Happy Birthday Tenno Heika

お正月2011 Emperor of Japan 天皇様

The Emperor and Empress of Japan in 2011 – credit Einharch

” Tenno Heika Banzai! ”

Every 23rd of December, as the slight, dapper Japanese Emperor emerges to give his annual public speech, the crowd, frantically waving their Nisshōki flags, chant out his name.

Unlikely to get the chance to see many other world monarchs in the flesh, I decided to attend Tenno Heika’s birthday speech in 2006. There were less people than I expected, mainly older Japanese, and a sprinkling of tourists. I had the misfortune to be stuck behind a  family of extremely tall, blonde Danes. Behind the crowd, a dense clique of photographers fiddled with cannon-sized telescopic lenses.

A view from the crowd:

The Japanese Emperor, known as Tenno Heika (your royal majesty) in Japan and Akihito in the West, is 79 in 2012. He, and the ever dignified and beautiful, Michiko-sama, have been the monarchs of Japan since 1989. Like Queen Elizabeth, the Japanese royalty is now entirely symbolic, but there is still a great deal of respect accorded to them. While his father, Showa Tenno, was the first Emperor to ever publicly address his subjects, as Japan surrendered to the Allies, his son has been more visible in public life, as well as an active ambassador to the world.

Personally, my I think the fact that Tenno Heika, is a specialist marine biologist, is pretty cool – even though he introduced the American Blue Gill to Japan, which he has admitted was not an act well-thought through. Also Michiko-sama’s father, was the president of Nisshin – the company which invented Cup Noodles.

Happy Birthday and Banzai Tenno Heika – I hope you and Michiko-sama will be around for a few more birthdays yet.

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