fifty years ago September 28, 1971 Archives

From the Archives (September 28, 1971): An Emperor’s Odyssey

Tokyo: Emperor Hirohito set a history-shattering precedent on Monday when he and the Empress left Japan for a whirlwind European tour which will take them to seven countries. Never before in the long centuries that the Emperors have ruled over this country has a reigning monarch left the shores of Japan on a foreign tour for any purpose whatsoever. Till the end of the last war, the Emperors were regarded as living gods — the Imperial Family was popularly believed to have descended directly from the Sun-Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami — and it was unthinkable that such a divine personage should condescend to visit other lands ruled by mere mortals. For Hirohito, this is actually the second time he has left the shores of his country. Just 50 years ago, in 1921, when Europe was still struggling to recover from the ravages of World War 1, Hirohito, then barely 20, was sent out in his capacity as the Crown Prince on a visit to several countries in Western Europe. For the Empress, however, this will indeed be a voyage full of thrills and discoveries for she has never left Japan before. If it is a voyage of discovery for the Empress, it is going to be a journey of re-discovery for the Emperor, for present-day Europe will have little resemblance to the Europe which he saw half a century ago.

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