It was no normal New Year’s for the imperial family, who had to forgo their usual New Year’s appearance to the public at the palace due to the pandemic. Instead, Emperor Naruhito had a video of his new year message uploaded to the internet, thanking medical staff involved in the fight against the coronavirus.

More alarmingly, the family had an uninvited guest, in the form of an intruder who wandered into the grounds of the emperor’s Tokyo residence Saturday night and apparently spent a whole two hours there before being arrested. 

The incident has shades of Queen Elizabeth II’s impromptu meeting with an intruder in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace in 1982. While the man arrested Saturday reportedly said, “I wanted to meet members of the imperial family,” it is not known if he encountered any royals on his wanderings. 

Video message from His Majesty the Emperor to the people | ANN NEWS CH
Video message from His Majesty the Emperor to the people (Japanese) | ANN NEWS CH

Over the break, it also came to light that the government led by the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan proposed that then-Emperor Akihito evacuate to Kyoto or somewhere further west during the Fukushima nuclear crisis. But the Imperial Household Agency dismissed the idea, saying there was “no way” the emperor would leave when people were not evacuating Tokyo, a source tells Kyodo. 

Amid concerns that the family could run out of heirs, the public has shown support for women ascending the throne. A government is supposed to be discussing how to ensure stable imperial succession, but full-fledged talks are unlikely to begin until after this year’s general election. PM Suga made his views in the issue clear over the weekend, saying, “male-only succession should be given priority.”