As a Young Crown Prince, Akihito Helped America to See the Human Face of Japan
Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to the Hawai‘i Herald
Enthusiastic waves of aloha greeted Emperor Akihito during each of his official visits to Hawai‘i, beginning in April 1953 when he was just barely an adult and about to embark on a whirlwind six-month tour of the United States, Canada and 10 European countries: Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. The centerpiece of that tour was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, who had succeeded her father, King George VI, as monarch of the British Empire following his death in February 1952. Her coronation was held the following year, on June 2, 1953, with then-Crown Prince Akihito representing his father, Emperor Hirohito, and the nation of Japan.
Dignitaries and members of royal families from around the world traveled to England to witness the pomp and circumstance of the coronation in London’s Westminster Abbey. Akihito, then 19 years old, had only recently celebrated his Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day, a centuries-old tradition in Japan in which young people turning 19 mark their passage into adulthood. The ceremony was combined with his formal investiture as the crown prince of Japan.