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Alexander Chancellor sleeps in a gas mask – and praises Emperor Akihito's ping-pong skills

Blog | By The Old Un | Jan 03, 2020

Barack Obama, President, met Emperor Akihito at the Tokyo Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward, Tōkyō Metropolis on April 24, 2014.

Susanna Johnston, sister of our much-missed late editor, Alexander Chancellor, published her memoir, Rescuing My Father (Zuleika), in December.

Alexander would have turned 80 on 4th January. Susanna recalls his early days in the Chancellor home in Hertfordshire.

The house was close enough to London that it was threatened by the Blitz, and baby Alexander took to sleeping in a giant gas mask.

‘Many of our windows were fragmented,’ writes Susanna, ‘but never the one that was sited immediately above Alexander as he slept in his gas mask.’

She also recalls the time the 16-year-old Crown Prince Akihito of Japan (later the Emperor, who abdicated earlier this year) came to stay with the Chancellors in 1949. The Crown Prince proceeded to thrash Susanna at ping-pong.

Nearly 50 years later, in 1998, during Akihito’s controversial state visit to the UK, Alexander revived this humiliating event in print.

‘My sister is not completely ready to normalise relations with Japan,’ he wrote, ‘since she is still hoping for an apology from the Emperor for having cruelly defeated her at ping-pong some 50 years ago.’