On this day in 1959, Crown Prince Akihito of Japan married Michiko Shoda in Toyko. Today, we’re celebrating their wedding anniversary with a look at her iconic wedding tiara, which has now become a signature jewel of Japanese crown princesses.
After meeting on a tennis court in 1957, Crown Prince Akihito and Michiko Shoda announced their engagement in November 1958. They wed in a series of ceremonies on April 10, 1959, in Tokyo. First, they dressed in traditional Japanese clothing for the marriage ceremony at the palace shrine, which was attended by almost 1000 guests. (I wrote an extensive article on the couple’s engagement and wedding festivities here, where you can learn much more about all of the parts of the wedding day.)
After the wedding ceremony, Akihito and Michiko changed out of their traditional attire and into Western-style clothing for the choken-no-gi, the audience in which they announced their marriage to his parents, Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako. When the ceremony had finished, the imperial family posed for a formal photograph in their suits, gowns, and tiaras.
Michiko’s Western-style wedding gown was made by Harue Matsuda, a Japanese department store designer who graduated from fashion school in Honolulu in 1941. The bride wore the yellow sash of the Order of the Precious Crown. She also wore a suite of mirrored diamond jewelry, a central part of any Japanese princess’s court uniform.
Press reports from the time of the wedding may give us a little provenance insight about the diamond scroll tiara worn by Michiko on her wedding day. One American newspaper wrote that “Michiko wore a tiara of 1000 diamonds set in platinum, a tiara used by the Empress Teimei [Sadako], Akihito’s grandmother, for her wedding in 1900, but remodeled for” Michiko’s wedding.
Michiko wore the tiara and the rest of the coordinating parure throughout her time as Japan’s crown princess. Here, she wears the tiara and its mirrored necklace for a formal portrait taken in the spring of 1971. When her husband ascended to the throne as Emperor Akihito in 1989, she gained access to the empress’s jewels, including the Meiji Tiara.
Within a few years, she handed over the tiara over to a new crown princess. When Akihito and Michiko’s son, Crown Prince Naruhito, married Masako Owada in June 1993, she wore the diamond scroll tiara and its mirrored necklace on her wedding day, just as her mother-in-law had done several decades before her.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are now the reigning imperial couple in Japan. On the day of Naruhito’s ascension in 2019, a grand celebration was held in Tokyo. For the event, Masako’s sister-in-law, the new Crown Princess Kiko, wore the diamond scroll tiara and necklace for the first time, cementing the tiara’s role as the primary diadem for Japan’s crown princesses.