Japan's new Emperor is the first to be born in the postwar period and the first child in the Imperial family to be raised by his parents. After studying in the UK, he attended graduate school in Japan -- also a first for a member of the Imperial family.
Emperor's experience in UK
One man who knew Emperor Naruhito in his days as a student at the University of Oxford, back in the 1980s, is former London Metropolitan Police officer Roger Bacon. He provided security for the then-Prince.
Bacon lived next door to the Prince in the university dormitory and accompanied him whenever he went out. Bacon remembers him as an inquisitive person who enjoyed socializing in British pubs. "One of the things that began to come out was that he's curious," recalls Bacon. "He wanted to know about things. He was outgoing. He was happy to meet people and talk to people."
Setsuo Kato documented those days with his camera. He thinks the young Prince became more confident throughout his Oxford days. He says other students were surprised when the Prince was addressed as "His Royal Highness" at the entrance ceremony. He says the prince just smiled.
Kato says he thinks the Prince came out of his shell while in the UK. He says that struck him when he saw the Prince at a reception at the Japanese Embassy in London shortly before he completed his studies at Oxford, chatting with the guests and sharing opinions, showing he had the knowledge and confidence to talk with people from all walks of life.
Kato says, "Britain is a very international nation. The Emperor met people from many countries during his student days, and I hope he will make good use of that knowledge and experience in his diplomacy."
Expectations for Empress Masako
And the Prince took an internationally active wife. Empress Masako is a Harvard graduate who became a diplomat, like her father.
When US President Donald Trump visited Japan in May, the Emperor and Empress made a big impression on the people of Japan as cameras showed them conversing with their guests without needing an interpreter.
Will for peace in the world
One thing that hasn't changed in the new era is the focus on peace. Japanese historian Michifumi Isoda says he noted that the Emperor used the word "peace" three times in his speech at the ceremony to mark his accession.
He says he thinks Emperor Naruhito was expressing his desire to be Japan's symbol in an era of peace, much like his father. Isoda also noted that two of the three references were about world peace, suggesting that he's thinking about peace not only in Japan.