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Japan gets new emperor

File Photo: The then Crown Prince Naruhito and his bride, Masako, leaving the Imperial Palace for a 2.5-mile parade to the Togu Palace, Tokyo, on their wedding day in June 9, 1993. Koji Sasahara/AP

On 1 May, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, succeed his father, Akihito, who abdicated due to health concerns.
Japan has welcomed a new emperor after its current one, Akihito, who stepped down — the country’s first abdication in some 200 years.
Akihito’s son, Crown Prince Naruhito, has succeed his father on the throne on Wednesday, May 1.
The 59-year-old, who was educated in Tokyo and Oxford, is a keen historian, water transportation researcher, and memoirist. He has spoken out on environmental issues for decades.
He and his wife, Masako, have also openly discussed their struggles with mental health and the pressure to produce a male heir — providing the traditionally conservative Japanese society a rare, frank glimpse into their lives.
Naruhitohas become the country’s 126th emperor.
He was born in Tokyo in February 1960 as the eldest son to then-Crown Prince Akihito and his wife Michiko — making him the natural heir to the world’s oldest monarchy.
Akihito, who has been emperor since 1989, announced his plan to step down in December 2017. It was Japan’s first abdication in 200 years.
Akihito, 85, has undergone heart surgery and been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the past.
He hinted of his wish to abdicate in a 2016 speech, saying: “When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now.”
He added that if an emperor died on the throne, Japanese society could come “to a standstill.”
Earlier this month Akihito performed a sacred ritual to confirm his resignation to the Shinto gods and put the succession process into motion.
Naruhito, the crown prince, grew up in Tokyo and received a bachelor’s degree in History at the city’s private Gakushuin University aged 22.
A year later he moved, by himself, to the UK to enroll in a postgraduate course at Oxford University’s Merton College, where he studied the history of transportation in the River Thames for two years.
This was the first time anyone in the direct line of succession to Japan’s throne studied outside the country, The Japan Times reported.
He recorded his time in Oxford assiduously, which culminated in his 1993 memoir “The Thames and I: A Memoir of Two Years at Oxford.”
The book details his daily life in Oxford, travels around the UK and Europe, and anecdotes about a crown prince trying to fit into student life. Naruhito called this period the “happiest time” of his life, The Japan Times reported.
Naruhito almost flooded his student dorm while doing laundry for the first time in his life,The Japan Times reported the book as saying.
According to Nippon.com, Naruhito also recalled telling his Oxford friends about the similarities between the Japanese words for “Your Highness” (“denka”) and the word for “electric light” (“denki”) — resulting in his friends calling him an electric light instead of your highness.
Hugh Cortazzi, the former British ambassador to Japan who translated the book from Japanese to English, told The Japan Times the memoir “reveals the Crown Prince’s charm, modesty, sense of humor and conscientious dedication to his studies and will enhance his international image.”
He later returned to Tokyo, eventually getting another Master’s degree from Gakushuin University. There he met Masako Owada, an Oxford- and Harvard-educated aspiring diplomat, reportedly at a tea party for a Spanish princess in 1986.
Naruhito pursued Masako relentlessly, despite her reportedly refusing his marriage proposal twice because she didn’t want to jeopardize her diplomatic career. She finally accepted in December 1992, and they married in 1993.