Imperial Royals Mark Passing of Princes

June 6 marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa. As per tradition, a ‘grave festival’ was held at Toshima Oka cemetery in Tokyo. The Imperial family was led at this event by the late Prince Tomohito and Princess Nobuko’s daughters Princess Akiko and Princess Yoko; their grandmother, Princess Yuriko of Mikasa, Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince and Princess Akishino were also in attendance with the women in veiled black bumper hats and the men in morning dress, carrying silk top hats.

Princess Akiko and Princess Yoko, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats

Princess Akiko and Princess Yoko, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats Princess Yurko of Mikasa, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats

Prince Naruhito, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats Prince Fumihito and Princess Kiko, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats

The event was also attended by former princesses Mrs. Sayako Kuroda (Prince Naruhito’s sister, the former Princess Nori) and Mrs. Noriko Senge (former Princess Noriko of Takamado) who repeated the dress code of pale grey dresses topped with black veiled bumper hats.

Mrs. Sayako Kuroda and Mrs. Noriko Senge, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats

Today, a similar event was held at the same cemetery and shrine, this time to mark the third anniversary of the passing of Yoshihito, Prince Katsura. Similar black, veiled bumper hats were worn again for this event by Princess Yoriko of Mikasa (Prince Katura’s mother), Princess Kiko and Mrs. Sayako Kuroda. Again, Crown Prince Naruhito attended in morning dress, carrying a black silk top hat.

 Princess Yuriko of Mikasa, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats Crown Prince Naruhito, June 6, 2017 | Royal Hats

 Princess Kiko, June 8, 2017 | Royal Hats Princess Kiko, June 8, 2017 | Royal Hats

Mrs. Sayako Kuroda, June 8, 2017 | Royal Hats

The attendance of Sayako Kurado and Noriko Senge at these events feels noteworthy. Since the 1947 Imperial Household Law, Japanese princesses have lost their royal status upon marriage – until recently, former princesses did not attend royal events and appeared to be completely cut off from their royal relations. While these were family events (and as such, follow different rules than official Imperial ones), Princess Mako’s upcoming engagement announcement has started chatter about revising this law to allow Imperial princesses to retain some of their status (especially with a single male in the current young generation). I can’t help but hope that the appearance of Sayako and Noriko this week is a sign that, at the very least, the inpterpretation of this law is starting to change.
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6 thoughts on “Imperial Royals Mark Passing of Princes

  1. I very much like grey as an alternate mourning color. While there is nothing new or special about these hats and outfits, they all still look very elegant; the men are also well-dressed, but it’s interesting that we never see them actually wearing their top hats.

    As for the appearance of Sayako and Noriko, it would make sense at a private family gathering, but I also wonder if it has something to do with the fact Sayako is an imperial Shinto priestess, and Noriko’s husband is a kannushi (caretaker of a Shinto shrine). Whatever the reason, it is nice to see them.

  2. Getty Images has more photos of Mikasa and Takamado princesses, and Noriko Senge at Prince Katsura’s memorial. It appears black is worn for the 1st – 4th anniversaries and grey is allowed afterward. I wouldn’t read too much into Sayako and Noriko’s attendance. Former princesses are usually invited to family events like weddings, funerals, memorials, etc. Sayako attended Prince Takamado’s 3rd anniversary memorial ceremony after her marriage in 2005. Noriko has attended since her marriage too.

  3. I’m curious about why the bumper seems to be the default style for the Japanese royal family. We don’t see that style detail nearly as often from the European royals. Also, that veil coming out from the top over the sides, worn by five of the princesses here, is a rather unusual design feature.

    Yes, let’s hope the princesses can retain some of their royal ties after marriage.

  4. Good pictures and interesting insights. Social changes in the west are not all that old themselves. Unfortunately one must work within the current restraints of each society.

  5. Such a dignified and lovely way to remember loved ones. Everyone looks very elegant. I agree with Hat Queen that it would be nice to see former princesses retain some sort of ability to attend family and official events.

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