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Frosty relationship rumored between Empress Masako and sister-in-law Crown Princess Kiko

12 Comments

When Shukan Shincho (May 23) says “cold war,” it doesn’t mean what first springs to mind – the ideological geopolitical half-century-long confrontation between democracy as represented by the United States and communism as represented by the Soviet Union. It means the increasingly frosty relationship between two royal women: Empress Masako and her sister-in-law Crown Princess Kiko.

Masako Owada seemed poised on the edge of a brilliant diplomatic career when, in 1986, she met Crown Prince Naruhito. Their courtship was long and complicated. They married in 1993. The quarter-century that followed was not kind to Crown Princess Masako. Ill health plagued her. Under pressure to produce an heir to the throne, she gave birth in 2001 to Princess Aiko – to the consternation of traditionalists for whom “heir” meant “male heir.” Masako withdrew further into the background, chronically “convalescing,” never quite convalesced.

Princess Kiko, on the other hand, wife of Naruhito’s younger brother Prince Fumihito, seemed to flourish, clinching her status in the royal family by giving birth in 2006 to Prince Hisahito.

May 1 – day one of Japan’s new Reiwa era – was day one as well of a new reign -- Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. And Empress Masako, reports Shukan Shincho, is blooming as Crown Princess Masako never did. Her symptoms cast off, her vigor restored, she sheds a new glow that threatens to put Kiko in the shade.

Ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne is a highly ceremonialized, deeply ritualized affair. Masako was a full participant in all of it. A week later she was present at a dinner for the Chinese ambassador on the eve of his recall home. For 30 minutes, it was observed, she engaged the ambassadorial couple in lively conversation – a clear departure from the aloof manner of her crown princess days, and a preview, perhaps, of the role she’ll play at the G20 summit in Osaka in late June.

Crown Princess Kiko, meanwhile, is beset by anxieties, most notably those concerning the troubled marriage plans of her elder daughter, Princess Mako. The intense press scrutiny that compounds those anxieties  has made it too well-known a story to require retelling here, beyond a reminder that it involves financial ambiguities in Mako’s fiancé’s family.

There are other issues too, including Crown Prince Fumihito’s allegedly precarious health. Fumihito is now, with his elder brother’s ascension, heir presumptive to the throne. An intensified public role has required a doubling of his and his wife’s personal staff. Not used to running such a large establishment, the royal couple must cope with the results of their inexperience – such as tensions arising from an inharmonious staff competing sometimes bitterly for status among themselves.

Veiled rivalry between Masako and Kiko is not new. Shukan Shincho cites an instance dating back to 2012. With Emperor Akihito was hospitalized for coronary bypass surgery, Kiko promptly announced plans to visit him. Masako, according to the magazine, reminded her that the rules of precedence entitled her to pay the first visit. Peacemaker in the affair was Empress Michiko – who said, in effect, "We’ll all go together."

If that sets the pattern for future relations between the two royal women, the “cold war” will be manageable.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Describing Fumihito as 'heir presumptive' only makes sense if there is a realistic possibility yet of the current Emperor producing a male heir. This seems unlikely with Masako on age grounds, so is the author suggesting an alternative mother for that role? It also seems unlikely there would be a return to the past practices that ended with Emperor Meiji, so why not just use the term 'heir apparent'?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Describing Fumihito as 'heir presumptive' only makes sense if there is a realistic possibility yet of the current Emperor producing a male heir.

Masako could die, he could remarry, and produce a son.

There is a reason why they use that term. Because it's accurate.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think the new Empress is a very educated person, she will know what she must do by herself. Staffs in the royal house-hold should not interfere with families or public affairs but just get their duties done. Too much time wasted is not a good thing in anyone's life. This thing abt male heirs only is getting too old story, we are into the 21st century, any gender who is intelligent ,kind & correctly educated should qualify for heir to the throne. Pls remember it is the female that reproduce not the male. All male comes from the womb of the mother. Things must change for Japan to progress. We are not in the Empress dowager period.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

...sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these... If I had a staff and they showed these deadly sins, they'd better straighten up, or sayonara. It a heart issue. Empress Michiko was very wise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Fumihito is a first-class hypocrite, always trying to find a way to diminish His Majesty like a petty brother with a middle-child inferiority complex so it wouldn't be surprising if his wife emulates some of that toxicity.

Having a male heir must have got to their heads, even though it's such an insignificant "accomplishment" in a modern, progressive world. I hope they change the laws so that the girl will inherit (as she should!) and leave that mess of that family out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

That's just like the media, always trying to make it seem like women can't get along. There's no story unless two women are at each other's throats about something, right? Look at the way the media loves to portray Kate and Meghan as enemies. It's ridiculous. What's also ridiculous is royalty in this day and age. They have no place in a democracy and Japan has plenty of other relevant and admirable symbols, in case anyone is going to try and throw that stale, old argument out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Frosty relationship rumored between Empress Masako and sister-in-law Crown Princess Kiko.

I do not understand why the headline was worded in this way, reverse the end of the sentence and it would make more sense. Empress Masako is too much a regal lady to be part of such petty squabbling.

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1 ( +2 / -1 )

Media playing up the fact that two women aren't bosom buddies. Just because women know each other doesn't mean they should be automatic best friends. See also sections of the UK media and their numerous stories aboout Meghan and Kate hating each other. Ridiculous and misogynistic and NOT news.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Get rid of jealousy , inferior complex and trusting sweet talking change with the wine yes, man and everything will be fine. Peace in the Japanese imperial palace. Too much time wasting people, who are too free.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Real life Japanese GoT!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, none of us can concretely say for sure, we can only speculate as these women would never show animosity, if any, towards each other in public, so that will never happen, but behind the scenes....you never know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Would live to see Kiko become Empress. Not likely of course, but she would reinvigorate the Japanese monarchy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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