Happy Birthday to Empress Masako of Japan, who turns 59 today! The bright diplomat who suffered from an adjustment disorder for decades as Crown Princess before becoming the Japanese Empress in 2019, the Empress now has possession to the spectacular Heirlooms of the Japanese Empress, but her most worn tiara in recent decades was the Japanese Pearl Sunburst Tiara, which we are featuring today!
When Crown Prince Akihito of Japan married Michiko Shōda in 1959, she received the Diamond Scroll Tiara and Parure, as well as this Pearl and Diamond Sunburst Tiara, along with a mirrored necklace and a coordinating pearl and diamond scroll brooch.
Crown Princess Michiko began wearing the Pearl Sunburst Tiara and Parure soon after wedding, alternating with the Diamond Scroll Tiara, and it was a favourite for foreign tours, beginning with a Dinner at the White House in 1960, followed by visits to Iran, Ethiopia, and Nepal. The Tiara and Parure were also worn for Princess Alexandra’s visit to Japan in 1961.
The Tiara remained a favourite for the next three decades, being worn for the British State Visit to Japan in 1975, the Jordanian State Visit in 1976, the Spanish State Visit in 1980, the Danish State Visit in 1981, an American State Visit, on their visit to Spain in 1985, and also for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Japan in 1986.
After Emperor Akihito’s accession in 1989, Empress Michiko only wore the Tiaras reserved for Japanese Empresses, with the Pearl Sunburst Tiara and Parure remaining unworn until the mid 2000s, when it was given to the then Crown Princess Masako, a few years after her marriage, with the Parure replacing the Diamond Scroll Tiara, which was not worn much afterwards. However, the Crown Princess was suffering from adjustment disorder and except being pictured arriving in the Tiara for the New Year’s Reception, she was not pictured in the piece for years.
Crown Princess Masako joined the Crown Prince for the Inauguration of their friends, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima in 2013, and while she skipped the Gala Dinner, it was her first foreign trip in almost a decade, so when the Dutch King and Queen made a State Visit to Japan in 2014, Crown Princess Masako attended the State Banquet at the Imperial Palace, wearing the Pearl Sunburst Tiara and Parure.
The Dutch State Visit signalled the return of Crown Princess Masako to the public stage, and the Pearl Sunburst Tiara and Parure was worn for the Belgian State Visit in 2016, the Spanish State Banquet at the Imperial Palace in 2017, and the Luxembourg State Banquet in 2017.
The Tiara was also worn to the Japanese New Year’s Reception in 2017, and at the New Year’s Reception 2018, though did not attend the public ceremony until the New Year’s Reception in 2019, the last before the Abdication of Emperor Akihito and the Accession of Emperor Naruhito.
Empress Masako has only worn the Meiji Scroll Tiara since the Accession of Emperor Naruhito and it is likely that the Pearl Sunburst Tiara and Parure will be given to Crown Princess Kiko in a few years, so we await its eventual reappearance!