FORTUNATE I was to witness when the Japanese royal Kotaishi Naruhito Shinno or the then Crown Prince Naruhito married the Harvard and Oxford educated Japanese diplomat, Masako Owada, on June 9, 1993, in an ancient Shinto wedding tradition. I was among the foreign students then studying in Tokyo who excitedly celebrated with the rest of the Japanese an important period in their country’s history unfolding. The royal love story was considered the Japanese version of Prince Charles Mountbatten-Windsor of England marrying Lady Diana Frances Spencer. I was also lucky, 23 years later after the royal wedding, to have been invited by the Consulate office of Japan in Davao, then headed by Japanese Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa, in the belated celebration of “the Enthronement of his Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito” as he ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne. Emperor Naruhito replaced his father, Emperor Akihito of the Heisei (Achieving Peace) period of Japan’s history, when Emperor Akihito abdicated on April 30, 2019, owing to old age and failing health. The Reiwa (Beautiful Harmony) era ushered in by Emperor Naruhito began in May, 2019. Emperor Naruhito became 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 bachelor’s degree in History at the exclusive Gakushuin University in Tokyo. The Emperor also spent two years studying in Merton College, Oxford, England. He is known to be 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 centuries past, the Japanese Emperor was considered the “living embodiment of gods.”
To celebrate the birthday of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito, the Consul General of Japan in Davao invited Davaoenos from the various sectors of the community along with Japanese nationals residing in Davao last February 8, 2023, at the SMX Convention Center of SM Lanang Premier. In his message to the guests, Consul General Ishikawa Yoshihisa revealed that he had studied in the University of the Philippines from 1988 to 1990. He had worked in the Embassy of Japan in Manila and also in the Philippine Desk of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. The Consul General also mentioned that since the term of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and with the Vice Presidency of Sara Duterte-Carpio, “Davao will definitely continue and shine even more.”
“The government of Japan views Mindanao as a vital region in sustaining peace, security, and the development of the entire Philippines. For this reason, Japan has been proactively engaged with the Mindanao peace process for over the past three decades…With regards Philippine-Japan relations, last October, 2022, Japan reopened its borders to independent foreign travelers or tourists with significantly relaxed entry procedures. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to visit and create delightful memories in Japan, especially as the Spring season is coming,” Consul General Ishikawa Yoshihisa said. He also informed the audience about Osaka Mayor Yamamoto Yuma meeting with Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte and with both of them committed to carry out exchanges and cooperation in the fields of economy, education, trade, tourism, health and culture. A sister city agreement is also being pursued by both mayors. This will be Davao’s second sister city in Japan after Kitakyushu.
The good Consul General divulged that the Japanese Consulate General in Davao will be organizing various events this year with regards to the 120th anniversary of the Japanese migration in the Philippines. History has it that the first group of Japanese migrants arrived in the country in February 1903 and worked in the construction of Baguio’s Kennon Road. In Davao, the first group of Japanese migrants arrived in April, 1903, to work in the Awad Abaca Plantation in Santa Cruz.
“We aim this 120th anniversary to be a special year to learn about our shared history, give gratitude to our ancestors, and further deepen the friendly relations between Japan and Davao by showcasing Japanese culture. In this regard, I am hoping for all your support and active participation for these upcoming events,” requested the Consul General of Japan while promising to “make every effort to strengthen bilateral relations and introduce the charms of Japan.”
My heart-felt wishes to His Majesty Emperor Naruhito on the special occasion of his birthday.
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