Akihito is the current emperor of Japan, born Prince Tsugunomiya Akihito on December 23, 1933 to the late Emperor Showa, known outside Japan as Hirohito. He graduated from the Imperial Gakuikuin in 1952, and from Gakushuin University in 1956. In 1959, he married Shoda Michiko, the first commoner in history to marry into the Imperial family. They now have three children: Crown Prince and heir apparent Hironomiya Naruhito (1960), Prince Ayanomiya Fumihito (Akishino) (1965), and the ex-Princess Norinomiya "Nori" Sayako (1969), who married a commoner in late 2005 and thus gave up her imperial status as required by law. In 1971, Akihito and his wife visited, of all places, Afghanistan.
Akihito, like his father, used his royal privelege to pursue arts and sciences, becoming an expert on fish and an avid cellist. He frequently joins his wife, who plays the harp, and his children, who play guitar, viola, and piano, to fill the chambers of their palace with classical music.
On January 7, 1989, Hirohito passed away on his death bed at the Imperial Palace. Akihito was crowned Emperor in a private ceremony later that day, and his reign was named Heisei. Since then, he has been a very low-profile emperor, coming into the public light only when he goes on a state visit, or opens the Diet. This is unsurprising, as Akihito was very shy during his years as a prince, choosing to spend most of his time with his family and his studies.
In Japanese, he is never referred to as "Akihito." (I was at a Japan-themed quiz bowl in Miami a couple of years back, and none of the Japanese present could name the current emperor.) Instead, he is called Tennô Heika ("His Majesty the Emperor"), or, when he needs to be differentiated from other emperors, Kinjô Tennô ("the current emperor").
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