It’s the season for glittering New Year tiaras in Japan—though once again, this year, tiaras won’t be worn at the New Year reception in Tokyo, thanks to ongoing pandemic concerns. Today, though, I’ve got a guide to the tiaras we see current members of the imperial family wearing for festive gala events.
Since her husband’s accession in 2019, Empress Masako of Japan has worn the Meiji Tiara as her primary diadem. The historic tiara is perhaps the most imporant Western-style jewel in the imperial collection. Made in the nineteenth century during the reign of Emperor Meiji, it was first worn by his consort, Empress Haruko. Today, the tiara continues to be reserved for the use of the empress. We’ve yet to see Masako wear the other tiara beloved by the previous empress, the Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara.
During her years as crown princess, Masako also wore the tiara from the Pearl Sunburst Parure, a modern suite of jewels previously worn by her mother-in-law, Michiko. She has not worn the pearl and diamond tiara since before the accession. Perhaps, as Michiko did, Masako has handed this one over to the current crown princess, her sister-in-law, Kiko?
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako’s daughter, Princess Aiko, now attends imperial court functions with her parents and relatives. Since her 20th birthday celebrations in 2021, she has worn the diamond tiara and jewels previously worn by her aunt, Princess Sayako (now Sayako Kuroda), for gala events.
This swirling diamond scroll tiara, used by all three recent Japanese crown princesses, is now worn by Crown Princess Kiko, wife of Crown Prince Fumihito. Both Empress Michiko and Empress Masako wore the tiara with Western-style gowns on their wedding days.
Crown Princess Kiko’s collection also includes the Akishino Tiara, the tiara from the diamond parure that she wore on her own wedding day in 1990. The tiara features stylized fleur-de-lis designs, a reference to Kiko’s imperial emblem, the iris flower.
Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko’s daughter, Princess Kako, remains a part of the imperial family as well. (Her sister, Mako Komuro, now lives abroad.) Kako began wearing this diamond tiara, which also has a fleur-de-lis design, on her 20th birthday in 2014. The tiara and its coordinating parure were made for her by Mikimoto.
Members of other branches of the imperial family also appear at court wearing tiaras and jewels. The Princess Hitachi has dealt with issues with her spine for several years, so she’s a rare sight at the Imperial Palace today. But when we do see her, she’s generally either wearing her interesting diamond and pearl wedding tiara, which has a wave design, or a modern diamond and pearl fringe diadem.
The Princess Mikasa is 99 years old and no longer makes regular gala appearances, but her daughters-in-law and grandchildren do. Princess Tomohito of Mikasa usually wears her own diamond and pearl wedding tiara, and her daughters, Princess Akiko and Princess Yoko, wear sets of jewels featuring similar design themes.
The second Mikasa daughter-in-law, Princess Takamado, is often seen in a wider range of jewels, as she has represented the imperial family abroad at gala events like royal weddings. Her most frequently worn diadem is probably her diamond and pearl wedding tiara, which is part of a coordinating parure.
She has also worn other tiaras for gala functions, including the Mikasa Pearl Drop Tiara. This jewel was previously worn by another sister-in-law, Princess Yasuko, who left the imperial family in 1966 when she married Tadateru Konoe.
On other occasions, we’ve seen Princess Takamado wear this gorgeous diamond laurel wreath tiara, which also features ribbon-like design elements. Even the necklace worn here by the princess can be placed on a frame and worn as a tiara; her youngest daughter, Princess Ayako, wore it in its tiara setting for a reception after her marriage to Kei Moriya in 2018.
Princess Takamado is joined at imperial functions by her eldest daughter, Princess Tsuguko of Takamado (pictured center here). She usually wears a lovely diamond tiara with a natural, leafy design.