His Imperial Highness Prince Yoshihito of Japan was born at the Aoyama Palace in Tokyo on August 31, 1879 to Their Majesties the Meiji Emperor and his consort Empress Shoken. He was not the firstborn son but, as his two older brothers died very young, Prince Yoshihito eventually became crown prince and heir-to-the-throne. Prince Yoshihito himself was often in frail health. As a newborn he came down with cerebral meningitis and, although he was able to recover, he was never extremely robust physically for the rest of his life. Until he was seven-years-old he was raised in the household of Prince Nakayama Tadayasu. In 1885 he was transferred to the Aoyama Detached Palace and started his formal education, studying the usual mixture of reading, writing and arithmetic but with added lessons on the Shinto religion, Japanese morality and the place of the Emperor and Imperial Family in society. In the afternoons he exercised by playing sports, however, his studies and activities were often interrupted by his recurring fevers. The following year he began to take his lessons with a select group of other students from a local school for the aristocracy to learn how to interact with others.
In 1898 the Crown Prince began attending sessions of the House of Peers in the National Diet to learn about politics and military and diplomatic affairs as part of his preparation for the throne. He hosted receptions for foreign diplomats and showed good conversational skills. French and Chinese officials were impressed that the Crown Prince could converse with them in their own languages. He became very interested in the western world and was fond of speaking French, sometimes speaking French and Japanese at the same time which the Emperor did not always find amusing. For a time he even sported a long, upturned moustache in the fashion of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Crown Prince Yoshihito also started undertaking official tours on behalf of the Emperor, visiting naval installations, factories, schools, temples and government offices; keeping an eye on how the rapid modernization of Japan was progressing on every level. Yet, there did seem to be something not quite “right” about the heir-to-the-throne and this worried the imperial court a great deal. So, when the time came for him to marry in 1900 care was taken to choose a bride of remarkable intelligence, bearing and speech.