Japan's emperor hospitalized with persistent fever, bronchitis

Japanese Emperor Akihito delivers a speech during the Japan Sports 100th anniversary ceremony in Tokyo on July 16, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Emperor Akihito, 77, came down with a fever Thursday, an imperial spokesperson says
  • He also has been suffering from a worsening case of bronchitis
  • He appeared "fatigued and lost some resistance," adds the spokesperson
  • Born in 1933, Akihito became emperor in 1989
Japan's 77-year-old emperor was hospitalized on Sunday, several days after coming down with a fever, a spokesperson with the Imperial Household Agency said.
Emperor Akihito, a ceremonial but revered figure in the Japan, was suffering from a worsening case of bronchitis and the fever he contracted Thursday, according to the spokesperson, who declined to be identified due to the agency's media protocol.
"He appears to be fatigued and has lost some resistance to fight against sickness," the spokesperson said. "To be on the safe side, he was hospitalized (Sunday night) at University of Tokyo Hospital."
It is the emperor's second time in a hospital this year, after getting medical treatment in February for extensive tests of his coronary arteries.
Japan's Cabinet on Sunday approved a measure to temporarily elevate Crown Prince Naruhito to the role of emperor and give him power over all the responsibilities that position entails, according to a person at the Cabinet office, who also was not named per policy.
Born in Tokyo in December 1933 into a family that eventually consisted of seven children, Akihito became crown prince in 1952 -- the same year he enrolled at Gakushuin University, according to his official biography. Seven years later, he married then-crown princess, and now Empress Michiko, and together they raised three children.
On January 7, 1989, following the death of his father Hirohito, Akihito became emperor. The position, per Japan's constitution, is defined as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people."
That said, the office's involvement in day-to-day government affairs tends to be minimal.
Yet Emperor Akihito broke from precedent following Japan's epic 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami earlier this year, when he gave a historic, televised speech. In it, he encouraged citizens to put forth their "best effort to save all suffering people" and he applauded his countrymen's handling of the crisis.
"I truly hope the victims of the disaster never give up hope, take care of themselves, and live strong for tomorrow," he said in a calm and poignant oration delivered from the Imperial Palace. "Also, I want all citizens of Japan to remember everyone who has been affected by the devastation, not only today but for a long time afterwards -- and help with the recovery."