Crown Prince Akishino will be formally declared first in line to the chrysanthemum throne at a ceremony in Tokyo scheduled for Nov. 8. The event takes place nearly 18 months after the prince was promoted to the position after his older brother ascended to the throne as Emperor Naruhito.
This ceremony was initially scheduled for April 19 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dressed in an orange-colored robe, the 54-year-old prince will appear in the Rikkoshi Senmei no Gi (ceremony for the crown prince proclamation) in the morning at the Matsu no Ma stateroom of the Imperial Palace before some 50 people, including imperial family members and government officials. His wife, Crown Princess Kiko, 54, will also take part in the rite.
Following speeches by Emperor Naruhito, 60, and the crown prince, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will offer a congratulatory message similar to one given in October 2019 during the emperor’s enthronement ceremony. Emperor Naruhito succeeded his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, 86, on May 1, 2019, a day after he abdicated as the first Japanese monarch to step down in about 200 years.
The number of attendees of the roughly 15-minute ceremony for the crown prince has been reduced significantly from the initially planned 350 in the wake of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Court banquets planned for April 21 were canceled to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. A motorcade was similarly called off to prevent crowds from forming.
Crown Prince Akishino will inherit an imperial sword passed down by crown princes as a symbol of this occasion’s status. He will meet with the emperor and Empress Masako, 56, in the Choken no Gi ceremony to be held Sunday afternoon following the proclamation.
The ceremonies, together referred to as Rikkoshi no Rei, follow the styles of the 1991 Rittaishi no Rei rites in which the current emperor was proclaimed crown prince and celebrated his new status with guests.
Crown Prince Akishino is known as one of the imperial family’s more outspoken members, often expressing his views on how the family should stand in modern times. The father of three is also known for his interest in animals, having researched the domestication of chickens, among other topics.
Born on Nov. 30, 1965, he is the youngest son of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko and was known as Prince Aya when he was young.
He attended Gakushuin University’s Primary School as did his brother and many other imperial family members, and advanced to its junior high school and senior high school before entering the university’s Faculty of Law, Department of Political Studies.
After graduating from the university in 1988, he went to Britain to study at the Graduate School of Zoology at the University of Oxford’s St. John’s College and returned to Japan in 1990.
In June of that year, more than a year after his grandfather Emperor Hirohito died, he married Kiko Kawashima, who also studied at Gakushuin University. His marriage to the daughter of economist and Gakushuin University professor Tatsuhiko Kawashima marked the start of the Akishino family.
The couple’s first daughter, Princess Mako, was born in October 1991, and their second, Princess Kako, was born in December 1994. In September 2006, Prince Hisahito was born, becoming the first boy and heir to the chrysanthemum throne born to the imperial family in 41 years.
Japan’s 1947 Imperial House Law states that only males in the paternal line can ascend the throne, leaving three heirs today — Crown Prince Akishino, 14-year-old Prince Hisahito and the emperor’s uncle Prince Hitachi, 84.
The imperial succession in 2019 accompanied a change of gengo, or imperial era name, widely used in Japanese calendars, and a slew of ceremonies and rituals, including Daijosai, the first annual Niinamesai harvest festival performed by a new emperor, in November that year.
The crown prince raised a question about the state financing Daijosai, the religious event, from the viewpoint of separation of religion and state. He suggested using the imperial family’s private funds for the ritual instead, in 2018. Although his proposal was not accepted, he said his feelings on this matter remain unchanged at a news conference on his birthday in 2019.
As suggested by this remark, Prince Akishino is known for his outspokenness. Yet he is also known for his sense of humor. During the same news conference, the prince commented on the ceremonies related to the enthronement of his brother, Emperor Naruhito. He said he was relieved both the enthronement ceremony and Daijosai were successful. He also said he saw differences between the enthronement ceremony and that of his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, in 1990.
“At the previous ceremony, the current emperor was next to me and I felt that I could watch his formal gestures if I didn’t know what to do. It was the same as the (previous) Daijosai. But at this ceremony, I could not do that and I imagined other participants would probably follow my actions. So I was a bit nervous about that. I thought I had to behave so as not to make any mistakes,” he said.
Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, have participated in various ceremonies such as those related to the new emperor and other events as part of their duties. Their grown daughters, Princess Mako, 29, and Princess Kako, 25, have performed their own duties too.
Asked about his family’s duties and the new role of the imperial family at the news conference, the prince said he thinks it is important for all duties to be performed in a respectful manner.
“I believe the basic (role of the imperial family) is to share the joys and sorrows of the people and perform our duties while wishing for the happiness of the people. This is something the emperor emeritus has often said,” the prince said at the news conference. “As requests (from the public to the imperial family) change from age to age, I think we should always consider the way we act to suit the times,” he said while maintaining the important tradition of the family.
Chronology of major events related to Crown Prince Akishino
The following is a timeline of Crown Prince Akishino’s life so far and associated major events.
Nov. 30, 1965 — Born the second son of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko. Given the name Prince Aya.
April 1972 — Enters Tokyo’s Gakushuin Primary School and later enrolls in its junior high and high schools.
April 1984 — Enters Gakushuin University’s Faculty of Law, Department of Political Studies.
March 1988 — Graduates from university.
October 1988 — Studies zoology in Britain at St. John’s College, Oxford University.
Jan. 7, 1989 — His father ascends the throne and his elder brother, Prince Naruhito, becomes first in line for the throne upon Emperor Hirohito’s passing, posthumously Emperor Showa.
June 1990 — Returns to Japan and marries Kiko Kawashima, the daughter of economist and Gakushuin University professor Tatsuhiko Kawashima. The couple met while attending Gakushuin.
Oct. 23, 1991 — Princess Mako, his eldest daughter, is born.
Dec. 29, 1994 — Princess Kako, his youngest daughter, is born.
Sept. 6, 2006 — Prince Hisahito, his first son, is born. As the first male progeny in the imperial family in 41 years, the prince’s birth qualifies him as an heir to the chrysanthemum throne.
April 30, 2019 — Emperor Emeritus Akihito abdicates as the first Japanese monarch to do so in almost 200 years.
May 1 — Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor, leading to Prince Akihito being named crown prince and his son Prince Hisahito second in line for the throne.
Nov. 8, 2020 — Crown Prince Akishino is declared first in line during a series of ceremonies called Rikkoshi no Rei.