When Kotaishi Naruhito Shinno or Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan married the Harvard and Oxford educated Japanese diplomat, Masako Owada, in June 9, 1993, in an ancient Shinto wedding tradition, I was among the foreign students in Tokyo who celebrated with the rest of the Japanese. The love story was like the Japanese version of Prince Charles of England marrying Diana. It is a known fact that the Crown Prince persevered in pursuing the bright and pretty Masako and even proposed to her three times.
Last May 1, 2019, the Crown Prince ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne as Emperor Naruhito replacing his father, Emperor Akihito of the Heisei (Achieving Peace) period of Japan’s history. Emperor Akihito abdicated on April 30, 2019, owing to old age and failing health. The Reiwa (Beautiful Harmony) era ushered by Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement begins this May, 2019. He is the 126th Emperor of Japan.
Emperor Naruhito was born on February 23, 1960, as the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He earned his degree in History at the exclusive Gakushuin University in Tokyo. The Emperor spent two years to study overseas at Merton College, Oxford, England. He is actively involved in international environmental issues.
Japan’s Emperor performs a symbolic role rather than a political function as stipulated in the Japanese Constitution. He is the “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people.” In the past, the Emperor was considered the “living embodiment of gods.”
Last May 23, Japanese Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa invited various representatives of the Davao Community, including the diplomatic corps and Japanese nationals based in Davao, to celebrate belatedly “the Enthronement of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and the 100th Anniversary of the Davao Japanese Community” held at the Ballroom of Marco Polo Davao.
“During the 30-year Heisei era of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, relations between Japan and the Philippines greatly strenthened and, on behalf of the government of Japan, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for your support and cooperation for the past era. I am confident that the “Beautiful Harmony,” which is the essence of Reiwa, will continue to flourish in both our countries as we work together and further advance the Philippine-Japan strategic partnership,” said Consul Yoshiaki Miwa in his message.
The Japanese Consul General in Davao also informed the guests of the 100th Anniversary of the Davao Japanese Community in Davao’s history. “The Japan-Davao relationship started in 1903 when the first group of 30 Japanese immigrants arrived in Davao to work in an agricultural plantation. This eventually started the continuous flow of immigration from Japan to this area. The early Japanese immigrants were mainly engaged in the production of abaca, a prime commodity at that time. In 1918, the Davao Japanese Association was organized; then in 1920, the Japanese Consulate was established to look after the welfare of the Japanese settlers in Davao. At its peak, the Japanese community then reached twenty thousand; and Davao came to be known as the Little Tokyo of the Philippines.”
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio failed to take part in the historic affair. Her message was read instead by Councilor Maria Belen Acosta: “A centennial of friendship built in confidence is what brings us together tonight–a friendship that has led to numerous promising engagements both in our homeland and yours. Thus, Davao City is eternally grateful to Emperor Akihito for his warm reception of Davao and Japan’s bilateral relations for the past years. His goodwill for Davaoenos will forever be etched in the heart of Davao’s history.” The Mayor believes that Emperor Naruhito “would deliver an outstanding leadership like his father” and that friendly ties with Japan will continue to blossom under Emperor Naruhito’s reign.
Giving a short congratulatory message as well that evening was Ambassador Uriel Norman Garibay, the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Mindanao.
While attending the special event that evening, I couldn’t help but think of my family’s personal attachment to Japan. It was in Tokyo that my grandfather, Dr. Santiago Pamplona Dakudao, Sr. earned his medical degree as one of the earliest Filipinos to study in the Land of the Rising Sun. It was while he was working at the St. Luke’s Hospital near the Ginza that he met my grandmother, Carmen Lacson of Silay City, Negros Occidental, who was then having her eczema treated. They fell in love and eventually got married in the Philippines. My grandfather was then hired by Ohta Kyosaburo to work as resident physician at the Ohta Development Company’s (ODC) Mintal Hospital where he delivered at birth a generation of Japanese born in Davao. My grandmother, on the other hand, taught Spanish and English to Japanese laborers of the ODC. After my grandfather retired from his hospital duties, he became successful in operating his abaca plantations with the help of Japanese laborers led by Kenichi Migitaka who were recommended to him by Ohta Kyosaburo. He had an awesome plantation house built in Tugbok utilizing Japanese carpenters and masons.
Among the Dakudao grandchildren, it was only I who managed to study and graduate at the premier University of Tokyo as a Japanese Government scholar during Emperor Akihito’s Heisei era. It was while studying in Tokyo that I got to learn more about my grandparents through stories narrated to me by their former Japanese employees. My stay in Japan was made comfortable with the valued help with of the late Kenji Migitaka family who served as my foster family. I am truly grateful and will always take pride in my family’s Japanese connection.