In 1993 Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito published a memoir about his life and experiences during his two years at Merton College, Oxford, in the mid-1980s, where he studied the history of transport on the River Thames, hence the title of his book. The original Japanese edition (Thames to tomo ni) was published by Gakushuin Kyoyoshinsho to mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of Gakushuin University, Tokyo, which is the Crown Prince's own Alma Mater. Now in English translation by former British Ambassador to Japan, Sir Hugh Cortazzi, this sensitive, engaging and informative account of English university life, customs and mores - as seen from the perspective of a young Japanese student, albeit Japan's heir to the imperial throne - is a most welcome contribution to cross-cultural studies in the broader context; it is also a rare record of a life lived by one who normally experiences 'life above the clouds' as a member of the Japanese imperial family. 'It is twenty years since I left Oxford, ' notes the Crown Prince in his Preface, ' but I recall fondly the days I spent there [1983-85] as if they took place yesterday. What I learned and experienced whilst I was studying in England during those brief two years have been of great benefit to me.'
Hugh Cortazzi was British Ambassador to Japan 1980-84 and Chairman of the Japan Society 1984-94. He has written extensively on Japan. His many books include Isle of Gold: Antique Maps of Japan, The Japanese Achievement and his memoir Japan and Back and Places Elsewhere. This is the third volume of Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits he has edited for the Japan Society, together with British Envoys in Japan, 1859-1972. Most recently, he published his translation of Crown Prince Naruhito's account of his years in Oxford (The Thames and I, 2006). He remains highly active in the field of Anglo-Japanese relations and continues with his monthly column for the Japan Times, as well as being a regular reviewer.