Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Friday, 3 February 2006

Japan prince relives student days

Crown Prince Naruhito greets well-wishers celebrating the new year at Imperial Palace on January 2, 2006 in Tokyo, Japan.
Prince Naruhito's life today is far removed from his time at Oxford

A new translation of memoirs written by Japan's crown prince offer a rare insight into the tastes and personality of a man whose life is now cloistered.

"The Thames and I" details Prince Naruhito's time at Oxford University, where he studied between 1983 and 1985.

The heir to the Japanese throne, known simply as Hiro while at Oxford, seems to have revelled in the freedom there.

The prince reminisces about drinking and doing his own laundry, during "the happiest time of my life".

The book was written 13 years ago, but has only just been translated into English.

In it, the prince acknowledges how unusual this period of his life was.

Merton College, Oxford (copyright Merton College)
Prince Naruhito studied at Merton College

"It would be impossible in Japan to go to a place where hardly anyone would know who I was," he writes, according to a report in the London Times.

Prince Naruhito, who is now married to Princess Masako and has a four-year-old daughter, does not make any references to romance, except for the remark: "On Valentine's Day there were cards from various unknowns".

But he writes fairly extensively of his drinking exploits.

I felt a large void in my heart and as I stared out of the windows of the plane, I felt a lump in my throat
Prince Naruhito describes leaving England

Before he began his studies at Oxford, he stayed for some time with a British family who introduced him to the concept of a "pub crawl".

He also recounts being forced to down five mugs of an unidentified cocktail at a party and of his introduction to disco dancing, where, he joined in "doing his own kind of dance".

Chapter ends

Prince Naruhito writes that he took more than 2,000 photographs of Oxford.

The prince describes leaving Heathrow Airport for Japan.

"As the London scene gradually disappeared from view, I realised that an important chapter in my life was over," he says.

"I felt a large void in my heart and as I stared out of the windows of the plane, I felt a lump in my throat," according to a report in Asia Times.

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