Empress Michiko

Empress Michiko
Empress consort of Japan
Tenure 7 January 1989 - present
(&1000000000000002200000022 years, &10000000000000319000000319 days)
Enthronement 12 November 1990(1990-11-12) (aged 56)
Spouse Emperor Akihito
Naruhito, Prince Hiro
Fumihito, Prince Aya
Sayako, Princess Nori
House Imperial House of Japan
Father Hidesaburo Shōda
Mother Fumiko Shōda
Born 20 October 1934 (1934-10-20) (age 77)
Tokyo, Japan
Imperial House of Japan
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg

HIH The Prince Mikasa
HIH The Princess Mikasa

Empress Michiko of Japan (皇后美智子 Kōgō Michiko, formerly Michiko Shōda (正田 美智子 Shōda Michiko?); born 20 October 1934) is the wife and consort of Emperor Akihito, the current monarch of Japan. She was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Family. As crown princess and later as empress consort, she has become the most visible and widely-travelled imperial consort in Japanese history. Her full title is Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of Japan.


Early life

The future empress in 1940.

Empress Michiko was born in Tokyo, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburo Shōda (1904–1999), president and later honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company, and his wife, Fumiko Soejima (1910–1988). She attended Futaba Elementary School in Tokyo, but was obliged to leave during the fourth grade because of the American bombing during World War II. She returned to school after the war ended and attended the Seishin (Sacred Heart) junior high school and High School in Tokyo.

In 1957, She earned a bachelor of arts in English literature from the Faculty of Literature at the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo with summa cum laude.

Biographers of the writer Yukio Mishima report that he had considered marrying Michiko Shoda, and that he was introduced to her for that purpose some time in the 1950s.[citation needed]


10 April 1959

In August 1957, she met then-Crown Prince Akihito on a tennis court at Karuizawa. The Imperial Household Council (a body composed of the Prime Minister of Japan, the presiding officers of the two houses of the Diet of Japan, or Parliament, the Chief Justice of Japan, and two members of the Imperial Family) formally approved the engagement of the Crown Prince to Michiko Shōda on 27 November 1958. Although the future Crown Princess was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, she was a commoner. During the 1950s, the media and most persons familiar with the Japanese monarchy had assumed the powerful Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho) would select a bride for Crown Prince Akihito from among the daughters of the former court nobility (Kazoku) or from one of the former branches of the Imperial Family. Some traditionalists opposed the engagement, as she comes from a Catholic[1] family, and it was widely rumored that Empress Kōjun also was against her son's engagement. When the Dowager Empress died in 2000, Reuters news agency reported[1] that she had bullied her effervescent new daughter-in-law into a rumored nervous breakdown in the early 1960s. The young couple, nonetheless, proved widely popular among the Japanese public.

Marriage and family

Crown Princess Michiko with her husband on a state visit to the Netherlands on 5 October 1979. On the photograph, they appear together with Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Prince Claus of the Netherlands.
The First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, with the Crown Princess of Japan in 1987.

The couple married on 10 April 1959.

Three children were born to the couple:

  1. HIH Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, b. 23 February 1960;
  2. HIH Prince Akishino (Fumihito), b. 30 November 1965; and
  3. The former HIH Princess Nori (Sayako), b. 18 April 1969.

Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko again broke precedent by preferring to raise their children instead of entrusting them to the care of Court chamberlains; the Crown Princess even breastfed.

Upon the death of Emperor Hirohito on 7 January 1989, her husband became Japan's 125th Emperor and she became Empress Consort. The new Emperor and Empress were enthroned (Sokui Rei Seiden no Gi) at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on 12 November 1990.

Having lost her voice for seven months during a nervous breakdown in the 1960s, the Empress again lost her voice for several months in the Fall of 1993. Court doctors attributed this to "strong feelings of distress".[citation needed]

Official functions

Styles of
The Empress of Japan
Imperial Coat of Arms
Reference style Her Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style Madame

The Empress is expected to be the embodiment of values such as modesty and purity. She has demonstrated a strong sense of duty throughout her life, which makes her quite popular amongst the Japanese population.

As Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Akihito and Michiko made official visits to thirty-seven countries. Since their enthronement, the Imperial Couple have visited an additional eighteen countries, and have done much to make the Imperial Family more visible and approachable in contemporary Japan.

Her official duties, apart from visits to other countries, include attendance at events and ceremonies, both inside and outside the Imperial Palace, visits to welfare and cultural facilities and receiving official guests including State Guests. For example, in 2007, she had more than 300 meetings. She also takes part in religious ceremonies with the Emperor, such as visits to Ise, Shinto shrines and Imperial Mausolea to pray to the ancestral spirits. In addition, she is an accomplished classical pianist.

One of her most important functions is the annual ceremonial harvest of silkworms at the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery, which is the sericulture farm on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. The Empress personally feeds the worms with mulberry leaves and takes care of them, the frames and the harvesting. Since 1994, a part of the silk production is donated by her to the Shōsōin repository in Nara.[2] The production and harvesting of silk are part of her ceremonial duties, linked to Shintoism,[citation needed] Japanese culture and tradition.

See also


  1. ^ Herbert P. Bix, "Hirohito and the making of modern Japan", New York, 2001, p. 661
  2. ^ Imperial Household Agency | Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past Year and Her Birthday Schedule

External links

Japanese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Kōjun
Empress consort of Japan
Succeeded by

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