Gift Foundation. The outspoken prince often caused a public stir with his straightforward remarks. In 1982, he said he wanted to renounce his Imperial status to "devote myself to social activities." In November 2005, the prince expressed opposition to a government expert panel's proposal that the Diet revise the law to allow a female-line member of the Imperial family to ascend the throne. Prince Tomohito argued the idea goes against the long-held tradition of the male-line Imperial succession. Expressing any opinions on a political matter to be decided by the Diet is very rare for an Imperial family member. In 2007, the prince made public that he was suffering from and was fighting alcoholism. In 2008, he lost his voice due to a cancer-related surgical operation. Even so, he practiced making speeches in English by using an artificial larynx device that generates sounds.

“The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Prince Tomohito of Mikasa was active in a variety of fields, including advocating the welfare of disabled people, promoting sports and visiting areas struck by last year's earthquake and tsunami to offer emotional support to victims and relief workers. The prince was well liked by the public throughout his life for his free-spirited and outspoken nature, habitually telling others how much he liked people. "He often told me, 'I like people.' He was very considerate to others," said Shusaku Yasui, president of Kansai University of Social Welfare and secretary general of the welfare organization Hakuho-kai. Prince Tomohito served as chairman of Hakuho-kai. Yasui, 68, said the prince often sent him pages of written advice whenever he sought his input on the organization's activities, even if he was away from Japan at the time. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2012]

“The prince sometimes voiced strong opinions about disabled people, saying, for instance, that they should do what they can themselves without simply relying on other people. "We were very grateful, because the prince voiced his opinions out of consideration for us. I suppose he gave us such advice because he himself hated to be treated as special as an Imperial family member," said Yasui, who has hand and leg disabilities. The prince had great compassion for people in areas devastated by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake. Shortly after the disaster, an official of the Imperial family called Arinomamasha, a social welfare firm in Sendai that the prince served as president of, which runs a facility for people with severe impairments.

Image Sources: Imperial Household Agency, BBC, ABC, Time, Royal Forum

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013

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