April 1, 2019


2019 is one of the most significant years in recent memory for the Land of the Rising Sun. Emperor Akihito will give up his crown in April this year, the first in two centuries to abdicate from the Chrysanthemum Throne. A new era for the nation will begin with his son, the Crown Prince Naruhito. This year will also see Japan host the Rugby World Cup, ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. With the new season for Japan’s iconic spring cherry blossom (sakura) upon us, discover the Who’s Who entrants born or living in Japan, or who simply appreciate its fascinating culture and history.

Japanese-born Who’s Who entrants include author Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, the fashion designer Issey Miyake, contemporary artist Takashi Murakami and Midori Goto, a leading concert violinist. Former Prime MinisterYasuhiro Nakasone, born in 1918, is the world’s oldest living state leader. Did you know that Dame Olivia de Havilland, the actress best known for Gone with the Wind, was born in Tokyo to British parents?

The Japanese medal of honour, Order of the Rising Sun, has been awarded to many Who’s Who biographees including former footballer Sir Bobby Charlton and Labour peer Lord Cunningham of Felling. Actress and theatre producer Thelma Holt, who produced a Samurai version of Macbeth by the late Japanese playwright Yukio Ninagawa at London’s Barbican in 2017, received the honour in 2004.

Summer 2020 will see Tokyo host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Those hoping to bring back a medal for Great Britain will include Sir Mo Farah, who will attempt his first Olympic marathon medal. The last time Japan hosted the summer Olympics in 1964, medals were brought back by UK athletes Lynn Davies (gold medal, long jump), Adrian Metcalfe (silver medal, 400m) and Tony Morgan(silver, sailing).

Many of our biographees show an appreciation of Japanese culture within their recreations, including the author Dr Andrew Miller, who practises ‘aikido (Japanese martial art)’ and actor Sir Timothy Ackroyd, who likes ‘Sumo wrestling’. Joe Earle, Senior Consultant for Japanese Works of Art at Bonhams auction house, enjoys ‘reading Japanese fiction’, and Nicholas Johnson, QC enjoys ‘anything Japanese’. Former UK Ambassador to Japan, Sir Hugh Cortazzi, who died in 2018, was a long-time admirer of the country and wrote numerous books on its culture and history.