Kiko Kawashima was born in 1966, in Shizuoka, Japan. Her parents, Tatsuhiko Kawashima and Kazuyo Sugimoto, were both highly educated and ambitious commoners. Her father gained a PhD the University of Pennsylvania and would also teach there. He would later work as the chief researcher at The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. Kiko grew up in the US, Japan and Austria, and as a result of her multi-cultural childhood speaks English, German, and Japanese.
Kiko herself was a serious student, and has obtained a PhD in psychology. It seems appropriate that she met her future husband, Prince Akishino, in the the library at Gakushuin University. They were engaged in 1986, but would not actually marry until 1990. The prince’s grandmother strongly disapproved of Kiko, due to her commoner status, and the vetting process moved slowly through the Imperial household. In 1989, Emperor Hirohito died, and the household entered a year of mourning, further delaying the wedding.
Yet, true love perservered. Dubbed the “apartment princess” by the press because of her independent lifestyle as a young, educated, and single woman, Kiko married her husband on 29 June 1990 at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Although she observes all protocols required of her, she has never wavered in her own determined independence. She obtained both her Master of Humanities degree and PhD while married and having two daughters, Princess Mako and Princess Kako. She learned Japanese sign language and began a lifelong commitment to the deaf community, a patronage which her daughters have joined.
As much as she has accomplished, it is the birth of her son in 2006 that has cemented Kiko’s future in the Imperial family. She endured a difficult pregnancy, include placentia previa, and gave birth to Prince Hisahito a few days before she turned 40.
Despite periodic discussions within the Imperial household, succession to the Chrysathenum throne is limited to males only. Prince Hisahito the only grandson of Emperor Emeritus Akihito, and is the presumed heir. After the abdication of her father-in-law, Kiko became Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess of Japan. If the succession remains as it is today, she will one day be Empress, and, eventually, the mother of the Emperor.
Due to her expanding role, we will be seeing more of Kiko in the future. From a purely jewel-watching perspective, it will be fabulous to see her in different tiaras. In her first 30 years as a member of the Japanese royal family, she wore what most people refer to as the Akishino tiara exclusively. Once she became Crown Princess, she was also seen in the Japanese Crown Princely Wedding Parure – so called by most people because it was worn by two previous Crown Princesses, Michiko and Masako.
Kiko’s quiet yet determined presence is an interesting factor in the Japanese royal family. It will be a pleasure to see her endeavors (and future tiara wearing) as her role becomes higher and higher profile.