Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan (, born 23 February 1960) is the elder son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, which makes him the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Naruhito was born on 23 February 1960 in a makeshift hospital on the grounds of the palace. The prince later quipped, “I was born in a barn inside the moat”
Naruhito’s childhood was reported to be happy, and he enjoyed such diverse hobbies as music, mountain climbing, and riding. He played with the children of the royal chamberlain, and he was a fan of the Yomiuri Giants in the Central League, his favorite player being No. 3-turned-team manager Shigeo Nagashima. One day, Naruhito found the remains of an ancient roadway on the palace grounds, sparking a lifelong fascination with the history of transportation, which would provide the subject of his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history. He later said, “I have had a keen interest in roads since childhood. On roads you can go to the unknown world. Since I have been leading a life where I have few chances to go out freely, roads are a precious bridge to the unknown world, so to speak.”
In August 1974, when the prince was 14, he was sent to Melbourne, Australia for a homestay. Naruhito’s father, then the Crown Prince Akihito, had had a positive experience there on a trip the year before and encouraged his son to go as well. He stayed with the family of businessman Colin Harper. He got along with his host brothers, riding around Point Lonsdale, playing violin and tennis, and climbing Uluru together. Once he even played violin for dignitaries at a state dinner at Government House hosted by Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
When Naruhito was four years old he was enrolled in the prestigious Gakushuin school system, where many of Japan’s elite families and narikin send their children. In senior high Naruhito joined the geography club.
Naruhito graduated from Gakushuin in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in history. In July of the next year he entered a three-month intensive English course before entering Merton College, Oxford University in England, where he would study until 1986. Naruhito would not, however, submit his thesis A Study of Navigation and Traffic on the Upper Thames in the 18th Century until 1989. He later revisited these years in his book, The Thames and I–a Memoir of Two Years at Oxford. Among his sightseeing destinations were some 21 historic pubs, including the Trout Inn and The White Hart. Naruhito joined the Japan Society and the drama society, and was the honorary president of the karate and judo clubs. He played inter-college tennis, seeding number three out of six on the Merton team, and took golf lessons from a pro. In his three years at Merton he also climbed the highest peaks in the constituent countries of Great Britain: Scotland’s Ben Nevis, Wales’ Snowdon and Scafell Pike in England.
While at Oxford, Naruhito also was able to go sightseeing across Europe and meet many of its royalty, including the British royal family. The relatively relaxed manners of the British royals amazed him: “Queen Elizabeth II, he noted with surprise, poured her own tea and served the sandwiches.” He also went skiing with Liechtenstein’s Hans-Adam II, holidayed on Majorca in the Mediterranean with Juan Carlos I, and sailed with Norway’s Harald and Sonja and Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Upon his return to Japan, Naruhito would enroll once more in Gakushuin University to earn a master’s degree in history, successfully earning his degree in 1988.
Naruhito first met Masako Owada at a tea for Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo in November 1986, during her studies at the University of Tokyo. The prince was immediately captivated by her, and arranged for them to meet several times over the next few weeks. Because of this they were pursued relentlessly by the press throughout 1987.
Despite the Imperial Household Agency’s disapproval of Masako, and her attending Balliol College, Oxford for the next two years, Naruhito remained interested in Masako. He would go on to propose to her three times before the Imperial Palace announced their engagement on 19 January 1993. The wedding took place on 9 June the same year at the Imperial Shinto Hall in Tokyo before 800 invited guests, including many of Europe’s heads of state and royalty, and an estimated media audience of 500 million people around the world.
After the wedding the couple moved into the Tōgū Palace, on the Akasaka Estate in Minato, Tokyo.
Naruhito is interested in water policy and water conservation. In March 2003, in his capacity as honorary president of the Third World Water Forum, he delivered a speech at the forum’s opening ceremony titled “Waterways Connecting Kyoto and Local Regions”. Visiting Mexico in March 2006, he gave the keynote address at the opening ceremony for the Fourth World Water Forum, “Edo and Water Transport.” And in December 2007, he gave a commemorative talk at the opening ceremony for the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit, “Humans and Water: From Japan to the Asia-Pacific Region.”
Prince Naruhito now plays the viola, having switched from violin because he thought the latter “too much of a leader, too prominent” to suit his musical and personal tastes. He enjoys jogging, hiking, and mountaineering in his spare time.
Crown Prince Naruhito is an honorary member of the World Commission on Water for the 21st century and patron of the Global Water Partnership, established by the World Bank, the United Nations, and the Swedish Agency of Development.
The prince was a patron of the Japanese Olympic Games Committee. On behalf of the crown, the prince carries out representative duties in Japan and abroad. The prince is also a supporter of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and in 2006 attended the 14th Nippon Jamboree, the Japanese national jamboree organized by the Boy Scout Association of Japan. The crown prince has also been an honorary vice-president of the Japanese Red Cross Society since 1994.
The crown prince made an official visit to Bhutan in 1997. On his departure on 6 March he flew on Druk Air, the Bhutanese flag carrier, and was joined during a stopover in Calcutta by a number of backpackers.
The crown prince was the honorary president of Expo 2005.
On Monday, 9 February 2009, Crown Prince Naruhito left Japan for Vietnam, the first visit to a communist nation for the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. During the week-long trip, he met President Nguyễn Minh Triết in Hanoi and visited the ancient city of Huế in central Vietnam, as well as Ho Chi Minh City in the south. The trip marked the 35th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
In 2012, Naruhito temporarily took charge of his father’s duties while Akihito underwent heart bypass surgery.
On 17 June 2014, Crown Prince Naruhito started a weeklong official trip in Switzerland to commemorate the 150th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties. The trip at the invitation of the Switzerland government marked the first official visit to the country by the Crown Prince, who is honorary president of Japan’s celebrations committee.