As Crown Prince Naruhito prepares to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1st, his first autobiographical book has been republished in English. The book, “The Thames and I” covers the time the then Prince was studying at Merton College, Oxford; his studies were on the historical use of the River Thames for transport. The Crown Prince was the first member of the Japanese Imperial Family to study in England, though following his lead, his nieces have also studied there. Princess Mako spent a couple of months at University College Dublin before spending a year at the University of Leicester, and her younger sister, Princess Kako studied for a year at the University of Leeds.
The book was first published in Japan in the mid-1990s and was translated into English by a British Ambassador, the late Hugh Cortazzi, to Japan in 2006. The book told not only of the Crown Prince’s educational life at Oxford but also of some the general student life that he came across also his travels around Europe. Despite his royal title and status, the Crown Prince was keen to absorb himself as much as possible into student life, even to living in a dormitory with other students.
One of the recollections in the book details of the time he nearly flooded the dormitory with his first attempt at clothes washing. Indeed, clothes also featured in another story, when the young royal was barred entrance to a venue because his jeans were not smart enough. At the time of the publication, the Crown Prince once again expressed his enjoyment of his time at Oxford and hoped his writing would enhance the ties between the two countries. Now we shall see if his actions, as well as his words, will strengthen the relationship.
Before his death last year, the translator of the book, Hugh Cortazzi said: “I believe it reveals the Crown Prince’s charm, modesty, sense of humour and conscientious dedication to his studies will enhance his international image.”
Now he is due to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne in a world which has many current issues that international image will come to the fore, and it will be interesting to see how it grows and matures.