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Before they were royal: The life of Crown Princess Masako of Japan

江戸村のとくぞう/CC/Wikimedia Commons

She is set to become Japan’s next Empress in May 2019, but today we take a look at the life of Crown Princess Masako of Japan before she married Crown Prince Naruhito.

Born Masako Owada on 9 December 1963 at the Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo, Japan, she is the eldest daughter of Hisashi Owada and Yumiko Egashira. Masako’s younger sisters are twins Reiko and Setsuko. Her father recently retired from his judgeship at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands. He became a judge in 2003 after successfully serving on Japan’s diplomatic service and being a Law Professor for 30 at the University of Tokyo, Harvard Law School, New York University Law School, Columbia Law School, the Hague Academy of International Law, Waseda University, and the University of Cambridge.

Due to her father’s diplomatic career, Masako’s studies started abroad. When Masako was only two-years-old, her family moved to Moscow, and three years later they moved to New York City. The family moved back to Japan in 1971 when Masako enrolled at Futaba Gakuen, a private Roman Catholic school for girls that had also been attended by both her mother and maternal grandmother. For her father to take the position of visiting professor of international law at Harvard University, the family moved in 1979 to Boston where Masako attended Belmont High School. The future wife of Crown Prince Naruhito graduated from high school in 1981 and then enrolled at Radcliffe College, which is now part of Harvard University, from where she graduated in 1985 with A.B. magna cum laude in Economics. During her time at Radcliffe College, Masako became the chairman of the school’s Japan Society and worked hard to promote the image of her country.

Masako then returned to Japan where she studied Law for six months at the University of Tokyo as preparation for the entrance exam for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After passing her exam, Masako started her career in the Ministry, where she was chosen two years later to enrol for postgraduate studies. Masako soon began pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Relations. For unknown reasons, Masako never finished her thesis.

The future Crown Princess of Japan first met her future husband in a reception at the Imperial Palace in honour of Infanta Elena of Spain in 1986; It is said that Crown Prince Naruhito was immediately smitten by Masako.

Despite Masako opposing the idea of marrying the future Emperor of Japan because she would have to give up on her diplomatic career and independent life in order to join the Imperial Household. She would have to follow its strict rules and the fact that the Imperial Household Agency disapproved of Masako for being a commoner, she accepted Naruhito’s third proposal engagement after he convinced her that being the Crown Princess of Japan would take her to a new level of diplomacy.

Their engagement was announced in January 1993 but it only became official in a ceremony three months later. Their wedding happened on 9 June 1993 in an ancient ceremony at the Imperial Shinto Hall in Tokyo followed by an afternoon reception at the Imperial Palace.

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