Japan holds funeral for emperors cousin, Prince Tomohito

Japan is holding a funeral for Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito who died of cancer at age 66.

The funeral in Tokyo on Thursday was attended by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and about 700 others.

Tomohito, who died of cancer last week, was sixth in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne. He was known as “the bearded prince” and known for his advocacy of welfare programs for disabled people.

He was also one of the most outspoken members of the imperial family. In 2005 he set off a stir when he said Japan should exhaust all options before allowing a woman to rule. A baby boy was born to the wife of Akihitos younger son the following year, which effectively ended the succession debate.



Japan’s Prince Tomohito of Mikasa Dies

Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, one of the most outspoken members of Japan’s royal family known for his fierce opposition against letting a woman ascend the throne and a self-professed alcoholic, died Wednesday, according to the Imperial Household Agency. He was 66.

Kyodo News/Associated PressPrince Tomohito in May 2011.The prince, the eldest cousin of Emperor Akihito, had suffered from health problems for about two decades. He had 16 cancer-related surgeries since 1991 and battled alcoholism for half his life. He had been hospitalized since December and underwent two surgeries this year alone. During the most recent procedure, in March, doctors removed cartilage blocking his throat after the prince complained he had difficulty swallowing. The official cause of death was not disclosed.

The grizzled, goateed prince grabbed headlines when he publicly admitted his problems with alcoholism: “I’m Prince Tomohito, the alcoholic,” he said, mimicking the self-introducing mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous, during a lecture in northern Japan in 2007. He continued to talk openly about his condition, considered a taboo subject in Japan, discussing it candidly during multiple press interviews. He said that it began as a teenager, but intensified later as problems arose within the imperial family, according to media reports at the time. His dependency was a ongoing struggle. In 2009, he was hospitalized for alcoholism five times within a six month period.

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