When the New Emperor of Japan went to Henley

Crown Prince Naruhito is guided around the Schwarzenbach International Rowing Gallery by Paul Mainds, who was the Chief Executive of the River & Rowing Museum at that time. The photograph also shows, on the right, Chris Dodd, who originally had the vision for the Museum, and David Chipperfield, the Museum’s award-winning architect. Courtesy of the River & Rowing Museum.

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.

Courtesy of the River & Rowing Museum.

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.

The Chairman of the Museum Trustees and key benefactor at that time, Martyn Arbib, who was knighted in 2003, invited Crown Prince Naruhito to sign the Museum’s copy of his “The Thames as Highway”, which the Museum holds in the Keller Library. Courtesy of the River & Rowing Museum.

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