Empress Emerita turns 88

Courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency
The Empress Emerita walks with the Emperor Emeritus on the grounds of the Akasaka Estate in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 4.

The Empress Emerita turned 88 on Thursday.

These days she leads an orderly life at the Akasaka Estate in Moto-Akasaka, Tokyo, taking a walk in the morning and early evening with the Emperor Emeritus. They moved back to the estate, which is filled with their fond memories, in April.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, she and the Emperor Emeritus spent 33 years after their wedding at the estate, where they now admire seasonal flowers, such as roses and sunflowers, while sharing the memories the flowers bring back. After breakfast, she keeps to a daily routine of reading books aloud with the Emperor Emeritus. Currently, she is reading textbooks from the Emperor Emeritus’ elementary school days at Gakushuin Primary School in Tokyo. They also share the reading of six newspapers, each reading three of them and telling each other about interesting stories they have found.

After an earthquake measuring upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7 occurred off Fukushima Prefecture in March, she was very concerned about the damage it caused, such as the derailment of a Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train and large-scale blackout, and her thoughts were with the people affected by the disaster.

She has also had some sad farewells with people she had befriended, including children’s book author Kyoko Matsuoka, who died in January at 86. The Empress Emerita nurtured a friendship with Matsuoka through their activities in the International Board on Books for Young People, and the two spoke by phone about a week before the author’s death.

As for her health, she still develops slight temperature in the afternoon. Her B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) level, a measurement used to diagnose heart failure, continues to be high. In July, she underwent laser surgery on her right eye to treat an aftercataract, and in August, she was diagnosed as having deep-vein thrombosis below her right knee.

An official celebration of her birthday is to be held Thursday for the first time in fours years, at the Sento Imperial Residence within the Akasaka Estate, but the scale of the event is to be modest due to measures for preventing novel coronavirus infection.