Prince Yamashina Akira
Prince Akira was born in Kyoto, the eldest son of Prince Fushimi Kuniye (1802–1875), the twentieth head of the Fushimi-no-miya, the oldest of the four branches of the imperial dynasty allowed to provide a successor to the Chrysanthemum throne should the main imperial house fail to produce an heir.
From an early age, Prince Akira was groomed to pursue a career as a Buddhist priest, the traditional career path for non-heir sons in the Shinnōke during the Edo period. At the age of two, he was officially adopted by Emperor Kōkaku (1779–1817;, died in 1840) as a potential heir.
Prince Akira took the tonsure and entered the priesthood under the title Saihan Hoshinnō. he was later appointed prince-abbot of the monzeki temple of Kajū-ji in Yamashina, outside of Kyoto. In 1842, he angered the Tokugawa bakufu, which stripped him of his post and confined him to the temple of Tō-ji. In 1864, the Tokugawa government reinstated him to his former post. However, with the growing movement to overthrow the Tokugawa government in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration, Emperor Kōmei returned him to secular status, adopted him as a potential heir, and created the title "Yamashina-no-miya" as a new branch of the Imperial house in 1858.
After the Meiji restoration, Prince Yamashina served the new Meiji government as a diplomat, assisting in the opening of Kobe to foreign trade, and meeting with foreign dignitaries and royalty. He was one of the few Imperial princes to refuse a military commission, remaining a civilian all his life.
Marriage and family
Prince Yamashina Akira married Princess Sumiko (1838–1881), a daughter of Emperor Ninkō and the half-sister of Emperor Kōmei. Princess Sumiko succeeded to the head of the Katsura-no-miya house in her own right upon the death of the eleventh head, Prince Katsura Misahito.
The couple had no children. A son, Prince Yamashina Kikumaro (3 July 1873– 2 May 1902) was born to Prince Yamashina Akira and a concubine, Nakajo Chieko. Kikumaro was officially adopted to carry on the Yamashina line.