Originally Posted by Teacher
Think that's bad? Most of the Japanese students who have come through my center -- including one businessman in his early 40s -- couldn't even name the current emperor! (I could, though.)
That's probably because virtually no-one in Japan uses the Emperor's name, but they instead use the title of his period as Emperor. Thus, Hirohito is called Showa Tenno (the Emperor Showa). I have never heard anyone say "Hirohito" in Japan but the vast majority of people would know the Emperor Showa. His son Akihito, the current Emperor, is referred to as Tenno Heika, which simply means "current Emperor".
Even though the current Imperial period is referred to as the Heisei period (it's now the 22nd year of the Heisei period), it would be rude to refer to the current Emperor as "Heisei Tenno" as that is how he will be referred to once he has died. It would also be rude to refer to the current Emperor as "Akihito" as that would be regarded as very familiar and thus very presumptuous.