Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan

This is not the fairytale but one can witness this in the same world we are living in. Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and Masako Owada were married on June 9, 1993 at the Kashiko-dokoro, the Shinto shrine of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. Harvard graduate Masako, who was only the second commoner to marry into Japan’s royal family, met husband Crown Prince Naruhito during her time at the University of Tokyo. The eldest son of Emperor Akihito of Japan and Michiko Shōda, Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan was born on February 23, 1960 at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Born during the reign of his grandfather Emperor Hirohito, Prince Naruhito was second in line to the throne. He has a younger brother, Prince Akishino (born 1965), and a younger sister, Mrs. Sayako Kuroda, the former Princess Nori (born 1969).

Naruhito was educated at the Gakushūin (or Peers School) in Tokyo from the age of four and went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Gakushūin University in 1982. He then studied at Merton College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom before returning to Gakushūin University where he earned his Master’s Degree in history in 1988.


In January 1989, Naruhito’s grandfather died and his father became Emperor of Japan. Naruhito was invested as Crown Prince of Japan on February 23, 1991.

Masako Owada was born in Tokyo on December 9, 1963, the eldest daughter of Hisashi Owada and Yumiko Egashira. Her father, a former Japanese diplomat, served as Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations and as a member of the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands. Masako has two younger twin sisters, Setsuko and Reiko, born in 1966.

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 United States, 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. Besides speaking Japanese, Masako is fluent in English, German and French.


Prince Naruhito first met Masako Owada in November 1986, while she was a student at the University of Tokyo, at a tea for Infanta Elena of Spain. Naruhito was immediately captivated by Masako and arranged for them to meet several times over the next few weeks. Despite the Imperial Household Agency’s disapproval of Masako attending Balliol College, Oxford for the next two years, Naruhito remained interested in Masako.

Naruhito proposed to Masako twice, but she refused to marry him because it would force her to give up her career in diplomacy and severely restrict her independence and freedom. Finally, on December 9, 1992, on Masako’s 29th birthday, she accepted Naruhito’s third proposal. Naruhito had argued that serving as Crown Princess of Japan would be another form of diplomacy. The Imperial Household Council formally announced the engagement on January 19, 1993 and the engagement ceremony was held at Masako’s parents’ home on April 12, 1993. On the morning of April 12, 1993, an imperial van arrived at Masako’s family home carrying traditional, plainly wrapped gifts: two enormous fish (tai or red sea bream), six bottles of sake, and five bolts of silk. The fish were laid out head to head, at a slight angle to each other, forming the lucky symbol of the number eight, which is supposed to bring prosperity to the couple. Two simple but elegant unpainted wood boxes carried the other presents, the six bottles of sake, and the five bolts of silk which would be made into evening gowns for the future princess.

Hiroo Kanno, Grand Master of the Crown Prince’s Household, presented the gifts along with the formal request of marriage. “Today, Crown Prince Naruhito presents imperial betrothal gifts to confirm his pledge of marriage with the consent of the Emperor and Empress,” said Hiroo Kanno.

Masako Owada responded, according to the tradition, “I accept humbly.”

Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and Masako Owada were married on June 9, 1993 at the Kashiko-dokoro, the Shinto shrine of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess and mythological ancestress of the Imperial Family, part of the Three Palace Sanctuaries on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan.  800 guests were invited, including Imperial Family members, the bride’s relatives including her parents, government officials, lawmakers, judges, and industrial leaders. Very few friends of the bride and groom were invited and no foreigners were invited. Guests did not actually attend the wedding ceremony. They stood in the Imperial Garden for the 10 AM wedding and only saw the bride and groom, accompanied by Shinto ritualists, chamberlains and ladies-in-waiting, as they walked slowly down a long wooden porch.


The wedding ceremony took fifteen minutes and was not only out of the sight of the guests, but also out of the sight of the millions of television viewers. In the inner sanctuary of the shrine and in the presence of only the palace’s chief Shinto ritualist, a chamberlain bearing the centuries-old sword representing the crown prince, a court lady and an unwed priestess symbolizing purity, Naruhito and Masako were married in the Kekkon-no-gi ceremony before an altar enshrining the Sun Goddess, the guardian of the Imperial Family.

After the ceremony Naruhito and Masako went to the Kōrei-den, the Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary, another of the Three Palace Sanctuaries, where the departed spirits of the Imperial Family are enshrined one year after their death, to report the wedding to Naruhito’s imperial ancestors. The couple emerged from the shrine for another solemn procession down the wooden porch as husband and wife. In 2001, the couple had a daughter, Princess Aiko. More than 30 years on, crown prince faces another transition. Emperor Akihito, 83, wants to abdicate, leaving his son to take his place. Special legislation allowing this has just passed parliament, with the abdication expected in late 2018. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, has indicated he is ready and will follow a similar path to his parents, saying he wants to “stand close to the people”.

In his memoir of his time as a student at Oxford, the crown prince comes across as a cheerful and curious individual willing to embrace new experiences – something that will stand him in good stead in the years ahead. Isao Tokoro, professor emeritus of Japanese history at Kyoto Sangyo University and an expert invited to give his views to a government-appointed panel on the abdication, says he is well-prepared for the future.

“The crown price has been educated to be emperor from the day he was born,” he said. “I feel that it is very important for [him] to play the role and meet the needs of the times as much as possible.”

From the outset, Masako’s budding relationship was somewhat lacking in Hollywood romance.

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