Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Empress Michiko

The current Empress Michiko
The current Empress Michiko (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Queens- Write about a powerful woman in our country’s history.

Empress Michiko (皇后美智子 Kōgō Michiko), born Michiko Shōda (正田 美智子 Shōda Michiko) on 20 October 1934, is the Empress consort of Japan as the wife of Emperor Akihito, the current Emperor of Japan reigning from 7 January 1989.

Michiko Shōda was born in Tokyo, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburō Shōda, president and later honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company. Raised in Tokyo and in a cultivated family, she received both traditional and "Western", learning to speak English and to play piano and being initiated into the arts such as painting, cooking and Kōdō. She is the niece of several academics, including Kenjirō Shōda, a mathematician who was the president of the University of Osaka from 1954 until 1960.


She attended Futaba Elementary School in Tokyo, but was obliged to leave in her fourth grade because of the American bombings during World War II. She was then successively educated in the prefectures of Kanagawa, Gunma and Nagano in the town of Karuizawa, where Shōda had a second resort home.

After attending college, she admitted to have also been named in her childhood as "Temple-chan", because her curly hair and reddish colors were unusual for a Japanese girl and it made her look like the American child actress Shirley Temple. Although she came from a Catholic family and was educated in Christian private schools, she is not baptized.

She graduated summa cum laude from the Faculty of Literature at the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1957. She also took courses at Harvard and Oxford.

Since she came from a particularly wealthy family, her parents were very selective about her suitors. Biographers of the famous writer Yukio Mishima had considered marrying Michiko Shōda, and that he was introduced to her for that purpose sometime in the 1950s.

In August 1957, she met then-Crown Prince Akihito on a tennis court at Karuizawa near Nagano. The Imperial Household Council formally approved the engagement of the Crown Prince to Michiko Shōda on 27 November 1958. At that time, the media presented their encounter as a real "fairy tale", or the "romance of the tennis court". The engagement Ceremony took place on 14 January 1959.

Michiko married Crown Prince Akihito and became the crown princess of Japan until the death of Emperor Hirohito. She was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Family. She has three children with her husband. Her elder son, Naruhito, is the current heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. As crown princess and later as empress, she has become the most visible and widely travelled imperial consort in Japanese history.