The Imperial Family

Japanese Imperial family crest The Japanese Imperial family is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world. The family's lineage dates back to the sixth century BC, though the title of Tenno (emperor) or Sumera-Mikoto (heavenly sovereign) was assumed by rulers in the sixth or seventh century and has been used since. The family crest (right) is the kiku, or chrysanthemum.

Kiko, Princess Akishino gave birth to a baby boy in September, 2006. The baby was named Hisahito. He became the first male heir born to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 41 years. The birth was seen as denting the hopes of those who wanted to see Princess Aiko as a future heir to ascend the throne.

The Japanese Imperial Family

A moment of relaxation for the Japanese Imperial Family in 2008. From left: Princess (Now Empress) Masako, Crown Prince (Now Emperor) Naruhito, The Emperor (Emeritus), Princess Aiko (front), The Empress (Emerita), Prince Hisahito (front), Prince Akishino, Princess Akishino. To the rear, Princesses Mako and Kako

The Emperor and Empress

The former Crown Prince (also known as Prince Hiro) Naruhito was born in Tokyo on February 23, 1960. He graduated from Gakushuin University and Oxford University. His interests include history and music and he plays the violin. He married Owada Masako, a Harvard-University graduate in economics and diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in June 1993. Empress Masako, herself the daughter of a diplomat, grew up in several countries including the Soviet Union and the US.

There was a wild media frenzy in 1999 when news broke of the Princess's pregnancy. Many blamed this pressure from the media for her subsequent miscarriage. A more restrained approach was taken when another pregnancy was announced in April 2001. The baby was born on December 1 but as it was a girl, whom they named Aiko, the future of the Royal Family remained uncertain for a good few years. Her Imperial title is Princess Toshi.

Naruhito became Japan's 126th emperor on May 1st, 2019 following the abdication of his father and marking the beginning of the new Reiwa Era. His formal ascension ceremony was held in October of the same year and a parade through the streets of central Tokyo was held in November.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

Their Imperial Majesties, Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko

Former Emperor Akihito (Heisei) acceded the throne on January 7, 1989, upon the death of his father, the Emperor Hirohito (posthumously Emperor Showa). He was born in Tokyo on December 23, 1933 (this date thereby becoming a national holiday). He graduated from Gakushuin University, the favoured institute for all royals, in 1956. In 1959, he married Shoda Michiko (1934- ) a valedictorian graduate in English Literature of Tokyo's University of the Sacred Heart (Seishin Jyoshi Daigaku).

They have two sons and a daughter whom they raised themselves, contrary to imperial tradition. The royal couple traveled extensively around the world and were known to have many interests. Their shared love of tennis is well known, since they first met on a tennis court. To watch the former Empress in particular speak was to see the epitome of idealized Japanese womanhood. Her voice is incredibly soft, her face almost frozen in a semi-smile and her manner exudes poise and refinement. A far cry indeed from Japan's aggresive 'obaasans' or Shibuya 'gyals'!

In 2019, Akihito became the first emperor in centuries to abdicate from the throne, bringing the 30-year Heisei Era to a close.

The Crown Prince and Princess

For years, the Naruhito's younger brother, Prince Akishino (who married Kawashima Kiko in 1990), was father to two girls, Princesses Mako and Kako, and no male heir had been born since his birth in November 1965. But hopes for a male successor were raised when Princess Kiko's pregnancy with their third child was announced in February 2006. A boy was born in September, was named Hisahito and became third in line for the throne after Naruhito and his own father.

Former Princess Sayako, who had the title of Nori-no-miya, was born in April 1969. She worked as a researcher at the Yamashina Institute of Ornithology. She married commoner Yoshiki Kuroda, a 40-year-old urban designer with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and a longtime friend of Prince Akishino, in November 2005. Upon her marriage, she left the Imperial Family, taking the surname of her husband, as required by law. She is no longer entitled to her royal allowance, but reportedly received a dowry of over ¥100 million.

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