Prince Takahito Mikasa, the oldest living member of the Imperial House of Japan and uncle of the current emperor of Japan, turned 100 yesterday, Dec. 2, 2015.
While serving as a junior cavalry officer in the Japanese army during World War II, Prince Mikasa was posted to China, where he encountered, and was impressed by, the “zeal and devotion of the Christian missionaries from the West, who worked deep in the isolated regions of China.” Since then, Prince Mikasa became extremely interested in the source of such devoted passions.”
After the Western powers defeated Japan, Prince Mikasa had the “on”, the obligation, to Westernize himself. He said that, “in the six years of his study he discovered one supreme fact; that the Jews were the key to Western civilization.”
Since then, Prince Mikasa became extremely interested in both the source of devoted passions and Judaism.
He decided to study Hebrew for the rest of his life and maintained a particular interest in the biblical prophets of Israel. He immersed himself in scholarly works related to Near Eastern civilization, in the course of which he became a frequent visitor to Jewish communal events in Tokyo, and reportedly learned to speak perfect Hebrew.
Prince Mikasa, however, never got involved in political discourse and insisted that his interest in the study of Hebrew was purely academic, even writing in his autobiography, “the reason I studied Oriental archaeology was to seek out from the ruins of the Middle East and the Near East, the origin of mankind and civilization, the outlines of man and state, and to think over what man should be.”