SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please consider donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!


YEAR IN REVIEW: Threats, health scares, and new beginnings for the Japanese Imperial Family in 2022

The Japanese Imperial Family has had its share of threats and health scares throughout 2022. However, the year was also one for new beginnings.

The year started with Emperor Naruhito’s in-person New Year greetings being cancelled again due to the ongoing global health crisis; however, the Emperor made up for it by addressing the Japanese people through a televised speech instead for the second year in a row.

The health issues for members of the Imperial Family began in February when Princess Yoko, then 38, was hospitalised with COVID that turned into pneumonia. There was more trouble for the family as that same month Prince Hisahito, the second in line to the throne, was accused of plagiarism on an award-winning essay he wrote.

Princess Aiko during her press conference. (Screenshot/Fair Use)

By March, the family saw happier times with the only daughter of the Emperor and Empress Masako, Princess Aiko, delivering her first news conference since coming of age. The Princess, who is not in line to the throne due to succession laws, vowed to fulfill her royal duties now that she is an adult. Aiko said she would “value each and every one of my duties.

The following month it was announced that she would continue her university studies online for the time being due to the ongoing pandemic. Her first cousin, and future Emperor, Prince Hisahito, had a scare when a threat forced his school to beef up security measures to keep him safe. That same month, his parents, Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko, would complete their rituals as the Crown Prince Couple for their investiture on 26 April.

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

May saw the Emperor and Empress attend an important ceremony marking the return of Okinawa to Japan from the United States. Emperor Naruhito also welcomed US President Biden to Japan and the Crown Prince Couple attending a war memorial ceremony.

Crown Prince Fumihito called for wider use of sign language in June, and the public was divided after a panel on the Imperial Family reached no conclusions regarding succession or working members of the family.

In July, Emperor Emeritus Akihito was diagnosed with heart failure, and in August, Princess Akiko gave a rare interview where she revealed the moment she found her calling.

Tragedy struck Japan in July when former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated. The country was in shock and looked to the Imperial Family in their time of grief. The State Funeral for the former leader took place on 27 September, and the Crown Prince led the country in a final goodbye to a beloved prime minister. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako also flew to London to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral.

David Parry/PA Media Assignments/Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office/Flickr

That same month, Emperor Emeritus underwent eye surgery, and Prince Hisahito celebrated his 16th birthday. Former Princess Ayako also gave birth to her second child in September – a second son.

Another health scare came in October – this time for Emperor Naruhito. The Emperor had to undergo scans for prostate cancer (but was later cleared). November had Princess Nobuko undergoing surgery for breast cancer, but there was good news for the Japanese people as the grounds of the Imperial Palace were opened for the first time since the pandemic.

Empress Masako’s health was not good in December, and she was not well enough to attend birthday celebrations for her daughter. Crown Prince Fumihito also said that he thought the Imperial Household needed to communicate with the public better.

Good news closed out the year for the Imperial Family as it was announced that the traditional birthday greetings for the Emperor at the Imperial Palace would return in 2023.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.