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EDITORIAL | Wishing Empress Masako a Happy Birthday as She Turns 60

As she turns 60, Empress Masako has spent half of her life as a member of the imperial family and continues in the active role of successive modern empresses.



Empress Masako holds batik fabric she received from President Joko Widodo and his wife on their visit to Indonesia in June while discussing it with the Emperor and their daughter, Princess Aiko in the Imperial Palace on December 1. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency)

On Saturday, December 9, Empress Masako celebrated her 60th birthday, or kanreki

In East Asian cultures, reaching one's kanreki has long been considered a very important event. It means that the person has gone through the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac five times and is now ready to start a "new life." 

It just so happens, that this year also marks the 30th anniversary of Empress Masako's marriage to Emperor Naruhito. That took place in 1993 when he was still crown prince. She has thus spent half her life as a member of the imperial family.

Together with his majesty the Emperor, she has always prayed for the development of Japan and the happiness of the nation's people. With deep gratitude, we would like to offer our heartfelt congratulations to Her Majesty the Empress on her 60th birthday. 

The Empress exchanged words with His Majesty the Emperor and his eldest daughter Princess Aiko on December 1 at the Imperial Palace. (Photo provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

An Active Role Despite Health Problems

After her marriage, the Empress was diagnosed with a stress-related adjustment disorder in 2004. Subsequently, she spent a long time receiving medical treatment. However, she has been gradually recovering. And with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic settling down, the opportunities for her participation in official functions have increased noticeably. 

Together with the Emperor, she attended the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom in September 2022. That was her first foreign trip since becoming empress. It was followed by the imperial couple's official visit to Indonesia in June of 2023. 

She has also been very busy in Japan in 2023. She attended the seasonal palace garden parties and the National War Memorial Ceremony. Moreover, she doubled the number of official functions she has attended outside Tokyo as compared to 2022. 

Empress Masako ahead of her 60th birthday on December 1, 2023. (provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Empress Masako's Thoughts

The Empress wrote down her thoughts concerning her birthday, which she has kindly shared with the public through the Imperial Household Agency. At one point she writes of her trips to various regions of Japan as follows: "By visiting local areas, I was able to experience the unique characteristics of each region, and was reminded of the richness of our country's nature, climate, history and culture." 

She shared how deeply she was moved by the reception she received. "I felt deep gratitude for the warm welcome I received from so many people everywhere I went, and for the opportunity to hear directly from various people at each location," she wrote. 


That shows how much the Empress treasures direct interactions with the Japanese people. 

The Empress tries on traditional batik at Bogor Palace in Indonesia. On the left is First Lady Ileana, on June 19. (Pool photo)

Role of a Modern Empress

The role played by the empress in our country in the modern era has been of vital importance. Emperor Meiji was the man who laid the foundation for modern Japan. His consort, Empress Dowager Shoken, did much to promote education for girls. She also worked for the development of the Japanese Red Cross Society. Furthermore, she promoted Japan's sericulture and made many other contributions. 

This tradition of the empress playing an active role has been passed down to successive empresses. Today, Empress Masako is more than living up to that model. In 2023 she continued participating in activities as honorary president of the Japan Red Cross Society and engaged in sericulture within the Imperial Palace. 

Despite being in poor health, she has long supported the Emperor and raised Princess Aiko. Her presence looms large in Japanese society. 

The bond between the imperial family and the people is part of the very fabric of Japan's national character. We hope that Empress Masako will continue to recover and wish her success in all of her endeavors. 

The Empress poses for a commemorative photo with His Majesty the Emperor and her daughter, Princess Aiko, ahead of her 60th birthday. December 1 at the Imperial Palace. (Photo provided by the Imperial Household Agency)


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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