Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019, ushering in the Reiwa Era. We asked people in Tokyo what they would do if they were emperor for a day.


Gregory Popelka
English teacher, 26, U.S.
I’d have a big party and everybody would come and celebrate and drink and have a good time — no fighting. Perhaps sometimes it seems everybody’s a little divided, so I’d just have a big celebration and it would be a nice way to bring whatever country I’m ruling together for a new holiday.


Juliana Leman
40, Malaysia
I’d like to change the situation of work harassment. People aren’t allowed to speak their minds. We’re pretending there’s freedom, but there’s no freedom — especially in the workplace. People in charge just want to control you, so if I were emperor I would be very strict against any kind of harassment.


Jonathan Berguig
Restaurateur, 38, France
I’d organize a huge party at the palace with catering by vegetarian restaurant Citron. The idea would be to promote vegetarianism, as compassion for animals is important to me. I’ve always dreamed of touring inside the palace and if I was with my friends it would be even better.


Knox Clendenen
Student, 19, U.S.
If I were emperor for a day I would try to make as many good decisions as I could, like implementing foreigner-friendly laws. Maybe outlaw kanji — I’ve been trying to learn it for a couple of months and I only know about 60! So I’d say use katakana and hiragana more. And I’d just have fun being emperor.


Nijal Pandya
23, India
I’d make any change beneficial for the country and its people. Women aren’t seen as equal in society, especially at work. They aren’t paid as much as men for doing the same jobs, so that’s something I’d change. My friends and I were looking at research that men get paid triple what women do sometimes — that’s not fair.


George Dubley
Retired, 56, Gibraltar
As emperor I’d give back to the people as much as possible so that they would be better off. I’d make services free to taxpayers, like the underground or the bus. Actually, in my country the buses are free for residents. That kind of thing is good for the residents, it makes their lives easier on a day-to-day basis.


Photos by Megha Wadhwa

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.