Break with tradition continues.

By custom, when a female member of Japan’s imperial family turns 20 years old, a tiara is made for her. Though the legal age of adulthood was recently changed to 18, 20 is still culturally considered the start of adulthood in Japan, as it’s the age at which individuals take part in coming of age ceremonies. Members of the imperial household wear their tiara for their coming of age ceremony and also at formal official functions they attend as adults.

In a break with tradition, though, when Princess Aiko (the only daughter of Japan’s current emperor and empress) turned 20 in December of 2021, no tiara was made for her. Instead, she appeared before the press wearing the tiara of her aunt Sayoko Kuroda, the youngest daughter of the former emperor and empress.

▼ Aiko, wearing the borrowed tiara

At the time, the Imperial Household Agency, which manages the royal family’s affairs, said that the family felt it would be unseemly to spend the money for such a lavish luxury while the coronavirus pandemic was having such a negative effect on ordinary citizens’ lives. With Japan still operating under pandemic protocols through 2022, no tiara was made for Aiko last year either, and that’s not going to change for this year, according to the Imperial Household Agency’s latest budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year, which were submitted this week and contain no request for the production of a tiara for Aiko.

Japan has now largely entered a post-pandemic phase in terms of public health protocols. However, the country is experiencing its worst inflation in more than a generation, with prices for necessities such as food, clothing, and utilities rapidly rising without comparable increases in workers’ wages. Given that economic climate, the imperial family has once again decided that it’s not the best time for it to be purchasing jewel-encrusted hair accessories, especially since such expenses are paid out of public funds allocated to the family. The deadline for amendments to the agency’s budget requests is at the end of this month, but a late addition of a request for tiara funds is unlikely.

As custom-made items, the price of the imperial family’s tiaras varies by the individual piece. The most recent tiara, crafted for Aiko’s cousin Princess Kako in 2013, cost 27.93 million yen (roughly US$286,000 at that time), and the 2010 piece made for then-princess Mako was 28.56 million yen, so if a tiara were to be made for Aiko, it likely would be of a similar cost. The “then-princess” designation for Mako is significant as well. When Japan’s princesses marry, they are considered to have joined their husband’s family and left the imperial household. As the tiaras are purchased with state funds, upon leaving the imperial family the former princess is required to return the tiara, as Mako did following her marriage in 2021.

▼ Mako’s tiara can be seen in the video here, in a clip recorded in 2011.

At the present time, there are eight returned tiaras being stored, unused, in the Imperial Household Agency’s warehouses. Assuming they’re all of values similar to those of Kako’s and Mako’s, that would be somewhere around 224 million yen’s worth of publicly funded jewelry, and one could make the argument that with so many pricy family heirlooms sitting idle, there really isn’t much need to acquire any more during tough economic ties for the nation.

Source: YouTube/テレ東BIZ via Jin, Nikkan Gendai
Top image: Pakutaso
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