徳仁

HIH Naruhito is the crown prince of Japan, the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and the grandson of the late Emperor Hirohito. He was born on February 23, 1960, and given the birth name of Hironomiya (浩宮).

Naruhito graduated with a history degree from Gakushuin University in 1982, and after spending two years at the University of Oxford studying medieval European trade, he returned to Gakushuin to complete his doctorate in 1988. Most of his research surrounds river transport, and he has published papers about the history of maritime trade on the Thames and Lake Biwa, as well as in what is now the Czech Republic.

When Hirohito died in 1989, Naruhito became crown prince at the age of 29. In 1993, he announced his marriage to a commoner, Owada Masako. Their royal wedding became the talk of all Japan, and the fervor surrounding the new empress-to-be was only matched by the birth of Naruhito and Masako's daughter, Princess Toshinomiya Aiko, in 2001.

Akihito is now entering his seventies, so the issue of Japanese imperial succession is a salient one. So far, it looks as if Naruhito's successor will be an empress: either Princess Aiko or another female member of the imperial family. The youngest male left after Naruhito is his brother Fumihito (aka Akishino), who is only five years younger than Naruhito and thus unlikely to outlive the crown prince for any extended period of time. This problem has been very controversial in Japan, as conservatives have decried the idea of a female emperor and liberals have decried the lofty regulations of the imperial household.

Hopefully, Naruhito will stay alive until the entire issue is resolved. He's a nice guy—he deserves to go in style. Never call him "Naruhito" in Japanese, by the way—the polite thing to say is Kôtaishi Heika, or "His Majesty the Crown Prince."

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