On December 29, Japan’s Princess Kako celebrated her 28th birthday, and to mark the end of the year during which the princess expanded her royal role, the Imperial Household released a new set of portraits taken on the grounds of the Akasaka imperial residence in Tokyo. Kako was thrust further into the spotlight after her older sister, Mako Komuro, married her college sweetheart, Kei Komuro, and moved to New York City in late 2021. Over the last year, Kako took on two of Mako’s former royal jobs when she became the honorary president of the Japan Tennis Association and the president of the Japan Kogei Association, which promotes traditional crafts.
In a statement, the Imperial Household Agency said that Kako hopes to see society continue to evolve to allow more people to reach their full potential. “This hope appears to be strengthening as [the princess] experiences various things in life,” her attendants said, per the Kyodo News Agency. As coronavirus restrictions lifted in the country over 2022, Kako attended more royal engagements, including her annual contribution to a sign language competition, a visit to a sustainability award ceremony, and a trip to an urban greenery festival in Hokkaido.
Kako is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, the country’s current emperor, and the older brother of Prince Hisahito, the 16-year-old future emperor. As a teenager, Kako competed as a junior figure skater, and she also works part time with the Japanese Federation for the Deaf. She has also taken on a formal diplomatic role, meeting with Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen on an official trip in September 2019.
The news comes as the imperial family is weighing new strategies to communicate with the public. Currently, the royal family only has a simple website where they share press releases, event information, and photographs, but according to the Japan Times, the Household announced that they are planning to hire an official public relations staff beginning in April and are considering starting accounts on social media. One factor contributing to the decision is the public controversy that Mako and Kei’s marriage prompted in the tabloid press, specifically related to his family financial situation. When the couple married, Mako said that the press intrusion had caused her emotional distress.
Japanese law has strict expectations for women in the imperial family, and if Kako choses to get married, she will likely have to leave behind her royal title. On the occasion of her 56th birthday in September, Kako’s mother, Crown Princess Kiko, said that she planned to talk to Kako about her future and her possible future marriage, adding “I hope that she will be fulfilling her duties while accumulating experience.”
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