Their Imperial Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, the last anniversary as the reigning couple of Japan, on Wednesday, 10 April.
Together, they received addresses from members of the Imperial Family, including the soon-to-be Emperor Naruhito (current Crown Prince), and members of the government and the Imperial Household Agency.
The couple, who had their engagement approved by the Imperial Household Council on 27 November 1958, was first described as a “fairy tale”, but it didn’t come without controversy. The then Crown Prince Akihito was scrutinised for his choice of bride because in choosing Michiko as his future spouse, he had broken a 2000 year-long tradition of marrying members of the aristocracy. As such, the then Michiko Shōda became the first commoner to marry into the Imperial Family of Japan.
Their Imperial Majesties have three children together: Naruhito, Fumihito and Sayako.
Crown Prince Naruhito, the current heir to the throne of Japan, is married to Crown Princess Masako. They have one daughter: Princess Aiko.
Prince Fumihito, the middle child, married Princess Kiko in 1990. They have three children: Princess Mako, Princess Kako and Prince Hisahito.
Sayako, the youngest child and only daughter, married Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005. Having married a commoner, she had to renounce her membership and privileges as a member of Japan’s Imperial Family. She lost her title and assumed her husband’s last name. Sayako and her husband don’t have children.
Emperor Akihito is set to retire in three weeks and be succeeded by his eldest son, Naruhito. Japan’s Imperial Succession Law doesn’t allow women to succeed to the throne, and because of that, Fumihito, Emperor Akihito’s middle child, will become the new Crown Prince of Japan.
The Imperial Succession Law of Japan didn’t allow for abdication, and when Emperor Akihito first expressed his desire to abdicate, during a 2016 televised address, there was no clear way of knowing how that would be achieved. The government and the National Diet of Japan had to vote and enact a law to allow the Emperor to abdicate.