Japanese Empress Visits Hospital and Museum

Empress Michiko of Japan had a busy weekend of  health care related engagements. On Saturday, she and Emperor Akihito visited with leprosy patients in the Kikuchi Keifuen Sanatorium. For this visit, Michiko repeated the same petite pale grey saucer hat with bow and navy ribbons we saw her wear last month.

Empress Michiko, Oct. 26, 2013 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, Oct. 26, 2013 | The Royal Hats Blog

Previously Worn: August 8, 2013

On Sunday, the Imperial couple visited the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum and Monument honoring all those who suffered Minamata disease (a neurological disorder discovered in the 1950s. It was caused by mercury poisoning from a chemical plant near the city of Minamata). Empress Michiko wore what looks like a new hat (although I do have significant trouble keeping all of her grey saucer hats apart). This hat was another petite saucer, this time in a darker charcoal grey and trimmed with a unique black and white origami bow,

Empress Michiko, Oct. 27, 2013 | The Royal Hats Blog

Last time we saw the Empress, a number of you asked if there was a reason behind her grey wardrobe. Michiko occasionally wears green, peach, lilac, yellow, blue, dark blue, and even red (gasp!) but even these pops of colour seem to be sparingly inserted in between much grey and cream. I have a hunch the colour choices simply reflect the very conservative nature of the Japanese royal establishment but that is just conjecture on my part. Can anyone else offer some insight?

Photos from TBS News, Imperial Family of Japan and FNN News

20 thoughts on “Japanese Empress Visits Hospital and Museum

  1. Thanks for your question, HatQueen. About the Imperial Family’s milliners, they seem to have had a number of favourites over the years, but one who has long been known as milliner to the Empress is Akio Hirata. He comes from a family of milliners, I think (the Japanese way), started out very young, and was later apprenticed in Paris to Jean Barthet. He has boutiques in fashionable locations, including major department stores, apart from making hats for the Empress and, I think it’s safe to assume, for other members of the royal family.

    His website is in Japanese, but page headings are in English, and there are plenty of photos: http://www.hiratatelier.com/index.html

    He has worked with many great fashion designers, and covers the whole spectrum, from conservative to radical contemporary design.
    Although these relationships are always discreet – it would be unthinkable for Hirata himself to say anything publicly by way of self-promotion – there’s nothing particularly secret about them either. As the Japanese saying goes, “those who know, know.” Japanese fashion journalists certainly know – but it’s not usually news.

    It’s part of the job of any royal family to patronise local designers, craftspeople, and manufacturers – a given – but beyond that, it’s just absurd to think of the Imperial Household Agency forcing the Empress and Princesses to go to a milliner that they and anyone else who loves hats would be nothing but delighted to go to anyway (and then forcing the Empress to choose something grey…!!)

  2. I did some research on why she wears gray so much and discovered that she has no control over her wardrobe. The Japanese Imperial family is governed by the Imperial Household agency. The following is a direct quote from Wikipedia.

    “The Agency has been portrayed as controlling every aspect of the lives of the members of the Imperial Family, both public and private, and exerting near-total control over them, from staff appointments to wardrobe selection. As with the imperial family itself, positions in the 1300-year-old Agency are hereditary. Nine out of ten requests from the imperial family, even the Emperor himself, are rejected. Masako, for instance, was denied browsing a bookstore, visiting her family, or calling her old college friends around the world or even going out for a cup of coffee.”

    I will not criticize their culture, but I think it is sad that one cannot pick their own wardrobe or be allowed to manage even the smallest details of their life. I will not criticize her “choice” of gray anymore! She is lovely and elegant and it is a shame she is not allowed a choice.


    • Thank you very much for your information on this royal family. I had no idea they where so strictly controlled that they could not even be allowed to wear what clothes they want. This is such a barbaric way to live and very sad for someone like the crown princess as she had a wonderful career and is very well educated. Isn’t there something that can be done to make these men in the grey suits more compromising with the royal family? Or is it all about control and their, the men in grey suits, who want money and power to do as they please. I know for me personally I would never not in a million years put up with that family. There must be someway for someone to break lose of them.

    • Holy cow. I had no idea. If this is true (no offense meant, Rodney, but Wikipedia isn’t always completely accurate) you wonder why any woman would ever marry into this family. I heard rumours it was a rough deal but I had no idea it was this bad.
      I also won’t be criticizing her hats ever again.

    • This begs the question- how many other royals have their fashion dictated by “powers that be”? The British royal family obviously chooses British designers most of the time but are the women expressly told to do this? This reminds me of Zara Phillips’ wedding when Princess Beatrice and Eugenie suddenly turned up in suits and hats made by Angela Kelly. The York girls had never worn Angela Kelly before (and have not again, to this day) and it seemed that after their avant garde sartorial choices at William and Kate’s wedding three months earlier, some ‘higher power’ in the British establishment was exerting some control over these two young women.

      It seems that control exerted over the Japanese royals is extreme. I just wonder how much fashion control is exerted over other royals.

    • This is rather a late reply, but I’m just catching up. I would like to say that this quote from Wikipedia is totally unreliable. The words “has been portrayed as” reflect the fact that many people like to think this is the case – but it is not. The Imperial Household Agency has a duty to maintain the security of the royal family – and as with all royal families that involves their living with certain restrictions on freedom of movement – and the family themselves are very private and conservative in their tastes, but generally speaking the idea that they are controlled by the Agency in all details of their lives is nonsense. As far as fashion is concerned, the Empress and other members of the family have their own dressmakers and milliners, whose names are known, and they dress pretty much as women of the Japanese aristocracy generally choose to do – simply and conservatively when in Western dress – though with an eye to very fine detail – and in the most fabulously elegant kimono when in traditional dress. This what the Japanese public expects of them; they flaunt nothing, and in return are never victims of the paparazzi (although they certainly are subjects of uninformed gossip, there being no other kind) – but members of the family do have private lives, friends and interests, and the Emperor and Empress themselves live surrounded by great beauty (and gorgeous colour) in the palace in the centre of Tokyo and their various country homes. Although they have personal relationships, satisfactions and problems like anyone else, their lives are indeed very different from most people’s – with all the advantages and disadvantages that comparison implies – but it is really unnecessary to feel sorry for them! The Empress herself is an older lady (79) of extremely quiet tastes, with a gentle, very refined manner, and this can be seen not only in her official wardrobe but in her casual clothes – she does often just wear simple pants and shirts, depending on where she is – and she dresses as she naturally would. Her little hats and capes for formal occasions have always been her style, clearly just her own, and although she does wear other colours at times, she just really likes to wear soft greys and creams, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t feel the need to think much more about it or to change a thing, certainly not according to current fashions or popular taste. (That’s a plus of her position too!)

  3. Michiko dresses exquisitely, but very conservatively. It would be wonderful to see her in something a little less conservative than her standard little saucer in a matching dull color.

  4. I do not like this at all, whatever it is, it is going to fall off her head. There is no color, or just one color, and it’s dull.

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