19 January 2012

Tiara Thursday: The Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara

Of all the requests I've gotten in the past few months for more information on non-European royal families, requests for Japanese tiaras seem to be the most popular. Information isn't widely available in this realm; the Japanese imperial family is a tight-lipped organization. No, you won't find any Japanese empresses casually discussing personal tiara stories in documentary format any time soon. Nevertheless, we'll do our best.

Japan's monarchy has a long and rich history, but most of that history doesn't include tiaras as we typically define them. The tiara is not a part of Japanese traditional dress - this is not what you top your kimono with. It wasn't until Westernization hit Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912) that tiaras began to enter the imperial family's jewelry box.

The Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara
One of the most important diadems in the collection is the Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara. Depicting chrysanthemum flowers surrounded by foliage, the tiara is entirely diamond. In fact, there isn't a non-white tiara publicly worn by the imperial ladies today - they're all diamonds with a smattering of pearls here and there. White is an important color for the family, and is the traditional color of dress for senior ladies at the most formal imperial events.
Imperial Seal of Japan
Of even greater symbolism is the motif here: the chrysanthemum is the symbol of the monarchy. The 16-petaled flower makes up the Imperial Seal of Japan, the monarchy is the Chrysanthemum Throne, and their highest order of chivalry is the Order of the Chrysanthemum.
Empress Kōjun
With all this symbolism at hand, the Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara is quite rightly worn only by the empress. Empress Michiko, wife of Emperor Akihito, now has possession of the flowery diadem. Before her it was worn by her mother-in-law Empress Nagako (who is known posthumously as Empress Kōjun). Michiko chooses this for some of her most important occasions, like the annual New Year's reception. It's actually a rather tall tiara, as you can see on Kōjun above, but Michiko tends to wear it tilted back on her head which makes it seem smaller than it is.
Empress Michiko
Empress Michiko uses three tiaras these days; two that she wore as crown princess are now used by her daughter-in-law Crown Princess Masako. The collection of the family on the whole is on the large side, but well distributed: each royal lady has at least one tiara to use, whether they received it when they came of age at 20 or when they married in. The newer ones tend to have a matching necklace.
The empress wearing the Imperial Chrysanthemum Tiara with a sampling of the depth of the imperial tiara collection behind her, at the New Year's reception in 2012
I love the way the foliage surrounding the chrysanthemums comes up even with the top of the flowers on this tiara - rather than having them stick up, button-style. They're evident as you get closer but can fade into the design from farther away, at which point it becomes something of a massive diamond headband (the way Empress Michiko wears it, at least). And I'm always in favor of that.

How does this one rank among your favorite floral tiaras?

Photos: All Over Press/yuk02ch