Pressures of the Chrysanthemum throne

By Eiko Yabe

With the news of Emperor Akihito’s ill health announced on the 3rd December, the nation is once again focused on the goings-on of the Japanese Imperial family. The emperor was hospitalized with an irregular pulse, high blood pressure and internal bleeding that are said to be linked to the on-going friction with his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, over his inability to provide a male heir. Masako must be screaming inside the palace walls as she braces for intensified attacks from the nation’s press. Any reaction would no doubt be termed as part of her “adjustment disorder” by the Imperial Household Agency (IHA).

It hasn’t helped that recently, her own sister Reiko Ikeda was suspected of posting petty anonymous comments about the royal family on the web in an apparent attempt to protect her from the media bashing. She was first suspected of self-glorifying her own translation of the autobiography of a German-Jewish Auschwitz survivor in the reviews section of According to the Website’s conditions of use, the user “may not impersonate any person or entity,” - the site, however, “takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content posted by any users.” The post may have been anonymous but suspicions quickly arose. As soon as the site’s users became suspicious, word quickly spread.

Due to the great interest triggered by any news relating to Princess Masako’s family, the Owadas, Amazon users clicked away with curiosity, attempting to unmask this reviewer named “Madeleine.” To the few that followed the Imperial family closely, this name cast a cloud of doubt over the validity of the book review, as they recognized it to be Ikeda’s middle name. The wishlist on Madeline’s Amazon profile also revealed a collection of how-to books for successful acceptance to the renowned Keio Yochisha Elementary School, which is allegedly where Ikeda is keen to send her child.

Meanwhile, in a thread on Japan’s biggest Internet forum 2channel titled “Imperial Household – anti version,” users were freely taking part in endless debates, posting severe criticism about Masako and the Owadas. But one particular poster stood out like a nail from a plank by disagreeing with the criticisms. Instead, this anonymous poster wrote petty and shallow comments about the Akishinonomiyas -the family of the second son of Emperor Akihito.

Here are some of her comments: “Hisahito-sama had to get his lip stitched up after falling over, he still can’t put sentences together, this leads me to believe he just isn’t loved by the Amaterasu-ōmikami (a Shinto-deity known to be the ancestor of the imperial family). His future is set to be bleak, but that’s no wonder having being born into this world through cesarean section!”

“Kako-sama, just look at the way she was dangling her bag, a far cry from the elegance that is expected of her by the public. But we mustn’t forget that her mother (Kiko-sama) came from the projects. She has too much tolerance for these bad manners. Aiko-sama would never have shown such discourtesy, even during her kindergarten years. But then again, Aiko-sama has been called “Aiko, Princess Toshi,”(Toshi means someone who respects others) and is markedly different in rank and breeding to her ill-mannered cousins.”

The second the 2channelers started posting comments insinuating that user ID:_ 4PqnwxSl0 was in fact Ikeda, the anonymous poster disappeared from the forum altogether. After the 2channelers searched through the history of posts made by the user, she was “convicted,” and an onlooker sold the story to the Shuukan Shinchou tabloid magazine.

Anyone with a bit of love for their siblings can sympathize a little with her anger, but this incident may cost the Imperial family a great deal of esteem, and may even damage its prospects for survival. It is most certain the IHA will take these incidents into account in the marriage selection process of the future heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne; Aiko or Hisahito. I will not be surprised if the IHA tries to trace back every possible family line of the possible partners to reassure themselves that they had done all they can. But I do wonder now what senseless parents would allow their son or daughter to enter the imperial family.

Ikeda’s series of alleged cyberspace tantrums clarifies a few things about the myth that is Masako. It appears to demonstrate that the pressure of producing a male successor has spread to her closest sister. Ikeda was possibly the only person that Masako could share her thoughts with on this matter. I question myself whether these spiteful remarks could be the direct words of the Princess herself. But I have little sympathy for Masako who entered the imperial family with unrealistic expectations of what her life as an imperial princess would be. She entered the family as a diplomat, and believed that she could take on a diplomatic role as the princess, but this was not to be the case. The IHA keeps a tight lid on what goes on within the walls of the palace grounds but this incident may provide a glimpse of the real Masako and her family. Did the Owadas treat their daughter’s entry into the imperial family simply as a social-ladder-climbing exercise? It seems that Masako was not prepared to handle the unique pressures that come with being a Japanese Imperial princess. If the posted comments were in fact made by Reiko Ikeda, the IHA may be obliged to rethink allowing “marriage for love” within the imperial family.

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One major thing I disagree with the blogger on- it was quite clear from
the beginning that Masako was completely pressured into this marriage and
in no way desired it, so it was hardly as if she or her family entered
into the marriage as a "social climb." It would have been job suicide
for her father, and hell for her and her family, if she had tried to
successfully refuse (Again remember she repeatedly refused, the prince
repeatedly pursued her with mounting pressures, etc!) I think she misses the point that Masako seems to have neither wanted nor desired this marriage and was seemingly trapped from the beginning by enormous social pressures to agree to it, For the prince it might have been "love" but from what I understand, for Masako it was decidedly not. I think this is a common understanding of people who look at the record, at least from the outside.