Japan's Princess Aiko vows to 'value duties' in first press conference

Emperor Naruhito’s daughter Princess Aiko of Japan vows to ‘value her duties’ in a press conference to mark becoming a working royal after coming of age on her 20th birthday

  • Princess Aiko of Japan hit the world stage after turning 20 in December last year
  • University student Aiko is only child of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako
  • Vowed to fulfil duties at her first press conference at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Press conference had been delayed to avoid conflicting with Princess’ studies

Princess Aiko has vowed to ‘value her duties’ in her first press conference since becoming a fully fledged member of the Japanese royal family. 

Aiko is the only child of Emperor Naruhito, 61 and Empress Masako, 58, turned 20 last December, the age at which Imperial Family members officially begin their public life.

And after carrying out her first royal engagement in January for the traditional New Year’s ceremony, the Japanese princess held her first conference at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo today.  

The conference was due to take place before her birthday, however it was pushed back so it did not conflict with her studies of Japanese literature at Gakushuin University. 

Princess Aiko has vowed to ‘value her duties’ in her first press conference since becoming a fully fledged member of the Japanese royal family

The Japanese royal looked typically polished in a simple cream knee-length tea dress paired with a matching structured jacket 

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the young princess said she would ‘value each and every one of her duties’ as a senior royal and offered ‘heartfelt gratitude’ to all her supporters. 

Aiko looked typically polished in a simple cream knee-length tea dress paired with a matching structured jacket. 

She dressed up the simple look with a glitzy brooch, pearl necklace and a pair of delicate pearl earrings, while wearing her tresses in a sleek low ponytail. 

On January 1, Aiko took part in the annual Shinnen Shukuga-no Gi in Tokyo, a reception where the most senior members of the Imperial household ring in the new year in front of illustrious guests. 

Aiko is the only child of Emperor Naruhito, 61 and Empress Masako, 58, turned 20 last December, the age at which Imperial Family members officially begin their public life

Aiko dressed up the simple look with a glitzy brooch, pearl necklace and a pair of delicate pearl earrings, while wearing her tresses in a sleek low ponytail

And after carrying out her first royal engagement in January for the traditional New Year’s ceremony, the Japanese princess held her first conference at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo today

Attendees included Naruhito’s brother, the Crown Prince Fumihito Akishino, best known as Prince Akishino, his wife Princess Kiko and their daughter and Kako, 27. 

For her first foray into public life, Aiko donned a white dress, white gloves and a pearl necklace. She was not, however, wearing a tiara.

The reception used to be the occasion for the women of the imperial family to don glitzy jewels and tiaras, however, since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Naruhito has dialed back the bling in favour of more discreet looks. 

Little is known about the princess, who suffered a difficult period of bullying and anxiety during her childhood which saw her dropping out of school.

On Aiko’s eighth birthday, it was revealed her interests included calligraphy, jump rope, writing poetry and later that she grew up playing both piano and violin.

Aiko attended the conference today, which was due to take place before her birthday, however was pushed back so it did not conflict with her studies of Japanese literature at Gakushuin University


The Japanese royal appeared in good spirits as she attended her first press conference since coming of age at the Imperial Palace

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the young princess said she would ‘value each and every one of her duties’ as a senior royal at the conference today

However in 2010, she was in the press after it emerged she was spending a period away from school after suffering anxiety over the ‘wild behaviour’ of fellow schoolboys. 

She failed to attend the end-of-year graduation ceremony a and was also absent for a welcoming ceremony for her fellow new third grade students.

She began attending school for just three hours a day, accompanied by her mother, and took other days off complaining of a cold. 

At the time, Palace officials said the princess was having private tuition while not at school.

Aiko attended her first news conference after she made her debut as a new adult member of the Imperial family in December

The Japanese royal answered questions from members of the press at her first news conference since becoming a senior royal 

Japanese Princess Aiko addressed the audience at her first news conference after she made her debut as a new adult member of the Imperial family

The Japanese royal appeared in good spirits as she attended her first press conference since coming of age at the Imperial Palace

A year later, she was hospitalised for pneumonia after suffering from a persistent high temperature of around 102.2F and a cough. 

On her return to school, she began playing cello as a member of the school orchestra and learning English. 

However in 2016, fears were raised again for Aiko’s health after she missed a month of school due to fatigue brought on by exam stress. 

Palace officials confirmed the teenager had been complaining of stomach problems and dizziness, which they attributed to studying for exams as well as practising for an athletics event.  

Official images released to mark her 15th birthday sparked concern in the country, with the royal appearing frail in the photographs.  

How the Japanese imperial family is a man’s world 

Female members of the Imperial family have no claim to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

They also lose their royal status upon marriage to a commoner. This law does not apply to male royals.

Few of former Emperor Akihito’s children and grandchildren are male, meaning there was a shortage of heirs to the throne. 

Akihito was succeeded by his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who ascended the throne on May 1, 2019. 

Naruhito has a daughter but no sons, meaning, his younger brother Akishino is now next in line, followed by Hisahito, Akishino’s 15-year-old son. 

Akihito’s three other grandchildren are all women so after Hisahito, the only person left in the line of succession is Princess Mako’s younger brother. 

After that there are no more eligible males, meaning the centuries-old succession would be broken if the young heirs do not have any sons of their own.

So far the monarchy has an unbroken 2,600-year-long line of male succession. 

Those who are concerned about the future of the royal family want to allow women to succeed the throne and others to keep their royal status so they can keep performing public duties – but a government panel on the emperor’s abdication avoided the divisive issue. 

Traditionalists, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, strenuously oppose such changes, even though Japan has occasionally been ruled by female sovereigns in past centuries.  

 

By the summer of 2018, she made her first solo trip abroad to attend a summer program at Eton College.  

Aiko is now in her second year of studying Japanese literature, along with taking additional language courses in English and Spanish, at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. 

Her grandfather, Emperor Emeritus Akihito and uncle, Crown Prince Akishino, also attended the university.

She is also known for her love of animals, having ridden horses since she was a child.

She walks her dog, Yuri, and has raised silkworms since elementary school days.

Her high school graduation paper was titled, ‘Cats and dogs in the Heian Period through literature.’ 

A statement previously released by the Imperial Household described Aiko as hardworking and said she sometimes turned to her father and mother, Empress Masako, for help with her assignments, according to the Japan Times.

She will became working member of the country’s imperial family last year, wearing a second-hand tiara first worn by Sayako, formerly Princess Sayako, to celebrate the milestone. 

Sayako is the only sister of Emperor Naruhito, and wore the tiara during her fifteen years of being a working member of the imperial family.

However, she hasn’t sported the glittering piece since 2005, when in November that year she married Yoshiki Kuroda, an urban planner working for the city of Tokyo.

At her wedding, Sayako, who is currently the Supreme Priestess at the Ise Grand Shrine, lost her imperial status due to a rule that strips imperial princesses of their titles if they choose to marry commoners.

Sayako still owns her tiara since it was reportedly made with funds from her father’s living expense allowance, rather than paid for by public funds.

But the move to borrow the ‘hand-me-down’ piece to Aiko has apparently caused some surprise, according to The Court Jeweller, after the princess’ cousins received new jewels.

The blog, written by American historian and royal expert Lauren Kiehna, reported that the Imperial Household Agency did not set aside money in the annual budget for a new tiara and jewels as a cost-saving measure amid the pandemic. 

The tiara is being adjusted to fit Aiko’s head better ahead of her coming of age ceremonies – which will not include the usual banquet or any similar type of gathering due to the Covid crisis. 

Despite being the only child of the Emperor, who ascended the throne in May 2019, Japanese laws favouring male heirs means Aiko is not in the line of succession.

Instead Aiko will be passed over in favour of her uncle, Crown Prince Fumihito, while his two eldest children Mako and Kako lose out to their younger brother, Prince Hisahito, 15. 

There is only one other man – the Emperor’s 85-year-old uncle, Prince Hitachi – who is eligible under current rules.

However it appears the Japanese public is ready for a change. A poll conducted by Kyodo News in October 2019 revealed 81.9 percent of the public are in favour of a reigning Empress.

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