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Special TV show to air marking 3,000th broadcast of 'Imperial Family' program

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko (then the Crown Prince and Crown Princess) are seen during their visit to Mexico in 1964. (Image courtesy of MBS)
Crown Prince Naruhito (then Prince Hiro) enjoys a pint of beer with his friend at a pub in Oxford, Britain, in 1986. (Image courtesy of MBS)

TOKYO -- A special TV program commemorating the 3,000th broadcast of the "Imperial Family Album" program earlier this month will be aired on Aug. 12 by Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS) and the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) network.

The long-running program has introduced the official duties and daily lives of the Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family since 1959, when Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko married. The history of the program -- the oldest among commercial broadcasts -- mostly overlaps the paths of the Imperial Couple and their family, portraying their natural selves in their pursuit of an Imperial Household in a new era after the end of World War II.

The program is produced by MBS and was first aired by the Osaka-based broadcaster on Oct. 5, 1959. Initially, the program was aired from 9:45 p.m. every Monday, earning around 20 percent viewer ratings. TBS subsequently started running the program in 1975. Currently, the Tokyo-based broadcaster airs the program on early Saturday morning, while MBS broadcasts it on early Sunday morning.

"It is such a pleasure to have witnessed the history of Japan," said director Hiroaki Otani, 71, of Mainichi Productions, who has been involved in the program for over 40 years. The Tokyo-based film production company covers and films the activities of the Imperial Family, which are then edited by MBS at its Osaka headquarters with narrations added.

When the Imperial Couple visited areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and other disasters, local residents rejoiced with tears swelling up in their eyes. "From the postures and demeanors of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, I could sense their willingness to connect with disaster victims," Otani recalled.

The upcoming special program will look back on the history of the Imperial Family with rare footage. Because Emperor Akihito was raised away from his parents in accordance with Imperial Household customs at the time, he strongly wished to raise his own children just like those in ordinary households. The program will introduce how the Imperial Couple spent their summer holidays with their children through footage and testimony from various periods.

"We would like viewers to enjoy seeing the Imperial Family members spending their time in casual attire at retreats," said producer Motoko Hori, 53, of MBS.

There will also be a scene in which the Emperor reflects on the final days of the war and says, "I grew up not knowing a period without war," conveying his thoughts for peace. He was 3 years old when the Marco Polo Bridge Incident occurred in 1937, ushering in the Sino-Japanese War.

Another piece of footage will show Crown Prince Naruhito enjoying a pint of beer at a pub in Britain in 1986 with a friend from his days at Oxford University. According to MBS, footage of an Imperial Family member dining in private is extremely rare, and it was an "exclusive" video that the broadcaster requested to shoot on the scene.

"As the program's title contains the word 'album,' we try to introduce as many expressions of the Emperor and his family members through footage," said Hori. "We would like viewers to enjoy seeing this program as an 'album of the Imperial Family.'"

The special program will be aired from 2 p.m. on Aug. 12 via TBS and MBS.

(Japanese original by Hisanori Yashiro, Cultural News Department)

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