If the Japanese aren’t quite getting into the swing of the royal wedding you can hardly blame them. The public here were as charmed as anyone by Princess Diana and for many subjects of the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy there is a natural warmth towards the – less ancient – British family. In a normal year, the Japanese media would happily embrace Kate and William’s impending nuptials, but only six weeks after the country was hit by a triple earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, most news outlets still have other things on their minds.
That’s not to say there won’t be plenty of TV coverage for Japanese viewers. NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, is doing its bit by running a selection of wedding-themed documentaries. It also bought the TV rights and will be following events live on its subscription BS1 channel. NTV and Fuji TV will be running highlights and commentary.
Local women’s weeklies have, predictably, been giving the subject a through and mildly salacious going over too. This week’s Shukan Josei has a gossipy article about royal divorces and the challenges of surviving in the British royal family. Josei Jishin has a detailed run-down of the wedding – everything from the dress and the ring to the cake to the cost of the buffet and the wedding gifts. Kate Middleton’s status as a fashion icon has yet to be cemented here though. Vogue Nippon plans to run a short piece in its July issue, but a trip to Japan would help – as it did for Princess Diana when she visited back in 1986.
Japan’s last royal wedding was in 2005 when Princess Sayako, the youngest daughter of the Emperor and Empress, married a government worker, Yoshiki Kuroda. It was a low-key affair. There were only 30 guests at the ceremony and 120 at the reception, and after the wedding she was obliged by law to give up her title to become plain Mrs Kuroda. The wedding before that, conducted with full imperial ritual and beamed around the world, was in 1993, between Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada, a clever and cosmopolitan diplomat.
Princess Masako might not be the best person to encourage a commoner to enter the royal fray. She has found life as a member of the imperial family difficult to adjust to and has all but retreated behind the walls of the Togu palace, where she and her husband and daughter Aiko live in Tokyo. She carries out few royal duties these days and rarely travels.
The couple cancelled their attendance at William and Kate’s wedding after the March earthquake, which means that although the Japanese ambassador Keiichi Hayashi will be present, there will be no Japanese royals at Westminster Abbey.
One person who is doing her bit to keep the wedding in the public eye is veteran royal watcher Midori Watanabe, who is the commentator journalists go to when they want a quote about the royals, Japanese, British or otherwise. She has been busy writing most of the articles published in the weeklies and is banking on there being enough interest to bump up sales of her detailed tome, whose title tactfully romanticises the couple’s long courtship: “Prince William and Kate Middleton – they nurtured their love for 3,000 days.”