Crown Princess Masako of Japan
Masako Owada was born in Tokyo on December 9, 1963, the eldest daughter of Hisashi Owada and Yumiko Egashira. Her father, Hisashi Owada, is a former Japanese diplomat, and served as Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations. He is now a member of the International Court of Justice, located in the Netherlands.
Due to her father’s diplomatic posts, Masako began her schooling first in Moscow, and then in New York City, before the family returned to Japan in 1971. She attended Futaba Gakuen, a private Roman Catholic girls’ school in Tokyo. In 1979, the family returned to the US, settling in Belmont, Massachusetts while her father was a visiting professor at Harvard University. She graduated from Belmont High School in 1981, and enrolled at Radcliffe College, part of Harvard University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in economics in 1985, after which she returned to Japan and attended the University of Tokyo, studying law for several months while preparing to sit for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs‘ entrance exam. After two years working for the Foreign Ministry, she enrolled at Balliol College, Oxford University, pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Relations.
photo: Imperial Household Agency
In 1986, Masako met her future husband, Prince Naruhito of Japan, at a tea held in honor of Infanta Elena of Spain. Despite disapproval from the Imperial Household Agency (as Masako was a commoner), and Masako leaving Japan for several years to study abroad, the two continued their relationship. The Prince proposed several times, however Masako turned him down each time. Agreeing to marry the future Japanese Emperor would mean giving up her career in diplomacy and her independence, as well as having to conform to the strict guidelines of the Imperial Household. Finally, he convinced her that her diplomatic skills could be used in a different way – as his wife, and future Empress – and she accepted his third proposal in December 1992. Their engagement was announced in January 1993, and the formal engagement ceremony held that April. Finally, On June 9, 1993, Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako were married in a traditional ceremony at the Imperial Shinto Hall in Tokyo. Following the ceremony, and a change into more contemporary attire, the newly married couple processed through the streets of Tokyo. They reside at the Tōgū Palace, on the Akasana Estate, and they have one daughter:
- Aiko, Princess Toshi (2001)
In the early years of their marriage, the Crown Princess often accompanied her husband on foreign visits, as well as participating in most official functions at the Imperial Palace. However, by 2003, she was rarely seen in public at all. The following year, it was announced that she was suffering from Adjustment Disorder, although many speculate that she is dealing with clinical depression, brought on by the pressures and constraints placed upon her by the strict Imperial Household Agency. It would be many years before she would return, albeit just occasionally, to the public eye. Aside from a private visit to the Netherlands, at the personal invitation of Queen Beatrix, she has not made any foreign trips since 2002.
The Crown Prince and Crown Princess at the Dutch investiture, 2013. Photo: Zimbio
In a statement released for her 49th birthday in 2012, the Crown Princess thanked the Japanese people for their “warm continued support”, and that she continues to make progress with the help of her doctors and those around her. She also began to appear more often at official events at the Imperial Palace and around Japan, always at the side of her husband. Perhaps because of the kindness previously extended by the Dutch Queen, and the fact that her parents are based in The Hague, Crown Princess Masako accompanied her husband to the investiture of the new King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in 2013.
Photo: Imperial Household
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