Akihito: Emperor of Japan (1933-) | Biography
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Emperor of Japan


The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Emperor of Japan
A.K.A. Tennō Heika, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, Emperor Akihito
Is Zoologist Ichthyologist
From Japan
Field Biology
Gender male
Birth 23 December 1933, Tokyo
Age 89 years
Mother: Kōjun
Father: Hirohito
Siblings: Prince HitachiNobuhito TakamatsuShigeko HigashikuniSachikoPrincess HisaKazuko TakatsukasaAtsuko IkedaTakako Shimazu
Spouse: Empress Michiko
Children: Crown Prince NaruhitoFumihitoPrince AkishinoSayako Kuroda
The details (from wikipedia)


Akihito (明仁, born 23 December 1933) ( English pronunciation ) is the reigning Emperor of Japan (天皇, Tennō). He is the 125th emperor of his line according to Japan's traditional order of succession. Akihito succeeded his father Shōwa and acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on 7 January 1989. There has been ongoing coverage of his possible abdication due to age and health issues. 31 December 2018 has been mentioned as the date of such abdication.


In Japan, the Emperor is never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Majesty the Emperor" (天皇陛下 Tennō Heika) which may be shortened to "His 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.


The newly married Crown Prince and Crown Princess in Japanese traditional attire, with the Prince wearing a sokutai, the Princess a jūnihitoe

Akihito was born in the Tokyo Imperial Palace, Tokyo City, Japan, and is the elder son and the fifth child of the Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) and Empress Kōjun (Nagako). 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. 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, Akihito 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 the English language 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.

Akihito 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 Akihito represented Japan at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London.

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.

Upon the death of Emperor Hirohito on 7 January 1989, his eldest son the Crown Prince Akihito succeeded (senso) to the throne, with an enthronement ceremony taking place (sokui) on 12 November 1990. In 1998, during a state visit to the United Kingdom, he was invested with UK 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, a fact that was considered taboo.

Emperor Akihito underwent surgery for prostate cancer on 14 January 2003. 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 and to all forty-seven Prefectures of Japan.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in April 2011.

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. The Emperor and 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. 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.

Possible abdication

On 13 July 2016, national broadcaster NHK reported that the 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 has not occurred since Emperor Kōkaku abdicated in 1817. However, senior officials within the Imperial Household Agency have denied that there is any official plan for the monarch to abdicate. A potential abdication by the Emperor would require an amendment to the Imperial Household Act, which currently has 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 is interpreted as an implication of his intention to abdicate. According to government sources, to avoid interference with the Imperial Household Act and the line of succession law, a one off exception is being considered which would make way for his abdication. The date of which is expected to be on 31 December 2018.

Marriage and family

Then Crown Prince Akihito on his wedding day, 10 April 1959

In August 1957, he met Michiko Shōda on a tennis court at Karuizawa near Nagano. The Imperial Household Council (a body composed of the Prime Minister of Japan, the presiding officers of the two houses of the Diet of Japan, the Chief Justice of Japan, and two members of the Imperial family) formally approved the engagement of the Crown Prince to Michiko Shōda on 27 November 1958. 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 would marry into the Imperial Family. The engagement ceremony took place on 14 January 1959, and the marriage on 10 April 1959.

The Emperor and Empress have three children: sons Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan (born 23 February 1960, formerly The Prince Hiro) and Fumihito, Prince Akishino (born 30 November 1965, formerly The Prince Aya) and daughter Mrs. Sayako Kuroda (born 18 April 1969, formerly The Princess Nori).

Official functions

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan on 28 June 2005

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 island of Saipan (part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory), the site of a battle in 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 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.


The Emperor of Japan, at Chōwaden Reception Hall, giving a New Year's address to the people of Japan in 2010.

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 Naruhito, has only one daughter, Princess Aiko. Under Japan's 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. The supporters of changes criticized the current law as it placed a burden on the few aging males old enough to perform royal duties as females left the family.

Ichthyological research

In extension of his father's interest in marine biology, the Emperor 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 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.

  • 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)

Titles, styles, honours and arms

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
  • 7 January 1989 – present: His Majesty The Emperor


National honours
  • JPN Daikun'i kikkasho BAR.svg Collar and Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
  • JPN Kyokujitsu-sho Paulownia BAR.svg Grand Cordon of The Order of the Rising Sun with the Paulownia Blossoms (renamed Grand Cordon of The Order of the Paulownia Flowers from 2003)
  • JPN Zuiho-sho 1Class BAR.svg Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
  • JPN Order of Culture BAR.svg Order of Culture
  • Red Cross Order of Merit (Japan).png The Golden Medal of Merit of the Japanese Red Cross
  • Red Cross Order of Merit (Japan).png The Golden Medal of Honorary Member of the Japanese Red Cross
Foreign honours
Country Awards
 Afghanistan Order of the Sun (Afghanistan) - ribbon bar.gif Order of the Supreme Sun
 Austria AUT Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - 1st Class BAR.png Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, Grand Star
 Bahrain Wisam al-Khalifa 1st class.gif Order of al-Khalifa, Collar
 Belgium Grand Crest Ordre de Leopold.png Order of Leopold, Grand Cordon
 Botswana PresidentialOrder.Botswana-ribbon.gif Presidential Order
 Brazil BRA Order of the Southern Cross - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Collar
 Cambodia KHM Ordre Royal du Cambodge - Chevalier BAR.png Royal Order of Cambodia, Grand Cross
 Cameroon Order of Valour.svg Order of Valour, Grand Cordon
 Chile CHL Order of Merit of Chile - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Merit of Chile, Grand Collar
 Colombia Order of Boyacá - Extraordinary Grand Cross (Colombia) - ribbon bar.png Order of Boyaca, Grand Collar
 Côte d'Ivoire Cote d'Ivoire Ordre national GC ribbon.svg National Order of the Ivory Coast, Grand Cordon
 Czech Republic CZE Rad Bileho Lva 3 tridy BAR.svg Order of the White Lion, 1st Class (Civil Division) with Collar Chain
 Denmark Orderelefant ribbon.png Order of the Elephant (8 August 1953)
 Egypt EGY Order of the Nile - Grand Cordon BAR.png Order of the Nile, Grand Collar
 Estonia EST Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana - 1st Class BAR.png Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, The Collar of the Cross
 Ethiopia ETH Order of Solomon BAR.png Order of Solomon, Grand Collar
 Finland FIN Order of the White Rose Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross with Collar
 France Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Légion d'honneur, Grand Cross
 The Gambia Ord.Gambia-ribbon.gif Order of the Republic of the Gambia, Grand Commander
 Germany GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 9 Sond des Grosskreuzes.svg Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Grand Cross, Special Class
 Greece GRE Order Redeemer 1Class.png Order of the Redeemer, Grand Cross
 Hungary HUN Order of Merit of the Hungarian Rep 1class Collar BAR.svg Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, Grand Cross with Chain
 Iceland ISL Icelandic Order of the Falcon - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Falcon, Grand Cross with Collar
 Indonesia Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipurna Ribbon Bar.gif Star of Adipurna, 1st Class
 Ireland Decoration without ribbon - en.svg Freedom of the City of Dublin, awarded by Lord Mayor of Dublin
 Italy Cordone di gran Croce di Gran Cordone OMRI BAR.svg Order of Merit of the Republic, Grand Cross with Cordon
 Jordan JOR Al-Hussein ibn Ali Order BAR.svg Order of al-Hussein bin Ali, Collar
 Kazakhstan Ord.GoldenEagle-ribbon.gif Order of the Golden Eagle
 Kenya Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya.svg Order of the Golden Heart
 Kuwait Order of Mubarak the Great (Kuwait) - ribbon bar.gif Order of Mubarak the Great, Collar
 Latvia LVA Order of the Three Stars - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Three Stars, Commander Grand Cross with Chain
 Liberia Order of the Star of Africa (Liberia) - ribbon bar.png Order of the Star of Africa, Knight Grand Band
Order of the Pioneers of Liberia - ribbon bar.png Order of the Pioneers of Liberia, Grand Cordon
 Lithuania LTU Order of Vytautas the Great with the Golden Chain BAR.png Order of Vytautas the Great, the Great Grand Cross with Collar
 Luxembourg Huisorde van de Gouden Leeuw van Nassau Ribbon.gif Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau, Knight
 Malawi Ord.LionMalawi.gif Order of the Lion, Grand Commander
 Malaysia MY Darjah Utama Seri Mahkota Negara (Crown of the Realm) - DMN.svg Honorary Recipient of the Order of the Crown of the Realm
 Mali MLI National Order - Grand Cross BAR.png National Order of Mali, Grand Cordon
 Mexico MEX Order of the Aztec Eagle 1Class BAR.png Order of the Aztec Eagle, Grand Collar
 Morocco Decoration without ribbon - en.svg Order of Muhammad, Grand Collar
   Nepal Ord.Rajanya.Nepal-Ribbon.gif Order of Ojaswi Rajanya, Member (19 April 1960)
King Birendra Investiture Medal 1975.png King Birendra Coronation Medal (24 February 1975)
 Netherlands NLD Order of the Dutch Lion - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Netherlands Lion, Knight Grand Cross
 Nigeria Order of the Federal Republic (civil) - Nigeria - ribbon bar.gif Order of the Federal Republic, Grand Commander
 Norway Order Sint Olaf 1 kl.png Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Grand Cross with Collar
 Oman The Order of Oman.gif Order of Oman, Superior Class
 Pakistan Ord.Nishan-i-Pakistan.ribbon.gif Nishan-e-Pakistan, 1st Class
 Panama PAN Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero, Gold Collar
 Peru PER Order of the Sun of Peru - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Sun, Grand Cross in Brilliants
 Philippines PHL Legion of Honor - Chief Commander BAR.png Philippine Legion of Honor, Chief Commander
PHL Order of Sikatuna - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja
PHL Order of Lakandula.png Order of Lakandula, Grand Collar
 Poland POL Order Orła Białego BAR.svg Order of the White Eagle
 Portugal PRT Order of Saint James of the Sword - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Saint James of the Sword, Grand Collar (2 December 1993)
PRT Order of Prince Henry - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Prince Henry, Grand Collar (12 May 1998)
 Qatar Order of Independence (Qatar) - ribbon bar.gif Collar of Independence
 Saudi Arabia Decoration without ribbon - en.svg Badr Chain
 Senegal SEN Order of the Lion - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Lion, Collar
 South Africa Ord.GoodHope-ribbon.gif Order of Good Hope, Grand Cross in Gold
 Spain Order of the Golden Fleece Rib.gif Order of the Golden Fleece, Knight
ESP Charles III Order GC.svg Order of Charles III, Grand Cross
Order of Charles III - Sash of Collar.svg Order of Charles III, Collar
 Sweden Seraphimerorden ribbon.svg Royal Order of the Seraphim, Knight with Collar
 Thailand Order of the Rajamitrabhorn (Thailand) ribbon.png The Most Auspicious Order of the Rajamitrabhorn
Order of the Royal House of Chakri (Thailand) ribbon.png The Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
 Ukraine Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise 1st 2nd and 3rd Class of Ukraine.png Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, First Class
 United Arab Emirates Order of the Union. Sash ribbon or First Class.gif Collar of the Federation
 United Kingdom Order of the Garter UK ribbon.png Stranger Knight of Order of the Garter (985th member; 1998)
Royal Victorian Order Honorary Ribbon.png Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (?)
UK Queen EII Coronation Medal ribbon.svg Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (2 June 1953)
 FR Yugoslavia* Order of the Yugoslavian Great Star Rib.png Order of the Yugoslav Star
 Zaire National Order of the Leopard (Zaire) - ribbon bar.png National Order of the Leopard, Grand Cordon
  • FR Yugoslavia split into Serbia and Montenegro.
Other awards
  • The Royal Society King Charles II Medal
  • Golden Pheasant Award of the Scout Association of Japan (1971)


Imperial Standard


The Emperor and Empress with their family in November 2013
Name Birth Marriage Issue
Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan 23 February 1960 9 June 1993 Masako Owada Aiko, Princess Toshi
Fumihito, Prince Akishino 30 November 1965 29 June 1990 Kiko Kawashima Princess Mako of Akishino
Princess Kako of Akishino
Prince Hisahito of Akishino
Sayako, Princess Nori 18 April 1969 15 November 2005 Yoshiki Kuroda


Patrilineal descent

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