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Emperor Akihito of Japan

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Emperor Akihito of Japan

For other uses, see Akihito (given name) and Akihito (genus).

The Emperor in 2009.
Emperor of Japan
Reign 7 January 1989 – present
Enthronement 12 November 1990
Predecessor Shōwa
Heir apparent Naruhito
Prime Ministers
Spouse Empress Michiko
Crown Prince Naruhito
Prince Akishino
Princess Nori
Full name
Akihito (明仁?)
House Imperial House of Japan
Father Shōwa
Mother Kōjun
Born (1933-12-23) 23 December 1933 (age 80)
Tokyo, Japan
Religion Shinto
Japanese Imperial Family

HIM The Emperor
HIM The Empress

HIH The Prince Hitachi
HIH The Princess Hitachi

HIH The Prince Mikasa
HIH The Princess Mikasa

Akihito (明仁?, born 23 December 1933) is the reigning Emperor of Japan (天皇 tennō?), the 125th emperor of his line according to Japan's traditional order of succession. He acceded to the throne in 1989.

In Japan, the emperor is never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Imperial Majesty the Emperor" (天皇陛下 Tennō Heika?) which may be shortened to "His Imperial Majesty" (陛下 Heika?). In writing, the emperor is also referred to formally as "The Reigning Emperor" (今上天皇 kinjō tennō?). The Era of Akihito's reign bears the name "Heisei" (平成), and according to custom he will be renamed "Emperor Heisei" (平成天皇 Heisei tennō; see "posthumous name") by order of the cabinet after his death. At the same time, the name of the next era under his successor will also be established.[1]


Akihito is the eldest son and the fifth child of Emperor Hirohito (the Shōwa Emperor) and Empress Kōjun. Titled Prince Tsugu (継宮 Tsugu-no-miya?) as a child, he was raised and educated by his private tutors and then attended the elementary and secondary departments of the Peers' School (Gakushūin) from 1940 to 1952.[2] Unlike his predecessors in the Imperial Family, he 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, he and his younger brother, Prince Masahito, were evacuated from the city. During the American occupation of Japan following World War II, Prince Akihito was tutored in English and Western manners by Elizabeth Gray Vining. He briefly studied at the Department of Political Science at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, though he never received a degree. Although he was Heir-Apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne from the moment of his birth, his formal Investiture as Crown Prince (立太子礼 Rittaishi-no-rei?) was held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on 10 November 1952. In June 1953, Crown Prince Akihito represented Japan at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London.[2]

Then-Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko made official visits to thirty-seven countries. As an Imperial prince, Akihito compared the role of Japanese royalty to that of a robot; and he expressed the hope that he would like to help in bringing the Imperial family closer to the people of Japan.[3]

After the death of Emperor Hirohito on 7 January 1989, the crown prince received the succession (senso).[4] Emperor Akihito formally acceded to the throne (sokui)[4] on 12 November 1990.[2] In 1998, during a state visit to the United Kingdom, he was invested with The Most Noble Order of the Garter.

On 23 December 2001, during his annual birthday meeting with reporters, the Emperor, in response to a reporter's question about tensions with Korea, remarked that he felt a kinship with Koreans and went on to explain that in the Shoku Nihongi the mother of Emperor Kammu (736–806) is related to Muryeong of Korea, King of Baekje.[5]

Emperor Akihito underwent surgery for prostate cancer in January 2003.[6] Since succeeding to the throne, Emperor Akihito has made an effort to bring the Imperial Family closer to the Japanese people. The Emperor and Empress of Japan have made official visits to eighteen countries, as well as all forty-seven Prefectures of Japan.[2]

In response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima I nuclear crisis, the Emperor made a historic televised appearance[7] urging his people not to give up hope and to help each other. The Emperor had never been featured in a prerecorded televised message before, and so this event is historic and showed the scale of this disaster.[8] The Emperor and the Empress also made a visit on Wednesday, 30 March 2011 to a temporary shelter housing refugees of the disaster, in order to inspire hope in the people. This kind of event is also extremely rare, though in line with the Emperor's attempts to bring the Imperial Family closer to the people.[9] Later in 2011, he was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia.[10] In February 2012, it was announced that the Emperor would be having a coronary examination.[11] He underwent successful heart bypass surgery on 18 February 2012.[12]

He was among several monarchs invited to lunch with Queen Elizabeth II during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in May 2012.

He was one of the monarchs invited to the coronation of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands on 30 April 2013.

Marriage and children

On 10 April 1959, he married Michiko Shōda (born 20 October 1934), the eldest daughter of Hidesaburo Shōda, the president and later honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company.[2][13] The new Crown Princess was the first commoner to marry into the Imperial Family. The Emperor and Empress have three children:

  • HIH Crown Prince Naruhito (born 23 February 1960, titled Hiro-no-miya or Prince Hiro)
  • HIH Prince Akishino (Fumihito, born 30 November 1965, titled Aya-no-miya or Prince Aya)
  • The former HIH Princess Nori (Sayako, born 18 April 1969, titled Nori-no-miya or Princess Nori)[2]

Official functions

File:Emperor of Japan - Tenno - New Years 2010.ogv 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, the Emperor visited the US territory of Saipan,[14] the site of a battle in World War II from 15 June to 9 July 1944 (Battle of Saipan). Accompanied by Empress Michiko, he offered prayers and flowers at several memorials, honoring not only the Japanese who died, but also American soldiers, Korean laborers, and local islanders. It was the first trip 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 the Emperor's visits to war memorials in Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Okinawa in 1995.

On 6 September 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) and could avert a possible succession crisis as the Emperor's elder son, the Crown Prince, has only one daughter, Princess Aiko. Under Japan's current 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 go through after being temporarily shelved following the announcement of Princess Kiko's third pregnancy in February 2006.

Ichthyological research

In extension of his father's interest in marine biology, the Emperor is a published ichthyological researcher, and has specialized studies within the taxonomy of the family Gobiidae.[15] He has written papers for scholarly journals, namely Gene and the Japanese Journal of Ichthyology.[16]

He has also written papers about the history of science during the Edo and Meiji eras, which were published in Science[17] and Nature.[18] In 2005, a newly described goby was named Exyrias akihito in his honour.

Titles and styles

  • 23 December 1933 – 10 November 1952: His Imperial Highness The Prince Tsugu
  • 10 November 1952 – 7 January 1989: His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince of Japan
  • 7 January 1989 – present: His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Japan


National honours

Foreign honours

Country Awards
 Afghanistan Order of the Supreme Sun
 Austria Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, Grand Star [19]
 Bahrain Order of al-Khalifa, Collar
 Belgium Order of Leopold, Grand Cordon
 Botswana Presidential Order
 Brazil Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Collar
 Cambodia the Royal Order of Cambodia, Grand Cross
 Cameroon Order of Valour, Grand Cordon
 Chile Order of the Merit of Chile, Grand Collar
 Colombia Order of the Cross of Boyaca, Grand Collar
 Democratic Republic of the Congo /  Zaire National Order of the Leopard, Grand Cordon
 Côte d'Ivoire National Order of the Ivory Coast, Grand Cordon
 Czech Republic Order of the White Lion, 1st Class (Civil Division) with Collar Chain
 Denmark Order of the Elephant, Knight Grand Cross (8.8.1953)[20]
 Egypt Order of the Nile, Grand Collar
 Estonia Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, The Collar of the Cross[21]
 Ethiopia Order of Solomon, Grand Collar
 Finland Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross with Collar
 France Légion d'honneur, Grand Cross
 Germany Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Grand Cross, Special Class
 Greece Order of the Redeemer, Grand Cross
 Hungary Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Grand Cross with Chain
 Iceland Order of the Falcon, Grand Cross with Collar
 Indonesia Star of Adipurna, 1st Class
 Italy Order of Merit of the Republic, Grand Cross with Cordon
 Jordan Order of al-Hussein bin Ali, Collar
 Kazakhstan Order of the Golden Eagle
 Kenya Order of the Golden Heart
 Kuwait Order of Mubarak the Great, Collar
 Latvia Order of the Three Stars, Commander Grand Cross with Chain[22]
 Liberia Order of the Star of Africa, Knight Grand Band
Order of the Pioneers of the Republic Knight Grand Band
 Lithuania Order of Vytautas the Great, the Great Grand Cross with Collar[23]
 Luxembourg Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau, Knight
 Malawi Order of the Lion (Malawi), Grand Commander
 Malaysia Order of the Crown of the Realm
 Mali National Order of Mali, Grand Cordon
 Mexico Order of the Aztec Eagle, Grand Collar
 Morocco Order of Muhammad, Grand Collar
   Nepal Order of Ojaswi Rajanya, Knight
 Netherlands Order of the Netherlands Lion, Knight Grand Cross[24]
 Nigeria Order of the Federal Republic, Grand Cordon
 Norway Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Grand Cross with Collar[25]
 Oman Order of Oman, Superior Class
 Pakistan Nishan-e-Pakistan, 1st Class
 Panama Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero, Gold Collar
 Peru Order of the Sun, Grand Cross in Brilliants
 Philippines Philippine Legion of Honor, Chief Commander[26]
 Poland Order of the White Eagle
 Portugal Order of Saint James of the Sword, Grand Collar
Order of Prince Henry, Grand Collar[27]
 Qatar Collar of Independence
 Saudi Arabia Badr Chain
 Senegal Order of the Lion, Grand Cordon
 South Africa Order of Good Hope, Grand Cross in Gold
 Spain Order of the Golden Fleece, Knight[28]
Order of Charles III Collar
 Sweden Royal Order of the Seraphim, Knight with Collar[29]
 Thailand The Most Auspicious Order of the Rajamitrabhorn
The Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
 The Gambia Order of the Republic of Gambia, Grand Commander
 Ukraine Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, First Class
 United Arab Emirates Collar of the Federation
 United Kingdom Stranger 984th Knight of Order of the Garter
Commonwealth realms Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
 FR Yugoslavia Order of the Yugoslav Star

Other awards


Name Birth Marriage Issue
Crown Prince Naruhito 23 February 1960 9 June 1993 Masako Owada Princess Toshi
Prince Akishino 30 November 1965 29 June 1990 Kiko Kawashima Princess Mako of Akishino
Princess Kako of Akishino
Prince Hisahito of Akishino
Princess Nori 18 April 1969 15 November 2005 Yoshiki Kuroda


  • Ancestry in

Patrilineal descent

See also


External links

  • Kunaicho | Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress
  • Press Conference on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2012)
  • Complete transcript and audio mp3 and video of 'Do Not Lose Hope' Address to the Nation at
Born: 23 December 1933
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Shōwa
Emperor of Japan
Heir apparent:
Crown Prince Naruhito
Order of precedence in Japan
First Gentlemen
as the Sovereign
Succeeded by
The Crown Prince

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