Photos of Japanese Emperor Show Intimate Glimpse of Student Days in United Kingdom

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The Emperor in morning dress and top hat at the Royal Ascot race meeting in Berkshire, England

Photographs, obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun, of the Emperor during his years as a student in the United Kingdom, show him freely interacting with people and nature.

A person associated with the Emperor’s time studying in Britain has entrusted The Yomiuri Shimbun with 18 photographs of the Emperor that had not previously been made public. Many are candid photos, showing the then prince in situations where he did not have to be conscious of the eyes of those around him.

The Yomiuri Shimbun would like to take this opportunity to present some of the photographs, on the occasion of the Emperor’s first official visit to the United Kingdom since his enthronement.

The Emperor studied at Oxford University in England from June 1983 to October 1985, from age 23 to 25. His aim was to deepen his interest in historical research while learning about the wider world.

Many of the photographs were taken in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. The Emperor’s memories of each destination are described in “Temuzu to Tomoni” (The Thames and I: A Memoir of Two Years at Oxford), a memoir of his experiences at Oxford.

One photo shows the Emperor relaxing with the Spanish crown prince, now King Felipe, on the island of Mallorca.

Climbing mountains

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The Emperor, left, climbs Scafell Pike in northern England in July 1985 with fellow students of Oxford University.

The Emperor had climbed some of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan, and from the time of his arrival in the United Kingdom wanted to climb the highest peaks of England, Scotland, and Wales, according to his memoir.

In the summer of 1985, the Emperor and some of his fellow students climbed Scafell Pike in northern England, an ascent that took 3½ hours.

No matter how much he climbed, the summit did not come into view easily, making him feel the significance of this mountain, the Emperor wrote.

With this climb, the Emperor achieved his goal of conquering the highest summits in the three countries.

Out to sea

In addition to a walk along the Thames River basin, which was the subject of his research, the Emperor’s memoir describes his tour of the area around the town of Dover, which faces continental Europe. He also spent time at a villa in Sark — one of the Channel Islands — at the invitation of the chairman of Lloyd’s.

Another photo shows his observation of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution training off the coast of Wales. In the picture, the Emperor is dressed in a lifeguard uniform and leaning out to sea from a lifeboat. The smile on his face indicates he is enjoying the experience, which could not have taken place in Japan.

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The Emperor observes training by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution off the coast of Wales.

Contact with people

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The Emperor, right, relaxes with the family of Lord Cranborne.

The Emperor was invited to the homes of the aristocracy in the United Kingdom. For example, there is a photo of him relaxing with the family of Lord Cranborne, with whom he enjoyed playing sports.

The Emperor also toured the European continent during his university breaks, visiting a total of 14 countries.

In addition to Spain, he was warmly welcomed by the royal families of the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Liechtenstein and other countries. He wrote that the hospitality he received came from the friendships that his parents had built up over the years, and he felt a strong need to carry it on.

A music lover, the Emperor visited the birthplace of Antonin Dvorak in the suburbs of Prague and played with members of the Czech Philharmonic.

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The Emperor, right, plays a string instrument with members of the Czech Philharmonic at the official residence of the Japanese ambassador in the Czech Republic.

He was also willing to pose for commemorative photographs when asked to do so by people who recognized him on his travels. One photo shows the Emperor surrounded by female tourists in Spain.

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The Emperor poses with tourists in Toledo, Spain.

During a goodwill visit when he was crown prince, the Emperor became a topic of conversation when he took a selfie with the Malaysian prime minister and another with a Danish citizen.

“The Emperor’s attitude of friendly interaction with both key figures and ordinary people was established after his experience studying abroad, where he had many encounters,” said the contributor of the photos, who is familiar with the Emperor’s travels 40 years ago, a time when he enjoyed his freedom.