Public interested in Prince Hisahito’s pedagogical environment

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prince Hisahito waves as he enters the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on April 9 to report to the Emperor his entrance to high school.

Prince Hisahito, 15, the son of Crown Prince Akishino, started studying at the University of Tsukuba’s high school this spring. The prince is the first male member of the Imperial family to attend the school. Some people expressed disapproval of the unprecedented move.

He will become an adult member of the family while still in the school. His education and the thinking behind it will certainly attract public attention from now on due to their significance in preparing the prince to become the emperor in the future, serving as the symbol of the nation.

Based on own wishes

“I want to further deepen my interests,” the prince said when asked by the press about his ambitions in high school. He is known for his love of living creatures. In junior high school, he had already used a specialized, complicated kanji character for insect wings when writing about dragonflies.

A person who knows his enthusiasm for learning said: “He likes to learn new things. He looks up how to use kanji characters correctly, even ones that are not in regular use.”

His father, the crown prince, has also exercised his spirit of inquiry in doing official duties.

As honorary president of the Japan Water Prize Committee, the crown prince “praises a wide range of activities [by award winners], such as biology, agriculture, the environment, and disaster prevention and mitigation, using precise words based on the knowledge he has deepened as a PhD in science,” said Isoya Shinji, a member of the committee and a professor emeritus of Tokyo University of Agriculture.

Prince Hisahito carefully read information materials about high schools, listened to alumni, and finally expressed his wish to attend the Senior High School at Otsuka, University of Tsukuba, the motto of which is “Independence, Autonomy and Freedom.”

An acquaintance of Crown Prince Akishino said: “The choice will help him explore how the symbol of the nation must be. His grandfather, His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, also put emphasis on doing that.”

Gakushuin not only choice

His admission to the high school caused a stir partly because it was granted under a partnership system between the University of Tsukuba and Ochanomizu University. Before entering the high school, the prince had attended elementary and junior high schools affiliated with Ochanomizu University.

Although it was explained that his grades had met the criteria to receive a recommendation for admission, a rumor spread online that the partnership system had been established five years ago to give the prince special treatment.

Conversely, when speculation spread that the prince would take the general entrance examination with other applicants, other people complained that an Imperial family member should never compete with ordinary citizens.

There is an opinion that each Imperial family member must be given treatment equal to others of the family, and that in this respect the prince must learn at Gakushuin as the other male members did. At the same time, the changing environment for the Imperial family’s education should also be considered.

Before the end of World War II, Gakushuin was a state-run school exclusively for members of the Imperial family and the nobility. After the end of the war, membership in the Imperial family was scaled down. Consequently, in 1947, Gakushuin became a private school and declared that it would provide education to students of all ranks of society.

Prince Hisahito was the first boy born into the Imperial family in 41 years. There was no longer any reason to presume that his only educational option should be Gakushuin.

The education of the Emperor Emeritus when he was young was supported by Shinzo Koizumi, a former president of Keio University who served as his special tutor. The current Emperor had no such tutor.

It has long since become difficult for the Imperial family to have someone permanently in their service to educate young members. The young members instead have learned and developed their personalities at ordinary schools with ordinary citizens.

An aide to Crown Prince Akishino’s household said, “I hope people understand [Imperial family members’] efforts to seek the best school.”

Insufficient explanation

However, the Imperial Household Agency’s attitude toward this matter is questionable. It explained the reasons for the unprecedented school choice using such vague expressions as “the prince’s wish,” “the school’s educational policy,” and “the opinions of well-informed people.”

Yuji Otabe, a professor emeritus of Shizuoka University of Welfare who specializes in studies of the Imperial family, said: “[The agency] needs to explain what the future symbol of the nation is going to learn and ask for the public understanding of it.”

Prince Hisahito’s school fees have been paid from the Imperial family allowances, which cover private expenses, at the request of the crown prince’s household, even though they could be covered by public funds. Consequently, the agency’s involvement has been limited.

Now that the prince has finished his compulsory education and moved on to high school, it is necessary to provide support with greater awareness of the public nature of his education.

The School Education Law states that high school education is aimed at cultivating the qualities that students need to become members of the nation and society. The prince’s three years in high school will be a time to seriously contemplate his position as an heir to the throne.

It is also necessary to consider his education so that both the prince and the people of Japan can envision how he will support the Imperial family in the near future.

Until last fiscal year, the Emperor’s children and grandchildren were expected to become adult members of the Imperial family at the age of 18 according to the Imperial House Law while the age was 20 for other Imperial family members, the same as ordinary citizens, according to the Civil Code.

Under the revised Civil Code that came into effect in April, Prince Hisahito, a nephew of the Emperor, will become an adult member when he turns 18 in the autumn of his last year in high school.

This is likely to coincide with the time to decide his higher education and related matters after finishing high school.

“We will give opportunities for the public to see how he is growing through his high school life and to create an environment where decisions on his future will be widely understood,” a senior official of the Imperial Household Agency said.