Japan’s New Emperor is a Violist

By Keegan Morris |

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Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako (Photo: 江戸村のとくぞう, CC-BY-SA 4.0, cropped from original)

The list of classical works about royals and royalty is long — everything from Purcell’s King Arthur to Verdi’s Macbeth to Puccini’s Turandot. But what about a royal who can play classical music?

Emperor Emeritus Akihito, Empress Emeritus Michiko, and Emperor Naruhito in a family concert in 1987. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)

According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019, is a violist and violinist! However, the new emperor is not the only musical member of his family. Naruhito’s father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who held the throne from 1989 to 2019, plays cello, and his mother, Empress Emeritus Michiko, plays piano!

In 2013, then-Crown Prince Naruhito performed in a concert on a viola constructed from driftwood from Japan’s devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

Here’s Japanese news channel ANN's coverage of the then-Crown Prince’s 2013 performance featuring Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony" with the alumni orchestra of Gakushuin University.

What do you think? Will Emperor Naruhito's musical aptitutdes help him reign?

Translations provided by Elizabeth Smith.