UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Emperor Naruhito

Japan entered a new era on May 1 when Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the throne.

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stepped down from the throne in April 2019, just after their diamond-wedding anniversary. Of course, their marriage continued, but the 31-year Heisei period came to an end. On 01 December 2017, a meeting of the Japanese Imperial Household Council, which was chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and included parliamentary leaders, supreme court judges and imperial family members, decided the date of Emperor Akihito's abdication to be on 30 April 2019, and announced that Crown Prince Naruhito will accede to the throne the following day. In a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that a new era would not be named until next year, to avoid unnecessary hype.

It was reported on July 13, 2016, that Emperor Akihito intended to abdicate the throne in favor of his first son, Crown Prince Naruhito. As there is no provision on abdication in the Imperial House Act, the law that governs the operations of Imperial institutions, an amendment to the Act would be required before the abdication can occur. The Imperial House Act has not had a major amendment since its enactment during the Allied Occupation (1945-1952) just after World War II; the only change was a minor technical amendment in 1949 under Act No. 134 of 1949. Its amendment was discussed once, in 2005. At that time, Emperor Akihito did not have a male grandchild. Since the Act states that only male heirs can be Emperors (art. 1), the absence of a future Emperor was a concern.

Japan’s Imperial institution has a long history that extends back to ancient times, and views on it differ from individual to individual depending on their interpretation of history and beliefs about the character of the State. For Japan with its system enshrining the Emperor as symbol of the State and the unity of the people, stability of the Imperial succession is an issue that affects the country’s very foundations.

Naruhito was expected to support his father’s positions in support of the pacifist constitution and in maintaining a conciliatory approach in dealing with concerns from Japan’s neighbors. When his ideology on peace is needed for some cases, there is a possibility that he can play a role as a young power broker which could influence the current situation. In 2015, during a discussion about Japan’s participation in forcing as many as 200,000 women into sexual slavery during the war, Naruhito seemed to rebuke nationalists who tried to deny or minimize these claims. “It is important to look back [at] our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took,” he said.

The Crown Prince was born on February 23, 1960, and is the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He was the first child in the Imperial family to be raised by his parents. Traditionally, children had to live separately. After graduating from a Japanese university, he went to the UK to study at the prestigious University of Oxford. He also attended graduate school in Japan, a first for a member of the Imperial family. On his 31st birthday, he officially became Crown Prince. At a ceremony, he said, "I'm aware of the significance of my duty as Crown Prince and will perform it to the best of my ability."

In 1993, he got engaged to Masako Owada. In a news conference, she said, "The Crown Prince said I might have fears and worries about joining the Imperial family, but he promised to protect me with all his might throughout our lives." Crown Prince Naruhito said "If there is any hardship, I want to be by her side and protect and help her with all my power". They married in June of that year and eight years later had a daughter, Princess Aiko. The Crown Prince was 41 at the time. Since then, they've built their family. And Crown Prince Naruhito has supported the Crown Princess, who has been undergoing medical treatment.

When it comes to his duties, the Crown Prince has shown he wants to continue along the path of his father. He has repeatedly visited places affected by World War Two, such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa. Facing the history of the war, he has wished for peace. "I have often heard from Their Majesties, my parents, about the suffering of war and the preciousness of peace, and although these great wars took place before I was even born, I believe that we should resolve wholeheartedly to see to it that such wars will never be repeated again in the future," he said.

At the Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Birthday February 19, 2010, the question was asked "In the Analects of Confucius, 50 is the age at which one is said to "know the will of heaven." Please share with us your frank feelings at the moment and your hopes, both public and personal."

His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince stated that "I feel surprise that I have already turned 50, while at the same time I also feel that life has just started and I must continue to educate myself.

"The words "know the will of heaven" by Confucius which were quoted at the beginning of the question mean to know the purpose of one's birth into this world. However, I believe that these words also hold the meaning that one should not only know this purpose, but should also use that knowledge for the world, in other words, for the good of mankind. Speaking of words by Confucius, I believe His Majesty The Emperor answered in response to a question at the press conference held on the occasion of his 50th birthday with the words of Confucius, "The master's duty is loyalty and compassion, nothing less." "Loyalty and compassion" signifies one's own sincerity and the consideration towards others which stems from it. His Majesty The Emperor states that this spirit is extremely important, not only for each individual, but that a life of loyalty and reciprocity is extremely important for the country of Japan as well. Based on the teaching of "loyalty and compassion" and "to know the will of heaven," I have reaffirmed my resolve to do what I can for the world and for the people, while keeping consideration for others in my heart.

"Speaking of teachings, at the press conference on the occasion of my graduation from university I talked about learning of the achievements of past Emperors, during which I learned about the teachings of Emperor Hanazono, the 95th Emperor of Japan. In a letter to the then Crown Prince - who went on to became Emperor Kogon - Emperor Hanazono explained the importance of cultivating virtue and that in order to do so one must pursue their studies. I recall that I was greatly inspired by this. The studies of which Emperor Hanazono spoke were not simply studies for the purpose of becoming learned. He used the term "studies" to include learning the morals and courtesy that one should learn as a human being.

"I believe what His Majesty The Emperor has stated repeatedly is important: to think back to the path traveled by past Emperors and to keep in mind the stipulation of the Constitution of Japan that "the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People," while sharing the joys and sorrows of the people, hoping for their happiness, thinking about how a symbol should be seen, and continuing to seek the answer to what the ideal role of the Emperor should be. As for new official duties that are in step with the times, Japanese society has changed greatly in the past 50 years and it will continue to change in the future. I believe that social requirements for official duties will also change in accordance with this and I believe that it is important to respond to the new requirements of society. In the past, I have talked on subjects such as water issues, environmental issues, and children and senior citizens, as subjects of future interest. However, I believe that society's needs for new official duties will not be limited to these fields and I intend to take on these duties seriously."

The Emperor's eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito had only one child, four-year-old Princess Aiko. Japan's long wait for a male successor to the Chrysanthemum throne came to an end early on the morning of 06 September 2006, as Princess Kiko, wife of the Emperor's second son, gave birth to the Imperial family's first male heir in 41 years. His birth was likely to bring an end to any remaining debate on revising Japan's Imperial Household Law to allow females and matrilineal descendants to ascend the throne. Public reaction was overwhelmingly positive, notwithstanding some sniping about the costs of supporting the royal family in the media.

The new baby stood third in line after his uncle and father, according to Japan's Imperial Household Law, while Prince Hitachi, the Emperor's brother, moved down to fourth. The 1947 Law bars females, as well as males of matrilineal descent, from assuming the throne. Only nine children had been born into the family in the past 40 years, and all were female. With no male members of the Imperial family under the age of forty, and collateral noble families descended from earlier emperors excluded from the line of succession, there was a possibility that there would be no eligible successor to the throne after the deaths of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino.

The child of a diplomat, Masako Owada married Prince Naruhito in a traditional Japanese ceremony in 1993. For years, rumors swirled around the notoriously private princess. Once a young Harvard grad with a promising career as a diplomat ahead of her, she gave it all up to marry Crown Prince Naruhito. And then – she vanished from public life. Princess Masako withdrew behind the walls of the Imperial Palace, amid reports that she had suffered a nervous breakdown and speculation that it was the result of having not produced a male heir. The princess lived a life largely in seclusion since 2002. Princess Masako did not accompany the Crown Prince in his 10 to 17 July 2007 visit to Mongolia, as she was still recovering from stress-induced depression that had kept her from fulfilling most of her official duties for several years. The eight-day duration of the Prince's visit was atypical, being roughly twice the usual duration of a similar visit elsewhere, surprising even the Imperial Household Staff.

"Taking care of my health, I have tried to fulfill my public and private duties as much as possible this year," the Crown Princess, who turned 52 on 11 December 2015, said in a rare public statement. "With the help of people around me, I would like to continue making efforts to recover," she added.

On November 12, 2009 the Emperor, along with the Empress, held a press conference prior to a government-sponsored ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of his accession. On the question of imperial succession, the Emperor emphasized that any matter that concerns the system must be left to Diet discussions. The Emperor also expressed his desire to entrust the next generation with the question of the modalities of the imperial family, saying: "It is important that the views of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino who supports the Crown Prince are respected."

Naruhito is best known for his passionate defense of Masako, who disappeared from public view in 2003 with shingles and what was later described as an "adjustment disorder." In 2004 he set off an unusually public feud with the Imperial Household, an agency responsible for organizing the activities of the royal family, by saying that Masako, who had hoped to use her diplomatic experience as crown princess, had "totally exhausted herself" trying to adapt to palace life. "It is true there were moves to negate Masako's career and her personality, which was influenced by that career," he said.

Naruhito's defense continued through the years, during which tabloids occasionally criticized his wife for slacking off. In 2008 he pleaded for understanding, saying, "Masako is continuing to make utmost efforts with the help of those around her." In 2012, Masako, who spent large parts of her early life overseas and speaks several languages, acknowledged that she had been battling a stress-related illness for a long time. Her public appearances are still sporadic.

Crown Princess Masako, who is receiving treatment for a stress-induced illness, attended a greenery conservation event in Chiba Prefecture with her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, 12 June 2016. It was her first appearance for an official duty outside the capital since October 2015, when the couple traveled to Kagoshima Prefecture. Crown Prince Naruhito addressed the meeting in the city of Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, stressing the importance of involvement of a broad range of people in order to conserve greenery and water resources. The couple also took part in a tree planting ceremony held in a square within the park where the event was staged. From 21st July to 22nd July, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito, HIH Crown Princess Masako and HIH Princess Aiko visited Nara Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture.

On 21st July, they visited the Mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu, the First Emperor of Japan in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the death of Emperor Jimmu. On that day, they visited Kyoto Imperial Palace, the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan until the Meiji Restoration, when the capital functions were moved to Tokyo in 1869.

On 1st August 2016, HIH Crown Prince Naruhito and HIH Crown Princess Masako attended the Ceremony to commemorate Water Day took place in Tokyo.

His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

  • Name
    • Naruhito
  • Lineage
    • Eldest Son of His Majesty the Emperor
  • Date of Birth
    • 23 February 1960
  • The Personal Title for Young Members(Been conferred in accordance with the Imperial Family's tradition of appellation)
    • Prince Hiro(Hiro-no-Miya)
  • Coming of Age Ceremony
    • 23 February 1980 (at the age of 20)
  • Investiture as Crown Prince
    • 23 February 1991
  • Honorary Positions
    • Honorary Vice-President of the Japanese Red Cross Society
  • Education
    • 1982 - Graduated from the Department of History in the Faculty of Letters of Gakushuin University
    • 1983-1985 - Studied abroad at Merton College, University of Oxford, UK
    • 1988 - Completed first part of doctorate at the Graduate School of Humanities of Gakushuin University
    • 1992 - Became guest researcher in the archives of Gakushuin University

Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess

  • Name
    • Masako
  • Lineage
    • Eldest Daughter of Mr. Hisashi Owada
  • Date of Birth
    • 9 December 1963
  • Honorary Positions
    • Honorary Vice-President of the Japanese Red Cross Society
  • Education
    • 1985 - Graduated from the Faculty of Economics of Harvard University, USA
    • 1987 - Left Tokyo University
    • 1987 - Entered Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • 1988-1990 - Studied abroad at Balliol College, University of Oxford, UK
    • 1993 - Left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs


  • Imperial House Council
    • 19 January 1993
  • Engagement Ceremony (Nosai no Gi)
    • 12 April 1993
  • Marriage
    • 9 June 1993


  • Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko
  • Date of Birth : 1 December 2001
  • Personal Title for Young Members : Princess Toshi (Toshi-no-Miya)
  • Second year student at Gakushuin Girl's Junior High School

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 30-04-2019 17:50:35 ZULU