The Japanese Imperial Household has announced the launch of a new public relations affairs office, which will be in charge of creating a new system to convey information between the Japanese Imperial Family and the public.
Until this point, this task fell exclusively on the Imperial Household Agency, which selectively released information to a limited number of pre-approved media organisations, who then had to spread whatever news.
However, this system came under heavy scrutiny following the public’s online outcry after Princess Mako’s engagement with her university sweetheart Kai Komuro and all the issues surrounding that wedding.
The new office was officially launched on Saturday, 1 April, and will be led by 44-year-old Marko Fukiwara, who is a former employee of the National Police Agency. Under her, there will be a maximum of ten people, nine of whom have already been hired, with one coming from the private sector.
One of the first orders of business for the new communications team will be to revamp the outdated website, which up until now, was the only way of communication that connected the Agency directly with the public.
And most importantly, there have been reports that the new team will open new social media accounts. However, some officials inside the Agency are still sceptical about their use for fear of “unexpected” reactions from members of the public.
Another issue to be considered is the timely provision of information about the activities of working members of the Imperial Family.
“We would like to ensure giving in a timely manner a fuller picture than in the past about imperial members’ activities and personalities,” said the head of the Imperial Household Agency, Yasuhiko Nishimura.
So far, the Japanese Imperial Family has been one of the very few institutions around the world not to have social media accounts, with monarchies and governments in most countries having opened official accounts about a decade ago.
The public does not yet know the extent to which it will be granted access to a more transparent and timely information cycle about the activities of the Imperial Family. Still, it seems likely that the institution of this new public relations affairs office is a first step to bringing the Imperial Family’s work closer to ordinary Japanese citizens.