Japan Embassy celebrates Emperor’s Day

JAPAN’S Embassy in the Philippines celebrated on Tuesday the 23rd anniversary of His Imperial Majesty Akihito’s accession to the throne. This holiday will be observed on December 23 in Japan.

The embassy celebrated the occasion with a reception at the North Forbes Park, Makati City, residence of Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe, which was attended by the diplomatic corps, members of academe, National Artists F. Sionil Jose and Napoleon Abueva, and members of the foreign-affairs press corps.

The celebration was highlighted by the latest tourism campaign of the government of Japan and the finest Japanese sake, Wagyu beef, comestibles and produce were presented to guests at the reception.

The Japanese trace the lineage of their emperors back over 2,000 years. In 1948 the emperor’s birthday was established as a movable national holiday, dependent on the reigning emperor’s birth date. Emperor Akihito was born on December 23, 1933, and he ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne in 1989.

Emperor Akihito is the 125th emperor, according to Japan’s traditional order of succession and is the world’s only reigning monarch with the title of emperor. On Emperor’s Day, many Japanese and tourists from all over the world gather at the Imperial Palace to see the emperor and the imperial family. This event and Ippan Sanga on January 2 are the only two occasions in the year when the general public is permitted to enter the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace.

After the emperor concludes his brief greeting, the crowd waves flags and the imperial family waves back. The emperor and his family enjoy the greatest respect from the Japanese people.


Crown Prince, Emperor

AKIHITO is the eldest son and the fifth child of Shōwa Emperor Hirohito and Empress Kōjun. Given the title Prince Tsugu as a child, Akihito was educated by private tutors. He later attended the elementary and secondary departments of the Peers’ School from 1940 to 1952.

Unlike his predecessors in the imperial family, Akihito did not receive a commission as an army officer, at the request of his father, Hirohito.

During the American firebombing raids on Tokyo in March 1945, Akihito and his younger brother, Prince Masahito, were evacuated from the city. During the American occupation of Japan following World War II, Akihito was tutored in English and Western manners by Elizabeth Gray Vining.

Akihito studied briefly at the Department of Political Science at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, though he never received a degree. His formal investiture as crown prince was held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on November 10, 1952. In June 1953 Crown Prince Akihito represented Japan at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London.

Following his father’s interest in marine biology, Akihito is a published ichthyological researcher. He has specialized studies within the taxonomy of the family Gobiidae and has written papers for scholarly journals, namely, Gene and the Japanese Journal of Ichthyology.

He has also written papers about the history of science during the Edo and Meiji eras, which were published in the journals Science and Nature. In 2005 a newly described goby was named Exyrias akihito in his honor.


Marriage and children

AKIHITO married Michiko Shōda, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburo Shōda, the president and, later, honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Co. She was the first commoner to marry into the imperial family. The emperor and the empress have three children: Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino and Princess Nori.

In his role as crown prince, Akihito and his wife, then-Crown Princess Michiko, made official visits to 37 countries. Akihito has compared the role of Japanese royalty to that of a robot and has expressed the hope that he would like to help bring the imperial family closer to the people of Japan.

After the death of Emperor Hirohito on January 7, 1989, Akihito formally acceded to the Chrysanthemum throne on November 12, 1990.

On September 6, 2006, the emperor celebrated the birth of his first grandson, Prince Hisahito, the third child of the emperor’s younger son. Prince Hisahito is the first male heir born to the Japanese imperial family in 41 years since his father Prince Akishino

The birth of Prince Hisahito could avert a possible succession crisis as Japan’s crown prince has only one daughter, Princess Aiko. Under Japan’s existing male-only succession law, Princess Aiko is not eligible for the throne. The birth of Prince Hisahito could mean that proposed changes to the law to allow Aiko to ascend the Chrysanthemum throne will not push through after they temporarily shelved following the announcement of Princess Kiko’s third pregnancy in February 2006.


Closer to the people, world

DESPITE being strictly constrained by his constitutional position, he also issued several wide-ranging statements of remorse to Asian countries, for their suffering under Japanese occupation, beginning with an expression of remorse to China made in April 1989, three months after the death of his father, Emperor Shōwa.

In June 2005, Akihito visited the United States territory of Saipan, the site of a battle in World War II from June 1 to July 9, 1944, now known as the Battle of Saipan.  Accompanied by his wife, Akihito offered prayers and flowers at several memorials—honoring the Japanese who died there, as well as American soldiers, Korean laborers and local islanders who perished during the conflict.

This was the first trip ever made by a Japanese monarch to a World War II battlefield abroad. The Saipan journey was received with high praise by the Japanese people, as were Akihito’s visits to war memorials in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa in 1995.

On December 23, 2001, during his annual birthday meeting with reporters, Akihito, in response to a reporter’s question about tensions with Korea, remarked that he felt a kinship with Koreans and explained that, in the Shoku Nihongi, the mother of Emperor Kammu (736-806) is related to Muryeong of Korea, king of Baekje. Akihito underwent surgery for prostate cancer in January 2003. Since ascending to the throne, he has made an effort to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people. Since then, the emperor and the empress of Japan have made official visits to 18 countries, as well as all 47 prefectures of their homeland.

In response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima I nuclear crisis, Akihito made a historic televised appearance urging his people not to give up hope and to help each other. He had never been featured in a pre-recorded televised message before, and this historic event showed the scale of these twin disasters.

Akihito and his empress also made a visit on March 30, 2011, to a temporary shelter housing refugees of the disasters to inspire hope in their people. This kind of event is also extremely rare.

Later in 2011, he was admitted to hospital for pneumonia. It was announced in February that Akihito underwent a coronary examination and successful heart bypass surgery. He was also among several monarchs invited to lunch with Queen Elizabeth II during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in May.

In Photo: Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe raise a toast of fine sake to the continued good health of Japan’s Emperor Akihito during a reception commemorating the emperor’s 79th birthday on December 4 at the Japanese envoy’s residence in North Forbes Park, Makati City. (Ryan Ricafort)