7 June 2019
By Paul Mainds
Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicated from the Chrysanthemum Throne on 30 April 2019. The day after, his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, became the new Emperor. Paul Mainds, former Chief Executive and Trustee of the River & Rowing Museum, remembers when the Prince visited the Museum in 2001.
In May 2001, the new Emperor of Japan, Naruhito, then the Crown Prince, paid an official visit to Great Britain. The main reason for the Crown Prince’s visit was to launch “Japan 2001”, a year-long programme of Japanese cultural events in Britain, of which he was joint-patron together with the Prince of Wales.
During his visit, the Crown Prince went back to Oxford, where he had been a student at Merton College from 1983 to 1985. By all accounts, he much enjoyed his time there and found the atmosphere a relaxing alternative to the formality that he was used to in Japan. His studies resulted in a thesis exploring navigation and traffic on the River Thames during the 18th century. The thesis, The Thames as Highway – A Study of Navigation and Traffic on the Upper Thames in the Eighteen Century, was published by Oxford University Press in 1989.
En route from Oxford to a lunch with Prince Charles at his country home, Highgrove House, the Crown Prince visited the Museum where he took great interest in touring the galleries, especially those dedicated to Rowing and the River Thames. Before leaving, he signed the copy of his thesis held by the Museum.