In 1921, before the Prince of Wales became King Edward VIII and before Crown Prince Hirohito became Emperor Hirohito, the two heirs met when Hirohito came to England for a visit. They met again in 1922 when the Prince of Wales made an official visit to Japan in 1922. By then, Hirohito had also assumed the regency as his father, Emperor Yoshihito, suffered from various health problems.
Hirohito invited the Prince of Wales for a round of golf, probably for a break in the gruelling rounds of official engagements. The two were subsequently photographed together in similar tweed suits with plus fours, woollen socks and caps.
Fifty years later, in 1971, Emperor Hirohito was on an official tour of Europe – the first one by a reigning Japanese Emperor – with his wife, Empress Nagako. The whirlwind tour lasted just 18 days, but Emperor Hirohito made one special request – he wanted to visit his old friend living in Paris. Unfortunately, by then, the Duke of Windsor was already suffering from cancer of the throat.
Nevertheless, Wallis and the Duke welcomed the Emperor and Empress into their home. They took tea together, and Wallis showed the Empress photographs of her husband in traditional Japanese clothing from his visit to Japan in 1922. The Duke and Duchess were also invited to visit Japan the following year, but that visit would never take place. It was a brief visit as the Emperor and Empress were due in London the following day.
The New York Times reported, “Two former Crown Princes, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and the Duke of Windsor, held a reunion in Paris; the last meeting was 50 years ago. As part of a European tour with Empress Nagako, Hirohito took tea with the Duke and Duchess.
The 70-year-old Emperor and the 77-year-old former King of England reminisced on the terrace of the Windsor mansion, recalling how they met in May 1921 when the 20-year-old heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne on his first European tour, met the almost 27-year-old Prince of Wales.
The tea break came just at the right time. The Emperor was in Paris on a private visit and was supposed to be resting between official visits to Belgium and Britain. But two days of sightseeing left him so tired that before visiting the Windsors he just sat in a chair at the Versailles Palace and let the Empress explore the vast building on her own.
The Emperor assured everyone he was quite all right but his doctors and a Red Cross emergency team stood by just in case.”1
The visit ended with a photocall where the Empress and the Duchess can be seen holding hands.