What the Lives of Two Women, Masako and Kiko, Wives of the Imperial Family, Show Us | FRIDAY DIGITAL

What the Lives of Two Women, Masako and Kiko, Wives of the Imperial Family, Show Us

Sanae Kameyama Reports on the Dashing Princess Masako Once Again

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It is interesting to see the thoughts that come to each of their faces at the gathering of the members of the Imperial Family. Although the New Year’s General Meeting of the Imperial Family did not take place this year, we can only hope that it will be a year filled with love. Photo: 2020 General Meeting of the Imperial Family Photo: Reuters/Afro

Although I don’t have any particular attachment to the Imperial Family, the way of life of the two women who married into the Imperial Family from the private sector, Princess Masako and Princess Kiko, does make me think in some small way. I have no intention of denying their way of life, but personally, I find it quite mysterious. I wonder if it was a “love affair” or a “sense of mission” that led them to marry into the Imperial family. ……

Marriage as a Life Option

In terms of marriage from the civilian world, Empress Michiko was a pioneer. It appears that “love marriage” in the true sense of the word in the Imperial Family began here. However, of course, “equal marriage between a man and a woman” was not possible in the Imperial Family. Perhaps that was just the way it was at the time. Empress Michiko probably knew this when she got married, and she did so because she “respected and trusted” the then Crown Prince. The fact that there is a slight deviation from what people call “romantic feelings” may have been influenced by the times.

In the case of Princess Masako and Princess Kiko, their marriage took place a little later in life, when women had a wider range of choices in their lives. There were probably other options for their lives as well.

Kiko was a very popular princess with a “Kiko-chan smile.

Kiko was the first to marry, having been born in 1966 as the eldest daughter of Tatsuhiko and Kazuyo Kawashima, the recently deceased professors emeritus at Gakushuin University, and having lived in the United States and Vienna as a child due to her father’s work. She has no problem speaking English or even German in her daily life.

After returning to Japan at the age of thirteen, she went on to study at Gakushuin Women’s Junior and Senior High School, and entered the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Letters at the university. She met His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino, who was one year her senior, at a bookstore in the university, and from then on they deepened their relationship through the activities of the “Nature and Culture Study Group” club. The following year, he had already proposed to her, but she did not respond immediately. Nevertheless, she was invited to the Imperial Palace from an early stage, and seems to have become familiar with the “Imperial Family” by chatting and playing tennis with the then Crown Prince and Princess. On the other hand, Prince Akishino already knew about Dr. Kawashima, Princess Kiko’s father, so the base for the two to become close may have been established.

She is very active, and after seeing a sign language play at a school festival, she immediately joined a sign language club, and she also takes care of international students at international exchange groups inside and outside the university. When the news of their engagement broke, a video of her volunteering with foreign children was shown, and I could see that she was cheerful and lively in her activities.

The “marriage” of a 24-year-old and a 23-year-old

The unofficial engagement took place in the summer of the year I graduated from university and entered the same graduate school. She was only 22 years old. When the engagement was officially confirmed the following January, Princess Kiko was 23 years old. In hindsight, it was a marriage between a 24-year-old and a 23-year-old.

Kiko’s marriage was very easy to arrange. She was called the “three-bedroom princess” because her residence at the time was the Gakushuin University faculty housing. At the unofficial engagement press conference, Princess Kiko was asked if she was her first love, to which she replied, “Yes, I am,” after asking her fiancé if she could tell him. I remember feeling mildly shocked at this point. I knew that she was about to enter a world where her own will alone would not be enough. I guess that is what it means to marry into the Imperial Family. I was also surprised to see that underneath her smile, she had already acquired the skills that only the Imperial Family can provide. From the time of her informal engagement press conference, she showed that she is a woman who is suited to the Imperial Family, or a woman who can flexibly adapt to the Imperial Family.

Top Runner in the Era of the Equal Opportunity Law

Princess Masako, the current Empress, was born in 1963, the eldest daughter of Hisashi Owada and Yumiko Owada, employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the age of one, she spent time in Moscow, the Soviet Union, Switzerland, and the United States. She returned to Japan when she was in the first grade of elementary school and attended a local elementary school, but also attended a cram school to transfer to a private elementary school. It is said that the cram school was established by the teacher who was in charge of Empress Michiko when she attended the kindergarten attached to Shuyo Elementary School. Then, Princess Masako transferred to the third grade of Denenchofu Sugoha Gakuen and Denenchofu Sugoha Elementary School, and studied at Denenchofu Sugoha until her first year of high school.

In ’79, as her father arrived to exercise the Japanese Embassy in the U.S., she also entered the American High School and then Harvard University. She is said to be fluent not only in English, but also in Russian and French.

In 1986, she returned to Japan and enrolled in the third year of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law, but she wanted to become a diplomat, so in the fall of that year she took and passed the Foreign Service Civil Service Senior Recruitment Examination and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1987. He returned to Japan in 1990 and was assigned to the North American Affairs Bureau, North America Division 2. She was laying the foundation for her career as a diplomat while working hard. At the time, she probably had no intention of getting married.

It was at the reception for Princess Elena, the eldest daughter of King Carlos I of Spain, who came to Japan in October 1986 that Princess Masako met Prince Tokujin (the current Emperor of Japan). At that time, I guess I had just taken and passed the exam for the Foreign Service Civil Service. Although she was only present at the party as the daughter of the Director-General of the Treaty Bureau, the Emperor may have already taken an interest in her at that time. After that, the two met briefly at parties and were invited to tea parties with the family.

On the occasion of Princess Masako’s birthday in 1987, a bouquet of flowers from Prince Tokujin was delivered to the Owada residence through the secretary of the Imperial Household. He must have been thinking, “Masako is my only choice. Gradually, the name “Masako Owada” came to be mentioned as a candidate for the princess.

Just after her birthday, she left her parents’ house to go to work and was suddenly photographed by a photo magazine. Firmly, she asked, “Which company are you from? I was impressed by how graceful and cool she was. I’m sure everyone thought he would get the job.

However, the uproar did not die down. The media has even followed her to the vicinity of Oxford University, where she studied. She said, “I am not involved in the princess issue at all. I will continue to work as a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In response to her longtime passion…

Five years later, in August 1992, Prince Tokujin, who had already become the Crown Prince, was able to see her again at the home of a Foreign Ministry official. The Crown Prince, who had been thinking about her for a long time, persistently tried to persuade her whenever he had a chance, and in October he received a refusal from the Owada family, saying that they had not made up their minds, but he was undeterred, and in December she finally accepted his wishes.

In January 1993, a press conference was held to announce the engagement, and the “Harvard-educated diplomat” and “career woman” attracted a lot of attention. Her press conference, unlike Princess Kiko’s, did not involve much “asking questions. When the Crown Prince spoke, she expressed her own opinion in a reserved manner, saying, “If I may add one more thing. At the time, I felt a bit relieved to know that she was not the kind of woman who would just sit back and let her opinions be known.

Why “I will do my utmost to protect you for the rest of your life”?

Princess Masako said what the Crown Prince had told her.

I’m sure you must have a lot of worries and anxieties about joining the Imperial Family, but I will do everything in my power to protect you for the rest of your life, Masako-san,” she said.

To a cynical person like me, I would have felt that this was a place where her husband had to be protected with all his might for the rest of his life, but this must have been the cry of the Crown Prince’s soul. This was probably the cry of the crown prince’s soul as well. That is how deeply the crown prince felt for Princess Masako.

Princess Masako told me that she would be lying if she said she was not sad to be leaving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, she also said, “After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that the role I should play now is to accept Your Highness’ offer and make myself useful in the new path of the Imperial Family. For her, marriage may have been akin to changing jobs from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Imperial Household Agency. The subsequent excessive expectations of her successor, the miscarriage, and the fact that the baby was finally a girl, must have been all “things that were not supposed to happen” for her.

I will never forget her radiant smile when she finally visited New Zealand and Australia some time after giving birth. After returning to Japan, she said, “Going abroad was part of my life, so it took a lot of effort to adjust to not being there. This led to the adjustment disorder that followed.

The “whereabouts” of a marriage that has lasted over a quarter of a century

Since becoming the empress, Masako has been able to display a calm smile. However, I can’t help but feel that there is a kind of resignation that she has developed over the years. He has decided to make his life here, but even if he thinks it was completely wrong, he has come to a place where there is no going back. If I were an ordinary person, I would be able to start over, but I have put myself in a place where that is not possible. I spent more than 28 years of my life with this in mind. ……

The same may be true for Princess Kiko, who married Prince Akishino, the second in line of succession to the throne. After giving birth to two girls, as if to meet the expectations of those around her, she gave birth to a boy who was 15 years old with her first daughter and 12 years old with her second daughter. It was as if she thought that this was part of her role. I wonder what Princess Masako thought at that time. It’s not that I have any mean feelings toward them. It’s just that when I think about the psychology of the two women who married into such a “place,” I have no words.

And then there was the incident with Mako. I wonder if Princess Kiko also had a glimpse of the thought, “This wasn’t supposed to happen. From the perspective of a woman who has lived her life putting the “public before the private,” I wonder if she ever felt a twinge of envy toward her daughter, who has taken flight by putting the “private before the public.

Once the corona disaster has subsided, I hope that Princess Masako will resume her diplomatic career with a flourish. I’d like to see her again, flipping the hem of her coat and saying what she wants to say, just like she did when she was a career woman.

  • Reporting and writing Sanae Kameyama photo Reuters/Afro

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