The world’s oldest living royal is relatively unknown to most: Princess Yuriko of Japan.
She wasn’t born royal but rather to an aristocratic father who was part of the Takagi clan. However, she did have royal relations as her mother was a second cousin of Emperor Showa (her great-aunt was the great-great-grandmother of the Emperor). Her ancestor, Lady Yanagiwara Naruko, was Emperor Meiji’s concubine and served as a lady-in-waiting for the Imperial House of Japan. Yanajiwara was the last concubine to give birth to a future monarch.
Yuriko was born in her family’s home in Tokyo City (now Tokyo) on 4 June 1923 to Viscount Masanari Takagi (an entomologist) and Kuniko Irie.
She was educated at Gakushuin Women’s Academy, where she graduated in 1941.
Yuriko’s engagement to her second cousin once removed Takahito, Prince Mikasa (1915-2016), was announced on 29 March 1941; their engagement ceremony took place on 3 October 1941, with the wedding following on 22 October. Upon their marriage, Yuriko gained a royal title: Her Imperial Highness The Princess Mikasa.
Together, the couple had five children: Princess Yasuko (b. 1944), Prince Tomohito (1946-2012), Prince Yoshihito (b. 1948-2014), Princess Masako (b. 1951) and Prince Norihito (b. 1954-2002). Both of their daughters had to renounce their imperial titles and places in the Imperial House upon their marriages to commoners.
The Prince and Princess Mikasa have nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Yuriko was married to Takahito for 75 years when he died just shy of his 101st birthday in 2016; at the time, he was the eldest member of the Imperial Family and the world. He was also the longest-living member of Japan’s Imperial Family.
Princess Yuriko visits his grave each month on his death anniversary. She also contributed to a book on her late husband that was released this year; it illustrates his 100 years of life with some unreleased material. In addition, she provided 11 interviews for the book published by Yoshikawa Kobunkan.
Princess Yuriko, as she is commonly known, has held patronages and positions with the Japanese Red Cross (as Vice President), Imperial Gift Foundation (as President) and the Imperial Household Council (reserve member). She still occasionally attends imperial events like the coming-of-age celebration for Princess Aiko (the daughter of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako) and the New Year’s Reception in 2022.
She has had a few health issues over the years, with the most recent being a hospitalisation in 2021 for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and a battle with COVID the following year.
The Princess now lives a quiet life in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.