Emperor Emeritus turns 88, leads serene life

Courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency
The Emperor Emeritus poses with the Empress Emerita at their temporary Imperial residence in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 7.

The Emperor Emeritus turned the auspicious age of 88 on Thursday, having no particular health problems and leading a serene life with the Empress Emerita.

In September, the Emperor Emeritus became the oldest living person to have reigned as emperor, based on highly reliable records dating back to the 7th century.

The 88th birthday is regarded as a milestone in Japanese culture and known as “beiju,” which uses the character for rice because it resembles the combined characters for 88.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor Emeritus refrained from going outside over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, except for visits to the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household and the Hospital of the Imperial Household, both within the Imperial Palace grounds. He was kept informed by aides on such matters as the infection situation and the impact of natural disasters in various areas, and has been deeply concerned about people in adverse circumstances.

The Emperor Emeritus visited disaster-stricken areas 58 times after he was enthroned as emperor, and made 42 overseas trips to 115 countries, with some repeat visits, including during his time as the crown prince. He is said to express concern, happiness and other emotions about people whom he met on visits and other occasions whenever he comes across them in newspaper articles.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

In the morning and evening, he takes a stroll with the Empress Emerita in the garden of the Sento Kari Gosho, their temporary Imperial residence in Tokyo, and reads aloud Torahiko Terada’s essay “Kaki no Tane.” At his advanced age, he sometimes has lapses in memory, but after confirming facts with the Empress Emerita, he feels reassured and says with a smile, “Oh, that’s right.”

The Emperor Emeritus goes to the Biological Laboratory twice a week to study gobies, a small spiny-finned fish. In May, he published a paper on two new species of Hasselt’s goby.

The Emperor Emeritus was delighted by how Princess Aiko, the only child of the Emperor and Empress, had grown when she turned 20 earlier this month. He also wished happiness for former Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, upon her marriage in October.

Birthday celebrations for the Emperor Emeritus, which were canceled last year amid the pandemic, were to be held on a reduced scale.