Japan marks 50th anniversary of "commoner" empress

Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:05pm EDT
 
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By Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were set to throw a golden wedding tea party for 100 couples on Friday, marking 50 years since Michiko became the first commoner to marry into the cloistered imperial household.

The milestone has sparked a wave of nostalgia in the media about the early days of their marriage, when the young woman dubbed "Mitchy" became a fashion icon and a potent symbol of a new, forward-looking Japan.

"Japan was young then, too," read one magazine headline, listing the milestones of the 1960s, including the Tokyo Olympics and the opening of the high-speed "bullet" train network.

In an interview published to mark the anniversary, Akihito, 75, said he was looking forward to meeting the other couples, who all celebrate their golden wedding anniversaries this year.

"Around the time when the empress and I were married, although people's lives were not necessarily rich, everyone was filled with hope and looking forward to the future," he said.

Michiko's modern style was a major factor in her popularity. Photos show her in a full-skirted 1950s dress bidding farewell to her kimono-clad mother on the day of her wedding.

As crown princess she went on to experiment with the styles of the 1960s and 1970s, including mini-skirts.

All was carefully thought out, especially her tiny hats, which she favors to allow her to sit close to people without forcing them to dodge a wide brim.   Continued...

 
<p>Japan's Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko wave to well-wishers as they listen to the Imperial Guard music band's performance in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary in the Imperial Palace compound in Tokyo April 10, 2009. REUTERS/Katsumi Kasahara/Pool</p>