Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako To Represent Tokyo Olympic Bid Campaign?

  June 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm by

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Tokyo’s Olympic bid committee will be soliciting help from Japan’s imperial royal family for its bid campaign that was launched last month by Prime Minister Taro Aso. The final decision about the Olympic host 2016 will be taken by the International Olympic Committee on October 2nd. Tokyo’s committee will make a formal request through the government for Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako to present the city’s bid on the day before.

The request of the Tokyo committee for support from the imperial family has been rendered necessary as rival cities can boast high profile public figures representing their case, including Barack Obama for Chicago and King Juan Carlos for Madrid. Within this context, Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako are probably the very members of the imperial family whose help might increase Tokyo’s chances the most. Ivan Hall, a former professor at the law faculty of Gakushuin University, has once said about the couple: “They are among the more open-minded, liberal people in the country today because of their education and the time they came to intellectual maturity. They represent a monarchy that the whole world can be comfortable with.”

That the prince and princess are open to change as far as it represents to them an improvement, can be exemplified when taking a look at the way of their daughter’s upbringing. Shortly after Aiko’s birth, the proud father expressed his wish “to be actively involved in bringing up our child”, which was, as one court journalist cautiously put it, “a new style, heretofore not the traditional practice in the Imperial Family”. The prince thoroughly enjoyed giving his baby daughter a bath, taking her for walks and feeding her, commenting that “the help of fathers in raising children wherever possible not only lightens the burden on mothers, but it is also a very good way for fathers to strengthen their relation with their children”. But the prince made it nevertheless clear that he and his wife believed it very important to teach their daughter the rules and manners of Japanese society and to “have her gain an understanding of these things”.

With success, as the further development and behaviour of the little princess seemed to show. When she was herself but four years, she used to lend a hand to younger children at the “National Children’s Castle”, an institution offering group activities for children where her parents had sent her in order to bring her into contact with other children. Around the same time, she was going with her parents to the imperial palace for the royals’ official New Years’ Greeting 2006. She obviously felt pity when she saw the shivering crowd, waiting outside in the winter weather, and said compassionately: “Everyone is standing out in the cold, so I will wave my dog’s paw at them.”

Aiko also shows one of the main traditional Japanese virtues: love of nature. She regularly showers affection on her pet dogs and turtles, she even seems to like insects, and shows compassion for all living things. She impressed her father by going down every day to her garden to water the plants. The products of her garden she takes to her grandparents, the emperor and empress, or gives them to friends, and, as her father fondly commented, she seems “to enjoy sharing things with everyone”.

Princess Aiko’s parents also took care to bring her into contact with customs and culture that have been passed down through the ages in Japan. They engaged in many activities, such as pounding mochi (a Japanese rice cake), flying kites, spinning tops, playing Hanetsuki (Japanese traditional game, similar to badminton) and cards, and also calligraphy practice, with Princess Aiko writing side by side Princess Masako, doing her first calligraphy of the New Year when she was but three years. The crown prince stated: “Through nursery rhymes that use a seven/five syllable structure I would like to see Princess Aiko come to understand the rhythm of these poems naturally and be able to play with words using simple seven/five syllable structures. In addition, I feel sad that this kind of valuable Japanese customs are gradually being lost and I sincerely hope that they will continue to be treasured by children for a long time to come.”

The little princess is also very fond of sumo-wrestling. She used to wrestle with her parents or staff members of the crown prince household, reenacting the sumo wrestling techniques she had observed. Already at the tender age of four, she was better than her father when it came to the names of famous sumo wrestlers. But she seems to be fond not only of sumo, but of sports in general. In 2006, when the Olympic Winter Games were being held in Turin, the crown prince sometimes recorded the games, such as snowboard cross, speed skating and giant slalom, in order to watch them together with Aiko, who seemed to be observing them with keen interest.

So, it is to be supposed that the little princess would love to see her parents represent Tokyo’s Olympic bid campaign, and would love it even more to see them succeed – which might mean that she could perform official duties as a member of the imperial family for the very first time, together with her parents, at the Olympic Games 2016 in Tokyo.

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