Smartphone camera photos of Japan’s imperial couple – Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko – being posted on Twitter and going veritably viral shows the collision of Japan’s traditional culture with modern technology. While the photo, taken by a high school student, has been shared, re-shared and re-tweeted thousands of times, there are others in Japan’s net savvy population that the Imperial Couple should be given the proper amount of respect, and sharing a candid photo online is for them a tad bit improper.
The photo was taken when the Imperial couple went to Tochigi Prefecture for a personal visit. They had to transfer to the Shinkansen high-speed train at the JR Oyama station, and their presence did not go unnoticed. Practically the whole station broke out in cheers at the excitement of having Japan’s imperial couple so near, and those who were proximate to the couple took the chance to snap some pictures with their phones’ cameras. This specific photo was tweeted by a high school girl, posting her excitement at having taken what was for her “the best photo” of the couple at that time. In her shot, the imperial couple looked happy enough, smiling and waving at the crowd. Although the picture has been widely shared, some netizens still place a high level of propriety required when it comes to the Japanese imperial couple. One netizen tweeted: “I cannot possibly do or won’t do such a thing.”
According to the Imperial Household Agency – in most times the ultimate authority with regards to issues about the Imperial couple – they do not prohibit taking pictures of the Imperial couple and uploading them to social media sites, as long as they are visibly for personal use. Lawyers also agree that this falls within the boundaries of freedom of expression, and that there has been no infringement on portrait rights of the couple.