May 18: National Day in Norway saw King Herald and Crown Prince Haakon in top hats, Queen Sonja in a white rounded pillbox and Crown Princess Mette-Marit in her gold Prada headband woven with a pink ribbon.
We continue extended series on different royal hats that have been worn on visits to Washington, D.C. researched and written by Jake Short, longtime reader, hat aficionado (follow him on Instagram or Twitter) and dear friend of Royal Hats. Jake, it’s so great to have you back for the fifth post in this series!
Outside of politics, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian museums, Washington, DC is perhaps best known for its annual cherry blossom festival. Every spring the city comes alive to celebrate, decking itself in pink and white as the Yoshino Sakura cherry trees bloom along the Tidal Basin, at the National Arboretum, and elsewhere. While the crowds can be overwhelming and annoying, the cherry blossoms here truly are a sight to behold (even though I am a night owl, I highly recommend going for sunrise). Last year was the 110th anniversary of this gift of the cherry blossom trees from Japan. Therefore, we are now going to look back at the Japanese royal hats for this installment of the series. I have tried to follow the Japanese naming system of last name, first name as much as possible; all errors are my own, and I apologize in advance for them.
The cherry blossoms planted around the Tidal Basin were a gift from Mayor Ozaki Yukio of Tokyo in 1912. In 1910, the mayor was part of a Japanese delegation that visited DC, led by Prince Tokugawa Iesato. This trip was linked with the gifting of 2,000 cherry trees, but they unfortunately arrived diseased and had to be destroyed. Dismayed at this, a second gift of 3,020 saplings were sent in 1912; the original idea of having cherry trees originated with Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore after she had visited Japan in 1885 and had experienced the beauty of their blossoming herself. On 27 March 1912, US First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda Iwa, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the US (seen in a floralEdwardian hat with veiling in this photo sometime around 1920), planted the first trees in a small ceremony that unfortunately seems to have no surviving photographs I could find, if any were taken at all.
In 1965, First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson recreated this ceremony with the Japanese ambassador’s wife by starting the planting of an additional 3,800 Yoshino cherry trees; Lady Bird Johnson wore a black Breton style hat for the event. The only royal hats I’ve found directly with the cherry blossoms have been the light colored hat with floppy eyelet brim worn by Kikuko, Princess Takamatsu and the fur felt fedora worn by Nobuhito, Prince Takamatsu (brother of Emperor Hirohito [Shōwa]), when they visited on 16 April 1931.
Due to the isolationism of Japan until the 19th Century then being on the opposing side in World War II, it’s not surprising Prince Tokugawa Iesato was one of the only Japanese royals to visit the US before 1945. In the second half of the 20th Century and into the beginning of the 21st Century, such visits have become more frequent. In 1965, Prince and Princess Mikasa visited the DC Chapter of the American Red Cross. Princess Yuriko can be seen in a floral covered 1960s style cloche, while her daughter Princess Yasuko (sister-in-law to Princesses Nobuko and Hisako) wore a white Breton hat.
12 years later almost to the day after the visit of his parents, then-Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko visited DC. For their arrival at Joint Base Andrews on October 5, 1987, Crown Princess Michiko wore a black pillbox with flower. She changed for the America-Japan Society luncheon later that day to a percher cocktail hat with a stylized bow trim, presumably in the same color and fabric as her skirt suit.
During their third day in DC, they visited Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland (a DC suburb), to observe Japanese classes; Michiko wore a third stylized boater placed like her signature saucer hats we are familiar with.
As they left Blair House on 15 June at the end of their visit to DC, the Empress wore another small percher hat while Secretary of State Warren Christopher gave them the official goodbye.
Unfortunately, there has not been an official visit to DC by Japanese royals since 1994. I hope this will change in the near future and we’ll get a visit from Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, but I would also welcome a visit from my personal favorite Japanese royal: Princess Hisako (come visit our cherry blossoms!).
Post-scripts: In a royal-adjacent and DC-adjacent hat was Owada Yumiko, mother of Empress Masako, when she and Owada Hisashi greeted Akihito and Michiko in New York City during their 1994 US visit. Masako’s father was then the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations. Yumiko is wearing a camel-colored felt hat with a large bejeweled hat pin.
Thank you, Jake, for another well researched post! I didn’t know the history and Japanese connection to the Washington DC cherry trees and this was most insightful. And dare I say, your cherry hued fedora is as stunning as any royal hat! Thank you so much for this series.
Princess Aiko wore a blush silk covered hat with short, upturned Breton brim trimmed with a triple pleated, draped hatband and bow at the back. It’s a piece that at closer view, I suspect, would show exquisite balance and beauty.
Crown Princess Kiko repeated an ink blue velvet covered wide bandeau trimmed with embroidered lace applique flowers on one side. Princess Kako repeated a bandeau of the same shape draped in turquoise silk.
Princess Akiko repeated a palest yellow silk covered saucer with raised brim around the back, trimmed with a draped hatband and bow. Princess Yoko wore a sleek new pillbox covered in vibrant cerise silk.
Princess Hisako and Princess Tsuguko repeated silk covered hats. Princess Hisako’s bumper, in muted pink printed jacquard, features an indented crown and twist on one side. Princess Tsuguko’s pistachio green pillbox with triple layered sash across the top of the hat embroidered with the same vine pattern as on the collar of her gown. The lily-of-the-valley blooms that originally embellished this hat but were removed for its last outing have magically appeared again!
Princess Kako wore a new royal blue silk covered percher trimmed with a swirl of crin studded with silk roses. The updated neckline on her gown and new hat transform this ensemble into one much more sophisticated than its original form, a great evolution for a maturing princess. Kako suits the scale and placement of a percher so well.
Princess Akiko repeated a cream silk covered hat with short brim and triple layered hatband.
Princess Akiko of Mikasa's poem represented the extended Imperial family's poem at 2023 Ceremony of the Utakai Hajime (Imperial New Year's Poetry Reading) on January 18. 器からこぼれてしまつた言の葉を静かにつむぐ友の横顔 📹 https://t.co/JW0JCJrSURpic.twitter.com/WlEcckEEOs
Princess Hisako repeated a striking teal silk pillbox hat trimmed with intricate embroidery around the side of the design along with feathers and a silk ribbon cockade. It’s worth noting that the matching gown bodice and sleeves have been remade. Princess Tsuguko’s blue silk covered hat with trilby-style raised brim around the back has also been changed since it’s last outing. Gone is the previous hatband of silk leaves, replaced with a more streamlined and angular hatband and a swath of net veil.
Ohko Hirata updated Masako's hat with the blue wave ribbon. She said "Originally it wasn't our hat, but we've made many adjustments." Hirata made Masako's yellow hat on May 2019 public greeting and Aiko's hat with braid+Goyo azalea (Aiko's personal emblem)https://t.co/kHLAXsWLIl
Ahko Hirata was not on my radar and should have been- her late father was the first Japanese milliner to train in couture techniques in Paris and was Empress Michiko’s go-to milliner for decades. Ahko’s aesthetic, not surprisingly, is different than her father’s designs, but no less impeccable or memorable. This profile gives a glimpse into her millinery story.