Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and other Imperial family members paid their respects Friday morning at the residence of Prince Takamado, the Emperor’s cousin, who died of heart failure the previous night. He was 47.
The Emperor and Empress spent about 20 minutes offering their condolences to the prince’s widow, 49-year-old Princess Hisako, and three daughters — Princesses Tsuguko, 16, Noriko, 14, and Ayako, 12 — before returning to the Imperial Palace.
Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Princess Masako, as well as Princess Nori, daughter of the Emperor and Empress, also called on the prince’s family.
The Imperial household entered a five-day mourning period Thursday and its members have canceled some of their engagements.
Canadian Ambassador to Japan Robert Wright, with whom the prince was playing squash when he collapsed Thursday afternoon, also visited the residence in Tokyo’s Moto-Akasaka district to offer his condolences.
The Imperial Household Agency said a private funeral service — part of a series of Imperial household memorial events being planned by an ad-hoc funeral committee at the agency — is scheduled for Nov. 29 at a cemetery in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward.
The prince collapsed while receiving squash lessons along with Wright at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo and died later Thursday at Keio University Hospital.
His body, accompanied by his family, was moved from the hospital in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward to his residence in Minato Ward around 3 a.m.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who visited the Imperial Palace to sign a condolence book, voiced sorrow over the prince’s death.
“I had seen him looking healthy and so I am stunned,” Koizumi told reporters at his office. “I am very saddened when I think about the feelings of his wife and family.
“He was well-versed in foreign languages and active in international goodwill activities, and was an asset for the Imperial household and for Japan. That is why (his death) is all the more regretful. He was so young,” Koizumi said.
Cabinet members also expressed their regrets.
“It is very unfortunate, and I feel deeply grieved,” said Toranosuke Katayama, home affairs minister.
Transport minister Chikage Ogi said she was “so shocked at his young death” that she had no words to describe her feelings.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, industrial revival minister, described the prince as “friendly and humorous,” saying he had served as a bridge between the Imperial household and the citizens of Japan.
The Imperial Household Agency also set up a condolences-signing booth at the late prince’s residence for the public.
The prince, who was the seventh in line to the throne, was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. Thursday, after he collapsed around 3:50 p.m. while playing squash at an indoor court at the Canadian Embassy.
After he collapsed, a Canadian Embassy official immediately called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital, but he was already in cardiopulmonary arrest at the time of his arrival, according to doctors.
The prince was kept on life support and he never regained consciousness despite efforts to save him, Imperial Household Agency officials said.
Doctors at the hospital said the cause of death was ventricular fibrillation, a kind of abnormal cardiac rhythm, and strenuous exercise appeared to have induced the irregularity.
Imperial Household Agency officials said the prince, honorary chairman of the Japan Squash Association, played squash about twice a month with the Canadian ambassador.
Prince Takamado was born Dec. 29, 1954, the third and youngest son of 86-year-old Prince Mikasa, a brother of the late Emperor Hirohito.
After graduating from Gakushuin University in 1978, he studied at Queen’s University in Ontario from 1978 to 1981, returning to Japan in August 1981. He took a job at the Japan Foundation in October that year.
The prince married Hisako Tottori in 1984.
Known as a sports enthusiast, he was also honorary president of the Japan Football Association as well as numerous other sports organizations.
The prince and his wife conducted an official visit to Seoul in May to attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup soccer finals cohosted by Japan and South Korea. It marked the first official visit to South Korea by a member of the Imperial family.
With Prince Takamado’s death, the size of the Imperial family was reduced to 23 members.
Collapse was sudden
The squash coach of Prince Takamado, who collapsed Thursday afternoon while playing at the Canadian Embassy and died several hours later in a hospital, said Friday that the prince’s condition changed abruptly soon after their private lesson at the embassy began.
Hitoshi Ushiogi, a managing director of the Japan Squash Association, said he saw the prince’s shoulders quivering several times as he went to pick up the ball. The prince was 47.
Ushiogi, 44, said: “There was no sign that the prince looked pale, and he was playing well, so it was all so unexpected. It is unbearably sad.”
Ushiogi said the prince played for over 10 minutes with Canadian Ambassador to Japan Robert Wright and rested on a bench to take some refreshment. He said the prince’s condition changed after hitting the ball three or four times during warmup exercises.
Ushiogi said the ambassador had the prince lie down while he rushed out to call an ambulance. Prince Takamado’s wife, Princess Hisako, rushed to the scene and she and the ambassador accompanied the prince inside the ambulance.
According to the coach, Prince Takamado personally asked him for lessons, after he reported late last month to the prince the results of the recent Asian Games in Pusan, South Korea. He said Thursday was their first lesson together.
The embassy earlier said the prince collapsed at around 3:50 p.m. while receiving a private squash lesson from an instructor at an embassy sports facility along with the ambassador. The lesson began at around 3 p.m.
Imperial Household Agency officials said the prince, honorary chairman of the Japan Squash Association, played squash about twice a month with Wright.
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