Masako Owada and the then Crown Naruhito of Japan first met in 1986 during a tea in honour of Infanta Elena of Spain. Although she was reportedly reluctant to accept his proposal of marriage, she finally did so in 1992.
The engagement was officially announced on 19 January 1993, and the engagement ceremony was held on 12 April 1993. Crown Prince Naruhito declared, “I will do everything in my power to protect you.”1 This highly educated woman was about to enter a most secretive world, where she would forever walk behind her husband and where her sole duty was to produce a son. Naruhito might have meant well, but he would never be able to protect her.
Her future mother-in-law presented Masako with an heirloom platinum ring with a seven-carat ruby that had once belonged to Empress Nagako. The wedding was set for 9 June 1993.
The New York Times reported, “Although they have become the centre of one of the most minutely protected monarchies in the world, the grounds are surprisingly unkempt, a wooded ramble of maple, ginko and other trees inside a moat where white swans floated silently in this morning’s rain. That moody setting made the wedding a surprisingly subdued spectacle, at least for those watching from the muddy pathways in front of the austere shrine where the ceremony took place. It was a return of sorts to the quiet religious roots of the imperial family. The dignity of the event was given extra emphasis by the silence that prevailed throughout the ceremony. There was no music, and not a word was uttered that could be heard by the guests or those waiting in the thickening mud in front of the shrine.”2
Masako was dressed in a juni hitoe, which consists of 12 cloak-like layers of different coloured silk fabric, which has been woven with gold thread into a pattern of white jasmine flowers. It took eight people an hour to swaddle her into it, and it weighed about 16 kilos (35 pounds). It also costs an astonishing $350,000. Her black hair had been soaked in camelia oil, moulded into a bun, and held in place with a golden comb. She carried a white cedar fan, while her face was white with red lips.3
Naruhito was wearing a hakama, a broad divided skirt of cream silk, with cream-coloured booties inside black clogs. Over this, he wore an oninoho, which was dyed in the colour of the sunrise and was decorated with storks. In addition, he carried an item called a shaku, his sceptre of office, and he wore a black hat.
The actual ceremony remained private, and only an animation of it was broadcast on Japanese television. Afterwards, they changed into more Western clothes to officially meet the in-laws. Masako changed into a cream-coloured brocade gown and was now wearing a diamond tiara and necklace. Naruhito changed into a black morning coat. After lunch, it was time for the official photographs before they were ushered into their new home. 4
Upon marriage, Masako became Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess of Japan. Her husband became Emperor on 1 May 2019, making Masako Her Majesty The Empress. Masako and Naruhito went on to have one daughter together, who is not eligible to succeed to the throne.
- Princess Masako by Ben Hills p.2
- The New York Times
- Princess Masako by Ben Hills p.15
- Princess Masako by Ben Hills p.18