For the first time in two centuries, a Japanese emperor thanks Akihito. From the 1st of May his son Naruhito rules. Above all, he stands for continuity – as an unknown is Empress Masako.
With the emperor Naruhito, Japan is back in year one: the new government decree is called Reiwa, which means in the reading of the government as much as „beautiful harmony“.
At 60, Japanese retire. But for Naruhito, who is 59 years old, things are just starting. Unlike his predecessors, he was educated directly by his parents and was the first member of the imperial family to study abroad: Naruhito spent two years in Oxford.
„I am deeply grateful to Emperor and Empress for having given them all this,“ he once said of his childhood and youth. „The fact that I was lovingly raised in a warm family and taught you fun in music and sports, and that I was able to study abroad, which is hard to get, is a great treasure for me today.“
Naruhito has copied a lot from the father
If you’re an early riser, Naruhito may also see you jogging in the public part of the Imperial Palace in the morning. He has also played the viola for many years and has done a lot of research on water supply and environmental protection.
Volker Stanzel, former German Ambassador to Japan, is sure that he will quickly grow into his father’s big footsteps: „He is younger, he is more interested, more internationally experienced, he has studied in England,“ says Stanzel. „Well, I’m sure it will be similar to him.“
This assessment is shared by Makoto Watanabe, former mayor and thus something like the private secretary of the outgoing emperor.
„The Crown Prince has been watching his father the whole time, and he has heard what he says, not only in terms of official but also private life,“ he says. „I do not think the emperor then said to his son after his abdication: You have to do that and that and think like this and the skills you need may have been transferred sufficiently from one to another.“
Has Empress Masako grown to the new role?
The great unknown is the future Empress Masako. Naruhito did not get to know her until late, and the daughter of a high-ranking official had long been struggling to marry him.
Ultimately, she agreed, but said at her engagement in 1993, „The prince said to me that he takes my life with all his defenses, even if I’m a lot of different worries and uncertainties.“ In public, Masako quickly becomes the „sad princess“.
„She was a diplomat and was cosmopolitan, by the way, she studied in Germany – in Blaubeuren in southwestern Germany – so she speaks foreign languages, so she’s very open-minded,“ says ex-ambassador Stanzel. „But it is well known that she has suffered greatly from the confinement by the court office, suffers from depression and very often eludes gigs.“
Naruhito always emphasizes the importance of his family
Whether this will change now with her new role? Under pressure she may have the expectation to give birth to a male heir to the throne. She suffered a miscarriage and then with Princess Aiko „only“ a girl was born.
Masako became ill with shingles and was not seen for a long time. There is talk of an adjustment disorder.
Meanwhile, Masako is seen more frequently in public again. In future she will – as usual for the wife of Tenno – take care of the silkworm breeding in the palace.
However, husband Naruhito never misses an opportunity to underline the importance of his little family for him. „Masako has been very much in charge of my affairs and Aiko’s and I would like to help and support her, if possible,“ he says.
The big celebration takes place in autumn
The Japanese are sure to watch that very closely. First of all, however, they look at Naruhito. He receives from his father to the new office the three insignia of power: a sword, a mirror and a chain of good luck. However, packed only in boxes – she has seen no one for a long time.