For other uses, see Akihito (given name) and Akihito (genus).
Emperor of Japan
Reign 7 January 1989 – present
Enthronement 12 November 1990
Predecessor Shōwa
Heir apparent Crown Prince Naruhito
Prime Ministers
Born (1933-12-23) 23 December 1933
Tokyo City, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Spouse Michiko Shōda (m. 1959)
Issue Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
Fumihito, Prince Akishino
Sayako Kuroda formerly Sayako, Princess Nori
Full name
Akihito (明仁)
House Imperial House of Japan
Father Emperor Shōwa
Mother Empress Kōjun
Religion Shinto

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.


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).[1] 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.[2]


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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Upon the death of Emperor Hirohito on 7 January 1989, his eldest son the Crown Prince Akihito succeeded (senso) to the throne,[5] with an enthronement ceremony taking place (sokui)[5] on 12 November 1990.[3] 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.[6][7]

Emperor Akihito underwent surgery for prostate cancer on 14 January 2003.[8] 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.[3]

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[9] urging his people not to give up hope and to help each other.[10] 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.[11] Later in 2011 he was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia.[12] In February 2012 it was announced that the Emperor would be having a coronary examination;[13] he underwent successful heart bypass surgery on 18 February 2012.[14]

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.[15][16] On 8 August 2016, the Emperor gave a rare televised address, where he emphasized his advanced age and declining health;[17] this address is interpreted as an implication of his intention to abdicate.[18]

Marriage and family

Crown Prince Akihito on his wedding day, 10 April 1959

In August 1957, he met Michiko Shōda[3][19] 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",[20] 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).[3]

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),[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] He has written papers for scholarly journals such as Gene and the Japanese Journal of Ichthyology.[25]

He has also written papers about the history of science during the Edo and Meiji eras, which were published in Science[26] and Nature.[27] In 2005, a newly described goby was named Exyrias akihito in his honour.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Styles of
Emperor Akihito
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

Titles and styles


National honours
Foreign honours
Country Awards
 Afghanistan Order of the Supreme Sun
 Austria Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, Grand Star [28]
 Bahrain Order of al-Khalifa, Collar
 Belgium Order of Leopold, Grand Cordon
 Botswana Presidential Order
 Brazil Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Collar
 Cambodia Royal Order of Cambodia, Grand Cross
 Cameroon Order of Valour, Grand Cordon
 Chile Order of the Merit of Chile, Grand Collar
 Colombia Order of Boyaca, Grand Collar
 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 (8 August 1953)[29]
 Egypt Order of the Nile, Grand Collar
 Estonia Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, The Collar of the Cross[30]
 Ethiopia Order of Solomon, Grand Collar
 Finland Order of the White Rose, Grand Cross with Collar
 France Légion d'honneur, Grand Cross
 The Gambia Order of the Republic of the Gambia, Grand Commander
 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
 Ireland Freedom of the City of Dublin, awarded by Lord Mayor of Dublin
 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[31]
 Liberia Order of the Star of Africa, Knight Grand Band
Order of the Pioneers of Liberia, Grand Cordon
 Lithuania Order of Vytautas the Great, the Great Grand Cross with Collar[32]
 Luxembourg Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau, Knight
 Malawi Order of the Lion, Grand Commander
 Malaysia Honorary Recipient of the 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, Member (19 April 1960)[33]
King Birendra Coronation Medal (24 February 1975)[34]
 Netherlands Order of the Netherlands Lion, Knight Grand Cross[35]
 Nigeria Order of the Federal Republic, Grand Commander
 Norway Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Grand Cross with Collar[36]
 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[37]
Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja[38]
Order of Lakandula, Grand Collar
 Poland Order of the White Eagle
 Portugal Order of Saint James of the Sword, Grand Collar (2 December 1993)
Order of Prince Henry, Grand Collar (12 May 1998)[39]
 Qatar Collar of Independence
 Saudi Arabia Badr Chain
 Senegal Order of the Lion, Collar
 South Africa Order of Good Hope, Grand Cross in Gold
 Spain Order of the Golden Fleece, Knight[40]
Order of Charles III, Grand Cross
Order of Charles III, Collar
 Sweden Royal Order of the Seraphim, Knight with Collar[41]
 Thailand The Most Auspicious Order of the Rajamitrabhorn
The Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
 Ukraine Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, First Class
 United Arab Emirates Collar of the Federation
 United Kingdom Stranger Knight of Order of the Garter (985th member; 1998)
Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (?)
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (2 June 1953)
 FR Yugoslavia* Order of the Yugoslav Star
 Zaire National Order of the Leopard, Grand Cordon
Other awards


Imperial Standard


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

See also


  1. "Members of the Order of the Garter". The British Monarchy.
  2. "National Day of Japan to be celebrated". Embassy of Japan in Pakistan. 7 December 2007. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". Imperial Household Agency. 2002. Archived from the original on 1 December 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
  4. "Those Apprentice Kings and Queens Who May – One Day – Ascend a Throne," The New York Times. 14 November 1971.
  5. 1 2 Varley, H. Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, p. 44.
  6. "Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday". Imperial Household Agency. Archived from the original on 25 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  7. Chotiner, Isaac (8 August 2016). "What Does the Japanese Emperor Do? And will Japan let him stop doing it?". Slate.
  8. "Akihito has successful cancer operation". BBC News. BBC. 18 January 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
  9. "Six days later, Japanese still confronting magnitude of quake crisis". CNN. 29 April 2011.
  10. "Message from His Majesty The Emperor". The Imperial Household Agency. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  11. Japanese Emperor visits evacuation center Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. "Japan's Emperor Akihito leaves Tokyo hospital". BBC News. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  13. "Emperor Akihito to have coronary examination". Mainichi Daily News. 1 February 2012.
  14. "Report: Japan's Emperor undergoes successful cardiac bypass". CNN. 18 February 2012.
  15. "天皇陛下 「生前退位」の意向示される ("His Majesty The Emperor Indicates His Intention to 'Abdicate'")" (in Japanese). NHK. 13 July 2016. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  16. "Japanese Emperor Akihito 'wishes to abdicate'". BBC News. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  17. "Message from His Majesty The Emperor". The Imperial Household Agency. 8 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  18. "Japan's Emperor Akihito hints at wish to abdicate". BBC News. 8 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  19. Fukada, Takahiro, "Emperor — poise under public spotlight", Japan Times, 24 November 2009, p. 3.
  20. « The Girl from Outside », Time, 23 March 1959
  21. Brooke, James (June 28, 2005). "Visiting Saipan, Japan's Emperor Honors Dead". New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  22. "Life in the Cloudy Imperial Fishbowl", Japan Times'.' 27 March 2007.
  23. "The Future of Japan's Dwindling Imperial Family". Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  24. Hamilton, Alan. "Palace small talk problem solved: royal guest is a goby fish fanatic", The Times (London). 30 May 2007
  25. PubMed Search Results
  26. Akihito (October 1992). "Early cultivators of science in Japan". Science. 258 (5082): 578–80. doi:10.1126/science.1411568. PMID 1411568.
  27. His Majesty The Emperor of Japan (July 2007). "Linnaeus and taxonomy in Japan". Nature. 448 (7150): 139–140. doi:10.1038/448139a. PMID 17632886.
  28. "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 1298. Retrieved November 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  29. Persondetaljer - Hans Kejserlige Højhed Akihito. borger.dk.
  30. "Akihito". Bearers of decorations. president. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  31. Presidency, table of recipients of the Order of the Three Stars since 2004.
  32. Decree 1K-974
  33. Omsa.org
  34. Embassy of Japan in Nepal
  35. Volkskrant, State visit of Netherlands in Japan, 1991, Group Photo
  36. The Royal Forums, State visit of Japan in Norway, May 2005, Photo
  37. OPS.gov.ph
  38. Gov.ph
  39. "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas" (in Portuguese). presidencia.pt. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  40. "Noblesse et Royautés" (French), State visit of Spain in Japan, November 2008
  41. Getty Images, State visit of Sweden in Japan, 03/2007, Group photo
  42. reinanzaka-sc.o.oo7.jp/kiroku/documents/20140523-3-kiji-list.pdf
  43. "Ancestry in Genealogics.org".

External links

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Born: 23 December 1933
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor of Japan
Heir apparent:
Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
Order of precedence in Japan
First Gentlemen
as the Sovereign
Succeeded by
The Crown Prince
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