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World’s Oldest Royal, Prince Mikasa of Japan, Dies at 100

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The Asahi Shimbun via Getty

Japan’s Prince Mikasa — uncle of Emperor Akihito — died in Tokyo on Thursday.

Born on December 2, 1915, he was the world’s oldest royal.

At 100, the youngest brother of Emperor Hirohito was fifth in line for the male-only throne. There are now only four heirs to the world’s oldest throne: Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, Prince Akishino, 50, (Akishino’s 10-year-old son) Prince Hisahito and Prince Hitachi, 80.

According to news reports, Mikasa had been hospitalized since May, initially because of pneumonia. His wife of 75 years, Princess Yuriko, 93, was at his bedside when he passed away, the Imperial Household Agency said.

On his 100th birthday last December, he issued a statement thanking Yuriko for her support over their more than 70 years of marriage, according to The Japan Times.

“Nothing will change just because I turn 100 years old,” he said.

Mikasa studied ancient Asian history, teaching at Tokyo University of the Arts and Tokyo Women’s Christian University and serving as the honorary president of the Japan-Turkey Society and Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan.

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He also served in the military during World War II and became a vocal proponent of peace later in his life. He wrote in his best-selling memoir in 1984 that he “constantly feel[s] the sting of conscience over my failure to fully grasp the criminality of war.”

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko | The Asahi Shimbun via Getty
The Asahi Shimbun via Getty

Emperor Akihito, 82, hinted in August that he wanted to abdicate the throne. On Thursday, while announcing Mikasa’s death, a government spokesman restated opposition to reforming the Household Law to allow women to ascend the Chrysanthemum throne. (Specifically, that would be Naruhito’s 15-year-old daughter, Princess Aiko.)

“I can’t bear the sense of sorrow facing the report of his death,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted as saying by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a news conference Thursday.

When asked if the government will ask the panel to discuss the issue of heirs, Suga said it would not.

Mikasa is survived by his wife and two children. The couple had three other children who died over the past 14 years.