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Royal Wedding Rewind: Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada

We are taking a look back at the wedding of the Emperor and Empress of Japan:

Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan’s engagement to diplomat Masako Owada was announced on 19 January 1993. The pair had become engaged on Masako’s 29 birthday, 9 December 1992; Masako finally accepted Naruhito’s proposal on his third attempt as she had turned him down twice before because she did not want to give up her career in diplomacy.

Masako revealed in their engagement press conference that Naruhito told her, “I will protect you for my entire life.”

The traditional engagement ceremony, “Nosai-no-Gi,” was held on 12 April at Masako’s parents’ home. The women wore traditional Japanese dress while the Grand Master of the Crown Prince’s Household, Hiroo Kanno, presented her with gifts (two large fish, six bottles of sake and five bolts of silk).

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He then presented the formal marriage request, saying: “Today, Crown Prince Naruhito presents imperial betrothal gifts to confirm his pledge of marriage with the consent of the Emperor and Empress.” Masako replied: “I accept humbly.” She and her family then visited the Imperial Palace.

The wedding occurred on 9 June 1993 (declared a national holiday) at the Kashiko-dokoro – one of three palace sanctuaries on Imperial Palace grounds. Crown Prince Naruhito wore a traditional orange robe that dates back to the Heian Era, while Masako wore the 30-pound silk robe called the “juni-hitoe” that took three hours to put on.

Masako, who was the third commoner to marry into the Imperial Family, started the day with a purification ceremony in an ancient ritual before she was dressed by the court ladies.

For the 10:00 am wedding ceremony, 812 were invited, including the Imperial Family, Masako’s family, members of the government, members of the judicial branch and industry leaders. The Emperor and Empress did not attend; they waited at their home for the couple to announce their marriage to them in the midafternoon.

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Unlike other royal weddings, no foreign royals, or foreigners in general, were invited to the wedding, nor were friends of the couple. The actual ceremony was not televised; those watching on television could only see the couple walking into the shrine. The guests were also not allowed inside the sanctuary, and they stood in the Imperial Garden while the 15-minute Kekkon-no-gi ceremony took place at the altar of the Sun goddess.

The Crown Prince read from an ancient text to the Sun goddess, asking for protection for the future. The chief ritualist in the shrine then waved sacred dogwood sprig before Naruhito and Masako bowed to one another. Masako was then Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess of Japan.

The couple then went to another sanctuary, this time the Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary, to report their marriage to the then-Crown Prince’s ancestors.

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The afternoon saw an outfit change into formal attire with the new Crown Princess in a white gown and tiara and Crown Prince in a tuxedo. They reported their marriage to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace during the Choken-no-Gi ceremony before taking official photos with the Imperial Couple.

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Afterwards, the couple rode in a Rolls Royce convertible through the streets of Tokyo to greet the waiting crowds to Tōgū Palace; the procession took around 30 minutes, with approximately 200,000 celebrating in the streets. A private dinner was held that evening at the palace for the couple before they participated in the celebration banquet Kyutyu-Shukuen-no-Gi.

During the three-night ceremony, rice cakes were offered with prayers for a healthy baby boy and heir; Japan only allows males to ascend the throne, so it was considered necessary for the Crown Princess to give birth to a son. The couple ate some rice cakes and buried the others in the Imperial Garden while the priests prayed for the Crown Princess to have healthy children.

The couple have one daughter, Princess Aiko, born in 2001.

Naruhito became the Emperor of Japan and Masako the Empress of Japan on 1 May 2019 upon the abdication of Naruhito’s father, Emperor Akihito.

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About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.