Japan’s emperor and empress celebrate 60 years of marriage

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko receive Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko during a celebration marking 60th anniversary of their wedding at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 10, 2019. (Imperial Household Agency of Japan/Handout via Reuters)
Updated 11 April 2019

Japan’s emperor and empress celebrate 60 years of marriage

  • Akihito and Michiko Shoda married on April 10, 1959, making him Japan’s first future emperor to wed a commoner who was Catholic-educated
  • Wednesday’s celebration was their last wedding anniversary in Akihito’s 30-year reign

TOKYO: Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary just three weeks before he abdicates his throne.
The couple met at a 1957 tennis tournament remembered as a “love match.” Akihito and Michiko Shoda married on April 10, 1959, making him Japan’s first future emperor to wed a commoner who was Catholic-educated. Both are among many changes he brought to Japan’s 1,500-year-old monarchy.
Akihito and Michiko broke with tradition, especially in choosing to raise their three children, in speaking far more often to the public, and making amends for the war victims in and outside the country as he kept searching for what his constitutional role of “a symbol” should be.
Unlike their predecessors, Akihito and Michiko are almost always together — Akihito kneeling beside Michiko speaking intimately with disaster victims at evacuation centers, or to residents at nursing homes or a handicapped people’s workshop. Their friendly interactions have won deep affection among the Japanese.
That is now known as the “Heisei” style, after the name of Akihito’s era — the opposite of a more charismatic, invisible and deified emperor that conservatives want to restore from Japan’s militaristic past, experts say. Akihito succeeded the throne in 1989 after the death of his father, Hirohito, the longest serving emperor whose 64-year reign spanned World War II and Japan’s postwar economic recovery.
In his birthday statement in December, Akihito thanked the people for accepting and supporting him, especially Michiko for her yearslong dedication and understanding for his role.
“Looking back, it was soon after I embarked on my life’s journey as an adult member of the Imperial Family that I met the Empress. Feeling a bond of deep trust, I asked her to be my fellow traveler and have journeyed with her as my partner to this day,” Akihito said.
“I am also truly grateful to the Empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over 60 long years continued to serve with great devotion both the Imperial Family and the people of Japan,” Akihito said, with his voice trembling with emotion.
As emperor, Akihito has also made unprecedented visits to the Philippines and other Pacific islands conquered by Japan that were devastated in fierce fighting as the US-led allies took them back. Though the emperor has avoided outright apologies, he has subtly stepped up his expressions of regret in carefully scripted statements on the war.
Akihito and Michiko visited all of Japan’s 47 prefectures at least twice and traveled to 36 countries.
Wednesday’s celebration was their last wedding anniversary in Akihito’s 30-year reign. The 85-year-old emperor is abdicating on April 30 and handing the Chrysanthemum throne to his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, the next day.
During the ceremony at the palace, Naruhito and his wife, Crown Princess Masako, and other royal family members congratulated Akihito. He wore a tuxedo and Michiko a light-purple long dress. The couple will have an anniversary dinner with their three children and their spouses at the palace later Wednesday.

‘The Dead Don’t Die’ drags zombie film genre back to its roots

Updated 20 May 2019

‘The Dead Don’t Die’ drags zombie film genre back to its roots

  • The “Dead Don’t Die” explores relations between humans in the face of an apocalypse
  • Each zombie receives a different death

CANNES: “Paterson,” the last film that the legendary, idiosyncratic director Jim Jarmusch screened at Cannes, was a love letter to poetry, small town life and the depth of soul that exists inside all of us. He’s followed that up with a zombie film — “The Dead Don’t Die” and he’s brought some stars along for the ride to explore how a small town deals with its own demise.

Zombie films and television shows have, since their resurgence after “28 Days Later” (2002), been as omnipresent as they’ve been impotent. Before them all, the films of George Romero —namely “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) and its follow up “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) — were explorations of racism, consumerism and broader society. The “Dead Don’t Die” drags the genre back to those roots, tackling the impending climate-driven catastrophe, the bad actors who hurtle us towards it and the way we treat each other in the face of a potential apocalypse.

As nihilistic as it is at points, “The Dead Don’t Die” is the most irreverent and playful Jarmusch has been since “Coffee and Cigarettes” (2003), with a cast just as star-studded. Recent collaborators, such as Adam Driver, feature alongside long-time friends Bill Murray, the Rza of the Wu Tang Clan, Tilda Swinton, Iggy Pop, Steve Buscemi and Tom Waits. Young stars Caleb Landry Jones and Selena Gomez stare down death, clinging to the music and pop culture they love. For many of the film’s players, their personas are standing in the place of fully drawn characters, with meta jokes scattered throughout that lampoon the actors and even their relationships with Jarmusch. The film consciously references other zombie films as well, though none of that awareness is enough to help the poor souls of Centerville. 

As the zombies, each of whom audibly yearns for the thing they loved most in life (Coffee! WiFi! Fashion!) come for the townspeople one by one, death reaches them in different ways. For some, including the racist, hateful Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi), death is called justice. Even as some townspeople manage to fight back, the dead never stop — as Driver’s character continually reminds us, this is all going to end badly. 

As the bodies pile up, a voice on the radio denies the catastrophe was caused by greedy businessmen. Tom Waits, who plays a hermit who lives in the woods and is the only one who seems to see anything clearly, can’t offer a cure, only a diagnosis — a summary of life that is too explicit to print.