Akihito (明仁, Japanese: [akiꜜçi̥to]; English: // (listen) or /-/; born 23 December 1933) is a member of the Imperial House of Japan who reigned as the 125th emperor of Japan from 7 January 1989 until his abdication on 30 April 2019. He presided over the Heisei era, Heisei being an expression of achieving peace worldwide.
|Emperor Emeritus of Japan|
|Emperor of Japan|
|Reign||7 January 1989 – 30 April 2019|
|Enthronement||12 November 1990|
23 December 1933
Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo City, Tokyo, Empire of Japan
(now Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan)
|House||Imperial House of Japan|
Born in the Empire of Japan in 1933, Akihito is the first son of Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun. During the Second World War, he moved out of Tokyo with his classmates, and remained in Nikkō until 1945. In 1952, his Coming-of-Age ceremony and investiture as crown prince were held, and he began to undertake official duties in his capacity as crown prince. The next year, he made his first journey overseas and represented Japan at the coronation of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom. He completed his university education in 1956. In 1959, he married Michiko Shōda, a Catholic; it was the first imperial wedding to be televised in Japan, drawing about 15 million viewers. The couple have three children: Naruhito, Fumihito, and Sayako.
Upon the death of his father in 1989, Akihito succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne. His enthronement ceremony followed in 1990. He has made efforts to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people, and has made official visits to all forty-seven prefectures of Japan and to many of the remote islands of Japan. He has a keen interest in natural life and conservation, as well as Japanese and world history. Akihito abdicated in 2019, citing his advanced age and declining health, and assumed the title Emperor Emeritus. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Naruhito. At age 89, Akihito is the longest-lived verifiable Japanese emperor in recorded history. During Akihito's reign, he was served by 17 prime ministers beginning with Noboru Takeshita and ending with Shinzo Abe.
In Japan, during his reign, Akihito was never referred to by his given name, but instead as "His Majesty the Emperor" (天皇陛下, Tennō Heika) which may be shortened to "His Majesty" (陛下, Heika).[failed verification] The era of Akihito's reign from 1989 to 2019 bore the era name Heisei (平成), and according to custom he will be posthumously renamed Emperor Heisei (平成天皇, Heisei Tennō) as the 125th emperor of Japan by order of the Cabinet.
Upon Akihito's abdication on 30 April 2019, he received the title Emperor Emeritus (上皇, Jōkō). A new era, Reiwa (令和), was established when his eldest son Naruhito succeeded him as emperor.
Early life and educationEdit
Prince Akihito (明仁親王, Akihito Shinnō) was born on 23 December 1933 at 6:39 am in the Tokyo Imperial Palace as the fifth child and eldest son of Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun. Titled Prince Tsugu (継宮, Tsugu-no-miya) as a child, Akihito was educated by private tutors prior to attending the elementary and secondary departments of the Peers' School (Gakushūin) from 1940 to 1952. At the request of his father, he did not receive a commission as an army officer, unlike his predecessors.
During the American firebombing raids on Tokyo in March 1945 during World War II, Akihito and his younger brother Prince Masahito were evacuated from the city. Akihito was tutored in the English language and Western manners by Elizabeth Gray Vining during the Allied occupation of Japan, and later briefly studied at the department of political science at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, though he never received a degree.
Akihito was the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne from birth. His formal investiture as crown prince (立太子の礼, Rittaishi-no-rei) took place at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on 10 November 1952. In June 1953, Akihito represented Japan at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in his first journey abroad. He later completed his university education as a special student in 1956.
Marriage and familyEdit
In August 1957, Akihito met Michiko Shōda on a tennis court at Karuizawa near Nagano. Initially there was little enthusiasm for the couple's relationship; Michiko Shōda was considered too low class for the young Crown Prince and had been educated in a Catholic environment. Therefore, in September 1958, she was sent away to Brussels to attend an international conference of the Alumnae du Sacré-Cœur. The Crown Prince was determined to keep in contact with his girlfriend but didn't want to create a diplomatic incident. Therefore, he contacted the young King Baudouin of Belgium to send his messages directly to his loved one. Later King Baudouin also negotiated the marriage of the couple with the Emperor directly stating that if the Crown Prince is happy with Michiko, he would be a better emperor later on.
The Imperial Household Council formally approved the engagement of the Crown Prince to Michiko Shōda on 27 November 1958. The announcement of the then-Crown Prince Akihito's engagement and forthcoming marriage to Michiko Shōda drew opposition from traditionalist groups, because Shōda came from a Catholic family. Although Shōda was never baptized, she had been educated in Catholic schools and seemed to share her parents' faith. Rumors also speculated that Prince Akihito's mother, Empress Kōjun had opposed the engagement. After the death of Empress Kōjun on 16 June 2000, Reuters reported that she was one of the strongest opponents of her son's marriage, and that in the 1960s, she had driven her daughter-in-law and grandchildren to depression by persistently accusing Shōda of not being suitable for her son.[failed verification] At that time, the media presented their encounter as a real "fairy tale", or the "romance of the tennis court". It was the first time a commoner had married into the Imperial Family, breaking more than 2,600 years of tradition. The engagement ceremony took place on 14 January 1959, and the marriage on 10 April 1959.
Akihito and Michiko had three children: two sons Naruhito (born 23 February 1960 and titled Prince Hiro; later the 126th Emperor of Japan) and Fumihito (born 30 November 1965 and titled Prince Aya; later Prince Akishino and subsequently the Crown Prince of Japan), and a daughter Sayako Kuroda (born 18 April 1969 and titled Princess Nori before marriage). The three children were born at the Imperial Household Agency Hospital at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
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. He expressed the desire to help bring the Imperial family closer to the people of Japan.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2021)
Upon the death of Emperor Shōwa on 7 January 1989, Akihito acceded to the throne, becoming the 125th Emperor of Japan. The enthronement ceremony took place on 12 November 1990. In 1998, during a state visit to the United Kingdom, he was invested with the UK Order of the Garter.
Under the Constitution of Japan, Akihito's role was entirely representative and ceremonial in nature, without even a nominal role in government; indeed, he was not allowed to make political statements. He was limited to acting in matters of state as delineated in the Constitution. Even in those matters, he was bound by the requirements of the Constitution and the binding advice of the Cabinet. For instance, while he formally appointed the Prime Minister, he was required to appoint the person designated by the Diet.
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.
On 23 December 2001, during his annual birthday meeting with reporters, the Emperor, in response to a reporter's question about tensions with South 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, a fact that was considered taboo for discussion.
In June 2005, the Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko visited the island of Saipan (part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory), the site of a battle in the World War II from 15 June to 9 July 1944 (known as the 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 servicemen, 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 Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture and Okinawa Prefecture in 1995.
After succeeding to the throne, Akihito made an effort to bring the Imperial family closer to the Japanese people. He and Michiko made official visits to eighteen countries and to all forty-seven Prefectures of Japan. Akihito has never visited Yasukuni Shrine, continuing his predecessor's boycott from 1978, due to its enshrinement of war criminals.
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 was the first male heir born to the Japanese imperial family in 41 years (since his father Prince Akishino) and could avert the Japanese imperial succession crisis, as the only child of the Emperor's elder son, the then Crown Prince Naruhito, is his daughter, Princess Aiko, who is not eligible for the throne under Japan's male-only succession law. The birth of Prince Hisahito meant that proposed changes to the law to allow Aiko to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne were dropped.
Recently, in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima I nuclear crisis, the Emperor made a historic televised appearance urging his people not to give up hope and to help each other.
On 13 July 2016, national broadcaster NHK reported that the then 82-year-old Emperor intended to abdicate in favor of his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito within a few years, citing his age. An abdication within the Imperial Family had not occurred since Emperor Kōkaku in 1817. However, senior officials within the Imperial Household Agency denied that there was any official plan for the monarch to abdicate. Abdication by the Emperor required an amendment to the Imperial Household Law, which had no provisions for such a move. On 8 August 2016, the Emperor gave a rare televised address, where he emphasized his advanced age and declining health; this address was interpreted as an implication of his intention to abdicate.
On 19 May 2017, the bill that would allow Akihito to abdicate was issued by the Cabinet of Japan. On 8 June 2017, the National Diet passed it, whereupon it became known as the Emperor Abdication Law. This commenced government preparations to hand the position over to Naruhito. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in December 2017 that the 125th Emperor Akihito would abdicate at the end of 30 April 2019, and that the 126th Emperor Naruhito's reign would begin as of 1 May 2019.
Post-abdication and later yearsEdit
On 19 March 2020, Emperor emeritus Akihito and his wife Empress emerita Michiko moved out of the Imperial Palace, marking their first public appearance since the abdication. On 31 March, they moved in to the Takanawa Residence.
In December 2021, Akihito celebrated his 88th birthday (beiju), making him the longest-living verifiable Japanese emperor in recorded history.
Emperor Akihito underwent surgery for prostate cancer on 14 January 2003. Later in 2011 he was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. In February 2012, it was announced that the Emperor would be having a coronary examination; he underwent successful heart bypass surgery on 18 February 2012. In July 2018, he suffered from nausea and dizziness due to insufficient blood flow to his brain. In January 2020, he temporarily lost consciousness and collapsed at his residence, though "no abnormalities" were detected in his brain. He was diagnosed with heart failure in July 2022. 
Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko have three children, two sons and a daughter.
|Naruhito, Emperor of Japan
(Naruhito, Prince Hiro)
|23 February 1960||9 June 1993||Masako Owada||Aiko, Princess Toshi|
|Fumihito, Crown Prince of Japan
(Fumihito, Prince Aya)
|30 November 1965||29 June 1990||Kiko Kawashima|
(Sayako, Princess Nori)
|18 April 1969||15 November 2005||Yoshiki Kuroda||None|
In extension of his father's interest in marine biology, who published taxonomic works on the Hydrozoa, the Emperor emeritus is a published ichthyological researcher, and has specialized in studies within the taxonomy of the family Gobiidae. He has written papers for scholarly journals such as Gene, Ichthyological Research, 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 Science and Nature. In 2005, a newly described goby was named Exyrias akihito in his honour, and in 2007 a genus Akihito of gobies native to Vanuatu also received his name. In 2021, the Imperial Household Agency announced Akihito had discovered two new species of goby fish. The discovery was cataloged in an English-language journal published by the Ichthyological Society of Japan.
- Member of the Ichthyological Society of Japan
- Foreign member of the Linnean Society of London (1980)
- Honorary member of the Linnean Society of London (1986)
- Research associate of the Australian Museum
- Honorary member of the Zoological Society of London (1992)
- Honorary member of the Research Institute for Natural Science of Argentina (1997)
- Honorary degree of the Uppsala University (2007)
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2019)
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- b Zaire is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The following table includes the official visits made by Emperor Akihito, along with Empress Michiko, following succession to the throne on 7 January 1989. The list includes all the visits made up to 31 December 2017. Although Empress Michiko has made two official visits on her own, in 2002 (to Switzerland) and 2014 (to Belgium), they did not include the Emperor and are not included in this table.
|1||26 September – 6 October 1991||Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia"|
|2||23–28 October 1992||China||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of China"|
|3||6–9 August 1993||Belgium||"To attend the funeral ceremony of King Baudouin of Belgium" In gratitude for defending their marriage to the then emperor and for the longlasting friendship.|
|4||3–19 September 1993||Italy, Belgium, Germany, Vatican City||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Italy, Belgium and Germany"|
|5||10–26 June 1994||United States||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of the United States"|
|6||2–14 October 1994||France, Spain||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of France and Spain"|
|7||30 May – 13 June 1997||Brazil, Argentina||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Brazil and Argentina"|
|8||23 May – 5 June 1998||United Kingdom, Denmark||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of the United Kingdom and Denmark"|
|9||20 May – 1 June 2000||Netherlands, Sweden||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of the Netherlands and Sweden"|
|10||6–20 July 2002||Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary"|
|11||7–14 May 2005||Norway||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Norway"|
|12||27–28 June 2005||United States||"To pay tribute to those who died in the war and to pray for world peace in the 60th year after the end of the war"|
|13||8–15 June 2006||Singapore, Thailand||"To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations at the invitation of Singapore and to attend celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand"|
|14||21–30 May 2007||Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom||"To mark presence as an honorary member of the Linnean Society on the 300th birth anniversary of Carl von Linné at the invitation of Sweden and the United Kingdom and to foster friendly relations at the invitation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania"|
|15||3–17 July 2009||Canada, United States||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Canada, and to celebrate the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation (Visit to Hawaii)"|
|16||16–20 May 2012||United Kingdom||"To attend a luncheon in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II"|
|17||30 November – 6 December 2013||India||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of India"|
|18||8–9 April 2015||Palau||"To pay tribute to those who died in the war and to foster international goodwill in the 70th year after the end of the war"|
|19||26–30 January 2016||Philippines||"To foster friendly relations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations at the invitation of the Philippines"|
|20||28 February – 6 March 2017||Vietnam||"To foster friendly relations at the invitation of Vietnam"|
|Ancestors of Akihito|
Akihito's patriline is the line from which he is descended father to son.
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