Imperial Royals Celebrate Daijosai

On Thursday and Friday, enthronement rituals concluded with The Daijosai (Great Thanksgiving Ceremony), a festival that dates back to at least the 7th century and is performed by a new emperor the autumn following his enthronement. This festival was held in temporary Shinto shrine compound called the Daijokyu, composed of nearly 30 buildings (about 6,500 square meters) specially built in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace grounds for the Daijosai. For those of you in Tokyo, this will be opened to the public free between November 21 and December 8 before being dismantled, the wooden building materials being recycled for parks and disaster-prevention facilities.

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The Imperial Household Agency purchased specialty vegetables, fruit and seafood from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures for this festival. Rice was cultivated in two rice paddies in the country’s east and west with the locations determined by divination using turtle shells; special fabrics- hemp from Tokushima and silk from Aichi were also provided.

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The day began with Empress Masako arriving at the royal palace (earlier than the emperor, to prepare her elaborate costume) in a cream silk jacquard printed bumper hat.


For the ritual, the emperor wore white sokutai robes with the distinctive black kanmuri hat.

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The empress wore a traditional “junihitoe” multi-layered kimono, this one in white and peach, along with this Heian Era costume’s triple pronged silver headpiece.

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The Imperial Princess (I’ve spotted Kiko, Mako, Kako and Nobuko and suspect the other Mikasa and Takamado princesses also attended) wore a similar metal headpieces but with more delicate, beaded triple prongs (following a tree shape, I think?) and silk cord that loops around the top of the head and hangs down in a multi-bowed tassel on either sides of the face.


The event concluded with a banquet, hosted by the emperor and empress. The Imperial Princesses were in attendance, the Akishinos in cuffed calot hats, Princess Nobuko in a teal button percher, Princess Akiko in a brimmed cream hat, Princess Yoko in a pale blue percher, Princess Hisako in a green saucer with cream brim and flowers around the raised back, and Princes Tsuguko in a petal trimmed peach bumper.

Photos from Getty as indicated 

11 thoughts on “Imperial Royals Celebrate Daijosai

  1. Thanks for more of the close up photos in the comments! I would’ve passed over Akiko’s hat based on only the grainy group photo, but that close up shows how details can make (or break) a hat. I’m not sold on Nobuko’s more severe hairstyle with this cocktail hat, but overall she looked great, and the brooch is icing on the cake. Obviously Hisako’s hat is still my favorite of this group for the color and design, and Tsuguko’s overall styling is also great IMO.

  2. Thank you. I hope the Imperial family gets to rest after so many events. This is the reduced version of 1990’s enthronement and still seems exhausting. I like Princess Hisako’s hat because it’s different although overall, I prefer Princess Nobuko and Akiko’s hats.

    Akishino princesses

    • Lovely details, especially the pleats on Nobuko’s percher and fabric on Akiko’s hat (probably matches her dress). Yoko’s pillbox has dots. I wish the media would remember the extended families.

  3. Beautiful images and interesting details about the ceremony. I was wondering about the same thing as Mittenmary and Shannon: how tiring and stressfull it must be at times to lead such an extremely codified life!

  4. Empress Masako and her female entourage looked stunning in their many-layered junihitoes and their beautiful headpieces. These ancient imperial ceremonies are fascinating.

  5. What an incredibly interesting post Hat Queen! I love the simplicity of the buildings used for the ceremony, and I think it’s wonderful that they will be dismantled and the wood reused. I love the description of the food used at the ceremony and how the rice was chosen by divination. Just fascinating!
    I agree with mittenmary that everything must be so exhausting. How lucky we are to sit in comfortable clothes while watching this on the computer on the couch. I admire the stamina of the Imperial Royals, the beauty of the clothes and tradition of the ceremony. The photos of the candlelit ceremony are ethereal.

  6. Stunning images of the nighttime ceremony! The Empress is almost glowing in her pale junihitoe. It all sounds exhausting, though, with the costuming and staying up half the night.

    I’m interested in Hisako’s green saucer — a bit of homage to Empress Michiko’s signature style?

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