Japan’s Princess Aiko, the sole offspring of Emperor Naruhito, is set to commence her duties at the Japanese Red Cross Society in April, subsequent to her impending university graduation. While specific details regarding her new responsibilities remain undisclosed, she will uphold her official obligations within the imperial family.
Despite her interest in the Red Cross, the 22-year-old princess, due to Japanese law, is not in the line of succession, as only males can ascend to the throne in Japan, which boasts the world’s oldest continuing hereditary monarchy.
In a statement, Princess Aiko expressed her enduring interest in the Red Cross, while the organization articulated its commitment to ensuring a seamless transition for her. The Japanese Red Cross Society has historical ties with the imperial family, having previously had empresses serve as honorary presidents. Princess Aiko’s connection with the organization deepened in October, when she visited alongside her parents to observe an exhibition on relief activities following the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. Her expressed sympathies towards victims of natural disasters in Japan further underscore her commitment.
Currently in her final year at Gakushuin University, majoring in Japanese language and literature, Princess Aiko enjoys widespread admiration among the Japanese public. Her mother, Empress Masako, renowned as a “career woman” princess and empress, has a background in diplomacy, having been educated at Harvard and Oxford. Empress Masako’s marriage to Emperor Naruhito in 1993 marked a historic moment as she became the second commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family. However, Princess Aiko’s birth in 2001 did not resolve the succession issue, sparking debates about altering the law to permit women to ascend to the throne.
In 2006, the birth of Prince Hisahito, Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother’s son, alleviated the succession crisis. Nevertheless, Princess Masako faced challenges adapting to palace life, leading to her withdrawal from public view for more than a decade.
The family dynamics of Prince Hisahito, who is second in line to the throne, garnered significant media attention, especially with his sister, former princess Mako, marrying a commoner and relocating to the US. The tabloid focus on the Akishino family often prompts comparisons between the princesses, but Princess Aiko remains focused on her responsibilities, emphasizing that marriage is not an immediate consideration.