Naruhito: Princess Aiko of Japan Comes of Age with More Official Than Festive Celebration and Controversial Secondhand Tiara | People


It is not luxury that marks the ceremonies of the Japanese royal house in these times. Princess Aiko, the only daughter of Emperor Naruhito, reaches the age of majority on Wednesday, a moment in her life, as a member of the imperial family, the time to assume obligations of a certain magnitude. However, the celebrations will differ from those that were organized when her cousins ​​or her aunt turned 20 years old. Although the date will not be exempt from traditional rites, the jewel in the crown – never better brought up the phrase to refer to the peak moment of this liturgy – will seem less resplendent than usual: Aiko will receive the tiara on duty, but not one carved exclusively for her.

To better understand the relevance of reaching adulthood in Japanese society, just look at the official calendar: the second Monday of every January is a holiday for Seijin no Hi, the ceremony in which adults are welcomed into adulthood. young people celebrating their 20s within the current school term. It is not surprising, then, that the birthday of a member of the oldest monarchy on the planet represents an event of great magnitude in the land of the rising sun, and that the official celebrations for the anniversary of Princess Aiko have given much to talk about since that it was known how and when they will take place.

Contrary to what many think, the Japanese royalty has assumed a more austere lifestyle, driven by the current global health crisis. The reduction of expenses and a more practical procedure have altered what had been lavish ceremonies.

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Naruhito and Masako play with their daughter, Princess Aiko, about to turn three, in 2004 in Tokyo.
Naruhito and Masako play with their daughter, Princess Aiko, about to turn three, in 2004 in Tokyo.Getty

Aiko’s public birthday celebration has been postponed to Sunday, thus preventing her from interfering with her classes – second year Japanese Literature at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. Although the great banquet that has always accompanied to date will not take place, the headlines have revolved around the diamond tiara that Aiko will wear, which was owned by her aunt Sayako Kuroda, little sister of Emperor Naruhito and Crown Prince Fumihito.

According to tradition, Japanese princesses are given a set of jewelry when they finish adolescence, but the fact that the only daughter of the head of state receives a second-hand tiara has surprised many and generated criticism among the most conservative. The Imperial Household Agency has reported that it is a thrifty measure in the midst of the pandemic. And since 2001, when Princess Akiko of Misaka – daughter of the late Prince Norihito, cousin of Emperor Emeritus Akihito – reached adulthood, these diamond games have been paid for with taxpayers’ money. It is estimated that the tiara of the now former Princess Mako cost the Japanese more than 28.5 million yen (about 267,900 euros at the 2011 exchange rate), and that of her sister Kako a not modest 27.9 million yen (189,720 euros). in 2014).

Since Sayako’s tiara was paid for with Akihito’s money – technically out of his pocket, although the source remains the same – he did not have to return it when in 2005 he renounced all his imperial titles and privileges by marrying Yoshiki Kuroda, urban planner of the City Hall of the capital. Sayako – currently high priestess of the Grand Shrine of Ise, the holiest place in the Shinto religion – has not been seen wearing such a piece carved by Japanese jewelry Mikimoto since she left the royal family, not even during her brother’s enthronement. in 2019.

Now he decides to lend it to his niece and the fact that it has not been decided whether Aiko will receive her own tiara in the future has further angered a certain section of the citizenry.

Princes Naruhito and Masako pose with their daughter Aiko in Tokyo in February 2013, for the prince's 51st birthday.
Princes Naruhito and Masako pose with their daughter Aiko in Tokyo in February 2013, for the prince’s 51st birthday.Getty

Naruhito is expected to bestow on his daughter the first-class honor of the Order of the Precious Crown, the highest distinction the Japanese imperial family bestows on royal women. Among those chosen to receive this title have been the queens of Spain Letizia (in 2017, with Emperor Akihito in power) and Sofía (in 1980, with Hirohito).

As part of her festivities, Aiko will go to three shrines located in the Imperial Garden, where she will pay tribute to her ancestors and pray to Shinto deities. He will then visit his grandparents, Emperors Emeritus Akihito and Michiko, and in the afternoon an official audience will take place at the Imperial Palace, which will be attended by members of the royal family, the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, and other politicians. high level. The event will be more official than festive: no drinks or food to entertain the guests.

Aiko’s birth, on December 1, 2001, was preceded by an eight-year long wait, an ordeal for the then crown princes to the Chrysanthemum throne, subjected to enormous public scrutiny. After an abortion and, according to the tabloid press, several assisted reproduction treatments, its advent left a bittersweet taste within the circle closest to the crown; Aiko filled the emotional void of Naruhito and Masako, eager to be parents, yes, but in terms of succession she was a girl, and not the boy that the followers of the monarchy yearned for their future emperor and empress.

As stipulated in the 1947 Constitution, only men have the right to become emperors. The birth of Aiko opened the debate on the abolition of the Salic law in Japan, but the negotiations were put on hold when his cousin Hisahito was born in 2006. Mako’s recent departure from the imperial family after marrying Kei Komuro has caused the government to value new ways to tackle the dynastic crisis. Allowing Aiko to sit on the throne when her father abdicates or passes away, however, is not among the options. If nothing changes, the princess, whose name translates literally as “the one who loves others”, is paradoxically destined not to marry. If he does, he must leave the royal family.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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