President Trump was the first foreign leader to see the new Emperor Naruhito in May 2019. Japanese and American leaders since 1950: The USS Columbus of James Biddle with an American crewman in Edo Bay in 1846. Biddle was acting as the superintendent of the American consulate in Yokohama.
Tokugawa Yoshinobu in 1868. They met on a riverbank near what is now known as Bamboo Bridge in Tokyo. The treaty that ended the samurai era, called "Ansei Treaties", was signed in this meeting. It was also here that Yoshinobu granted permission for the building of Fort McKinley on Hokkaidō. The two leaders were accompanied by their advisors only. There was no public audience or exchange of gifts.
It was another eight years before the next foreign leader saw the new emperor. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Japan. He is reported to have said at a banquet in his honor: "The Mikado does not know it yet, but the world has changed. America is no longer a small country, easy to intimidate. We are a big nation, with our own ideas and ambitions."
Roosevelt's remark probably helped improve relations between Japan and the United States, which had been rather tense due to disputes over trade and territory.
The current Emperor of Japan is Naruhito. On May 1, 2019, he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne following the abdication of his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito. Historically, the Emperor of Japan fluctuated between a purely ceremonial, symbolic function and that of an actual imperial monarch. However, under the postwar constitution, the Emperor must be a "spiritual" leader who cannot exercise any real power.
In order for an individual to become the new Emperor, they must be born into the Imperial Family or be married to someone from it. In fact, every Emperor since Hirohito has been born into the family; there have been no births outside it. The only other possibility would be for another member of the Japanese royal family to ascend to the throne but this has never happened before or since the establishment of the Empire.
All previous Emperors were either crown princes or princesses at the time of their accession and so were not considered true heirs to the throne. Instead, they assumed the throne by right of inheritance. This means that none of them had to prove their legitimacy by producing an heir as most of the older monarchs did. Also, none of them could be forced from the throne because they had rights as future descendants of past Emperors. Finally, they could not be executed or otherwise removed from the throne.
In addition to being an actual monarch, each Emperor has also served as a military commander during times of war.
Since 2019, Japan's Emperor has been Naruhito.
Emperor Naruhito, the 126th Emperor to ascend to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne, leads the country's royal dynasty. On Friday, July 23, Emperor Naruhito formally declared the Olympic Games open by attending the Opening Ceremony.
Hirohito (1901-1989) reigned as Emperor of Japan from 1926 until his death in 1989. He took over at a period when democratic enthusiasm was on the rise, but his country quickly devolved into ultra-nationalism and militarism. During World War II, he tried to keep Japan neutral, but when the United States invaded Japan, Hirohito agreed to end his neutrality and cooperate with the Allies.
He was considered a symbolic figure because he did not want or try to influence policy - that role was played by the army and navy leaders. However, because he was emperor, it was expected that he would lead ceremonial duties and act as a symbol for Japan during times of war.
However, due to his young age (he was 29 when he became emperor), many people wondered what direction Japan would take under his rule. Some experts believe that he could have been more aggressive during World War II and tried to secure better terms for Japan, while others say that he did all that could be done within the constraints of Japanese politics.
After the war, there was concern about whether or not Hirohito would try to restore the monarchy. When he announced in 1947 that he would like to become a god and be given a sacred burial site, many people thought that this showed that he would like to abolish the throne and continue to reign as a deity.