Emperor Akihito of Japan’s is the oldest hereditary ruling dynasty in the world. The line has endured for fourteen centuries. Born in 1933 the only son of Emperor Hirohito (also a Henry Poole & Co customer), he is the only monarch in the world now to hold the title Emperor. From the restoration of the Menji dynasty in 1868 until the Japanese surrender that ended World War Two, the Japanese Emperors were considered all-powerful God-Kings. After the defeat of the Emperor Hirohito, the monarchy became constitutional and ceremonial only.
Japan’s history in the 19th and early 20th century was one of aggression towards its neighbours including invasions of Asia, Russia, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. The lion’s share of Emperor Akihito’s reign has been spent atoning for his ancestors’ past war crimes. For this he has earned the affection of his people and the rest of the world. The Emperor sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne though he does not have the divine status that his father Hirohito was forced to renounce.
The Emperor is considered a gentle man. He is a creature of habit who wakes every morning at 6.30am, watches the news on television then walks in the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo with his wife the Empress Michiko. Official business is conducted from mid-day: receiving visiting royalty or foreign ambassadors, conferring Imperial awards and performing his duties as a Shinto priest. He is a keen study of biology and is one of the world’s experts on goby fish and has written thirty-six papers on the subject.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko lead a relatively isolated life behind the walls of the Imperial Palace. They do not answer the telephone and they do not use the Internet. All of their houses and furnishings belong to the Japanese state so technically they have no personal possessions. The Emperor is the 125th Emperor of his line and succeeded his father in 1989. He was tutored privately as a child and – unusually for an heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne – did not enter the military at the request of his father. When America firebombed Tokyo in 1945, the then Prince Imperial was evacuated and sent to study abroad.
When Prince Imperial, Akihito travelled extensively and was chosen to represent Emperor Hirohito at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It is for this occasion that he first visited Henry Poole & Co who tailored morning tails and white tie for the Prince Imperial’s ceremonial duties. The Emperor was and is a friend of Her Majesty; most recently being invited to the banquet of sovereigns in 2012 to celebrate Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The Queen has conferred the Most Noble Order of the Garter on the Emperor.
The Emperor’s currency in Japan rose inestimably when he gave a televised speech in 2011 after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukishima nuclear crisis. The Empress, the first commoner to marry into the dynasty, is also popular. The Emperor has two sons and a daughter. To date, the heir only has daughters and women cannot succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Fortunately, the second son now has a son Prince Hisashito who will secure the dynasty if he lives.