For more than 30 years he was emperor of Japan and is viewed by some in his country as a living god.
Emperor Akihito was long head of one of the oldest royal families in the world, and even after stepping down from the thrown earlier in 2019 he is still revered across Japan.
He took over the throne in 1989 following a series of ancient rituals, and spent the next three decades helping transform the country.
But for a few days in the 1970s, the then crown prince spent time deep underground visiting a Welsh coal mine.
Then Japanese Crown Prince Akihito and his wife Crown Princess Michiko arrived in Wales on June 22 1976 to a huge media circus.
Records of the visit are held at the Glamorgan Archives, in Cardiff, detailing how five television companies were waiting for their arrival at Rhoose Airport alongside a huge press pack.
Akihito, who ruled as emperor from 1989 to April 2019 when he abdicated and is now known as Emperor Emeritus, only had limited time in Wales – but the couple were keen to pack in as much as possible.
Pride of place in the packed went itinerary went to the visit made by Crown Prince Akihito to Deep Navigation Colliery in Treharris.
The Glamorgan Archives said the Prince had requested briefings from mining experts in Japan before the visit.
Most of the morning had been cleared so that he could meet the men, examine the workings of the mine and even go down to the coal face.
Heading down to the coal face involved at not so royal journey, with the crown prince having to crawl forty yards after walking three quarters of a mile underground.
It was reported that on the day he took away a piece of coal that he had cut from the work face, a fern shaped fossil and a miners’ lamp presented to him by 17-year-old mining craft apprentice, Keith Picton.
National Coal Board south Wales Director, Philip Weekes, described at the time how well the prince had coped with the cramped conditions saying: “He moved very well underground – like a scrum half. He is very fit.”
During their visit the crown princess visited Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Castle before afternoon visits with her husband to St Fagan’s Museum, the Royal College of Music and Drama and Atlantic College.
The royal couple were also treated to a medieval banquet at Cardiff Castle hosted by the Foreign Office.
13 year after his visit Akihito became emperor in 1989. In April he abdicated in favour of his son and is now known as the Emperor Emeritus.
Akihito’s son, Crown Prince Akishino, formally opened the Rugby World Cup in Tokyo on September 20.
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