Crown Prince Naruhito ran as a sighted guide for a Paralympic silver medalist, offering a clue to what type of emperorship he has in mind.

Naruhito will become emperor on May 1, after his father, Akihito, abdicates. Indications are that Naruhito, as emperor, will pursue the idea of having the imperial family go out into the general public more often.

“Do you feel all right running like this?” Naruhito asked Misato Michishita, the silver medalist in the visually impaired women’s marathon at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games.

They were running on the leafy grounds of the imperial household’s Akasaka Estate in Tokyo on the evening of June 26.

Naruhito, 58, wore a bib with the letters “Guide.”

He held a fluorescent yellow rope in his right hand as he ran along a 1.5-kilometer course while talking to Michishita, 41, who held the other end of the rope in her left hand.


Michishita said Naruhito seemed bewildered when they reached the bumpy initial stretch of the road.

“What should I say in describing something like this?” she quoted the prince as saying.

The pair, however, began to get along better several minutes into their run.

“We are turning to the right,” Naruhito told her ahead of a bend. “The road is bumpy,” he said ahead of a stretch with bad footing.

The pair initially ran at a pace of seven minutes per km, but they got into a better rhythm and sped up to six minutes per km.

Sources said Naruhito was well-prepared for the run.

The prince watched a video-sharing website to study how guides should interact with the runner as well as the personal traits of Michishita’s running. He also made arrangements himself for the rope that the two would use, the sources said.

Immediately before the joint run, Naruhito walked on the grounds of the Akasaka Estate with special goggles to understand how visually impaired people sense their surroundings.

When the run was over, Naruhito let Michishita hold his right arm. “What would you like to drink?” the concerned prince asked her.


Naruhito first met Michishita during an imperial garden party in November last year.

The runner told the prince then, “I wish to be able to run with you if there is an opportunity.”

Naruhito sent a response, and the joint run was realized.

Michishita is a native of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Her eyesight began to fail from a corneal disease when she was in elementary school, and she lost the sight of her right eye in junior high school. Her left eye also went nearly sightless when she was 25.

She began to do track and field sports to lose weight, but she later got really into them, and spectacular results followed.

She set a world record for visually impaired women by finishing a marathon in 2 hours, 56 minutes and 14 seconds last year. She is currently sponsored by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co.

Michishita told Naruhito that she will work hard to win a “better” medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics so she can tell him about it at another garden party.

“Naruhito probably wanted to help Michishita broaden her world through the experience of running in a new place,” said a source well-acquainted with the crown prince. “He probably also thought that he should deepen his own understanding toward the public, not just through his official duties but also through more intimate interactions.”