As Japan celebrates the birth of the first heir to the Imperial throne in nearly 41 years, the question now is how best to prepare Prince Hisahito for being an emperor.
The question arises from the special circumstances surrounding the prince. He was not born to Crown Prince Naruhito, who is first in line to succeed Emperor Akihito, but to Prince Akishino, the Emperor’s second son and second in line to the throne.
As such, Prince Hisahito, who stands third in line, is unlikely to receive the same treatment as would a son born to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess Masako.
But because the Crown Princess has been suffering from an illness brought on by pressure to produce an heir, the possibility of the throne eventually going to the new prince is fairly high if the Imperial House Law, which limits Imperial successors to males, remains as is.
Under these circumstances, pundits have begun debating how Prince Hisahito should be educated so as to make him ready to become the “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people” as the emperor is defined in Article 1 of the Constitution.
“The young prince should be given an Imperial education through which he can become aware of his responsibilities,” said Kyoto Sangyo University professor Isao Tokoro, an expert on Imperial affairs.
“He needs to acquire a frame of mind indispensable for an emperor, such as stoic courtesy, discipline and consideration for others,” Tokoro said, adding that he should obtain such attitudes by learning from older Imperial members.
Classics, Imperial history, poems and other subjects which are necessary for an Imperial family member must also be taught, he said.
Past emperors were given special education in their youth. For example, when he was crown prince, Emperor Hirohito, now known as Showa, attended a school set up exclusively for him for seven years with five “classmates.”
There, he learned a wide range of subjects, including history, ethics, mathematics, classical Chinese and horseback riding from renowned experts and military officials.
Due to the war, no special school was set up for Emperor Akihito when he was crown prince. Instead, from primary school to university he attended Gakushuin, a private educational institution in Tokyo originally established for Imperial family members.
Shinzo Koizumi, a former president of Tokyo’s Keio University, was later put in charge of his education and is known to have discussed royalty and the public with him by drawing on the example of Britain’s King George V.
The then crown prince also absorbed Western thinking and manners from a private American tutor named Elizabeth Vining.
Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino both attended Gakushuin from kindergarten through university.
The Crown Prince was also given special lectures from leading scholars on a range of subjects from Imperial history to Japanese arts.
Experts say it will be hard to give Prince Akishino’s newborn son the same kind of education with the depth and thoroughness afforded to previous crown princes unless special arrangements are made.
The newborn baby, although he is an heir to the throne, is only a prince of one of several Imperial branch families, which are given less priority in succeeding to the monarchy. Given that, his education will principally be left up to his parents, the experts say.
With his marriage to Princess Kiko in 1990, Prince Akishino left the Emperor’s family and established a new branch.
Under the Imperial House Economy Law, the annual budget for Prince Akishino’s household to cover its private expenses totals 54.9 million yen, including 3.05 million yen set aside for the new prince.
In contrast, the total budget for the Crown Prince’s household and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko’s household was 324 million yen for fiscal 2006, nearly six times that of Prince Akishino’s.
But the Imperial Household Agency says the cost of educating the new baby will be covered by official funds used to maintain the Imperial court, rather than by Prince Akishino’s personal expenses, as he is an heir to the throne.
The amount is not as important an issue as a support system for the new prince, according to Kyoto Sangyo University’s Tokoro.
He proposes the agency assign more staff to Prince Akishino to help with his son’s education and use the budget allocation wisely.
“Unlike Crown Prince Naruhito, who will head the main family, Prince Akishino, who heads a branch, doesn’t have a huge staff. It would come in handy if he had enough staff in charge of his son’s education. It would help, for example, if he wants to invite someone to lecture to his son,” Tokoro said.
Hiroshi Takahashi, who covered Imperial affairs as a reporter and now teaches at the Shizuoka University of Welfare, says there is not much to be done about Prince Hisahito’s education for the time being.
“He is not a crown prince’s son. The status is so different, his parents will just have to do what they have to on their own,” he said.
The different status became apparent at the prince’s naming ceremony Tuesday. In the ceremony, his father conferred a name on him, unlike the children of a crown prince, who are given names by the emperor. The boy will also be without an appellation used to address him in his youth.
Consequently, some experts are beginning to call for a change in rules so as to enable the baby to be treated similarly to a son of a crown prince.
With the birth of the boy, the debate on changing the Imperial succession law looks set to be shelved for the time being, apparently leaving Crown Prince Naruhito’s 4-year-old daughter, Princess Aiko, in limbo.
“Before, we were desperate to discuss the matter. But now that we have a new prince, we have some breathing space and people would be less concerned about Princess Aiko,” Takahashi said.
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