Emperor Akihito, who leaves for Britain on Wednesday, was a keen traveler when he visited the country in 1953 to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, according to a book published the following year.
The then 19-year-old Crown Prince Akihito met with heads of state and royal family members of many countries during his first overseas journey, a nearly half-year jaunt that also took him to the United States, West Germany and Canada.
The book “Taikan Kiko” (“Coronation Journal”) was based on a diary kept by Shigekuni Kikkawa, then master of ceremonies at the Imperial Household Agency, who accompanied the Crown Prince. Kikkawa sent his writings as personal letters to his home in Tokyo every week or so.
His wife provided copies of the letters to Emperor Hirohito, the Emperor’s father, posthumously called Emperor Showa, his brother, Prince Takamatsu, and other Imperial family members.
On April 30, 1953, the fourth day of the Crown Prince’s visit to Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill welcomed him by bowing deeply at a luncheon, according to Kikkawa.
In the presence of former Prime Minister Clement Attlee and representatives from newspapers that maintained a negative view of Japan after World War II, Churchill treated Crown Prince Akihito to the prince’s favorite red wine, it said.
Churchill opened up to the Crown Prince “as if he were a real grandson,” Kikkawa said in the book. “His highness has done greatly. I feel like saying ‘Banzai, banzai (Bravo).’ “
The Japanese Embassy in London described the Crown Prince’s visit, at a time when sentiment toward Japan was at a low because of the war, as “opening a door for fostering friendly relations with Britain,” Kikkawa said.
During visits to other countries, he met with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
While on board the ship crossing the Pacific Ocean, the Crown Prince played table tennis and mahjong with the passengers, the book said. He joked with his deputies and ate several servings of his favorite curry and rice.
When he traveled across Canada by railway, he woke up before dawn and got off at a station in below-freezing temperatures to see people who were waiting for him.