Empress Michiko’s 75th Birthday
Michiko Shōda was born on October 20, 1934 to Hidesaburo and Fumiko Shōda. She first attended Futaba Elementary School and then Seishin University, which she graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Japanese Literature. Michiko also attended courses at Harvard and Oxford Universities.
Her fist encounter with Crown Prince Akihito was quite accidental: the Crown Prince and his friend Kenji Ishizuka played a doubles tennis game against a young French boy and Japanese lady, and to their great surprise, they lost. The young lady was of course Michiko Shōda. The Crown Prince was captivated: he would later say: “I hit the ball and hit it again, but she would always hit it back. No matter what sort of ball she gets she never gives up and tries to hit it back to me. I have lost against her persistence.”
After just handful of meetings, Akihito proposed; however the romance was not without obstacles. Although Michiko came from a wealthy family, she was a commoner and was never considered an appropriate match for the Crown Prince: indeed, when the IHA put together a list of 860 eligible candidates (ladies who were descended from Japanese nobility), she wasn’t even mentioned there. Michiko’s family wasn’t all keen either: they felt the marriage would imprison their bright young daughter in the golden cage of the Palace. Unwilling to impose their will upon their daughter in any way, they sent her on a world trip, which, they hoped, would help Michiko make up her own mind.
The Crown Prince patiently waited till her return and as soon as she was back in Tokyo, resumed their contact. Michiko was deeply touched by his devotion and love, and she finally accepted his proposal in November of 1958 – almost two years after their first meeting. In accordance with the Imperial House Law, the Imperial House Council, headed by the Prime Minister, gave its unanimous consent to the marriage. Dr. Shinzo Koizumi, said of this marriage: “The Crown Prince chose her, and so did we.”
The young and charming couple enthralled the entire nation: their beautiful traditional wedding was like a ray of sunshine for the post-war Japan. Michiko was Japan’s very own Cinderella – a commoner girl, who married the Prince and would become an Empress one day. Unfortunately, fairy tales tend to end with the wedding: Michiko’s problems started after it.
Despite IHA’s consent and the Prime Minister’s words, many of Japanese ‘old elite’, including Empress Kōjun, strongly disapproved of the Crown Prince’s decision to marry a mere commoner. Empress Kōjun bullied her daughter-in-law into a nervous breakdown in the early 1960s, which resulted in the Crown Princess losing her voice for several months. Michiko made desperate attempts to break free from the controlling Empress and IHA: in the 1960s rumours abounded that the Crown Princess underwent an abortion, partly to spite her controlling parents-in-law.
Despite all these problems with her in-laws and the IHA, Michiko’s married life could be called happy: there is certainly no doubt of the deep devotion and love Akihito and Michiko have always had for each other. The couple has 3 children:
1) Crown Prince Naruhito, born on February 23, 1960. He married Masako Owada in 1993. They have one daughter, Princess Aiko (born December 1, 2001).
2) Prince Akishino, born on November 30, 1965. He married Kawashima Kiko in 1990. They have 3 children: Princess Mako (born October 23, 1991), Princess Kako (born December 29, 1994) and Prince Hisahito (born September 6, 2006).
3) Princess Nori (Sayako), born on April 18, 1969. She married Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005, upon which the Princess left the Imperial Family, relinquished her title and allowance and took the surname of her husband.
Michiko insisted on personally bringing up her children, rather than entrusting them to the care of nannies. She had a small kitchen, where should prepare school lunches and teach her daughter, Princess Sayako how to cook.
When Emperor Hirohito died on January 7, 1989, Akihito became the 125th Emperor of Japan and she became Empress of the world’s oldest Monarchy. The Enthronement ceremony, which took place in November of 1990, was attended by representatives of 158 countries, including Monarchs and Heads of State.
Over the years, Michiko did her best to be closer to her people, something, that didn’t go unnoticed: the Imperial couple are immensely popular with the people.
The Empress has always been greatly interested in Art, and is particularly well-read in Japanese classical literature. She has constantly kept up her interest in children’s literature and has done work in that field herself. Michiko is also a great music enthusiast: she plays the piano, and is a good accompanist to the Emperor who plays the cello and to Crown Prince Naruhito who plays the viola and violin. The Empress also gives encouragement and support to Gagaku, classical court music and dance, often attending its performances by court musicians/dancers or descendants of former aristocrats.
Almost every day, the Emperor and Empress take early morning walks in the Palace woods and gardens where they can enjoy the changes of the seasons and be close to nature which they both love. On weekends they play tennis, the sport that brought them together.
To learn more about the Emperor and Empress, visit this forum.
To learn more about their courtship, read this blog entry.Filed under Japanese Royals
Tagged Biography, Birthday, Empress Michiko.