“Playground at Karuizawa”, c. 1920
“The postwar democratization of the palace was expressed in the entry of commoner women into the imperial family. After the aristocracy had been abolished, everyone, except for the small imperial family, became a commoner.
“In 1958, the government announced that Crown Prince Akihito would marry Shoda Michiko. the daughter of the president of [Asia’s] largest flour-milling company, a well-to-do businessman who was not a member of one of the former aristocratic families, which had previously provided brides to the imperial family.
“The announcement created excitement, because the match was presented as a love affair between the prince and a commoner girl, whom he had met on a tennis court, not an arranged engagement, as had always been the case in imperial family weddings.
“In fact, the tennis game in Karuizawa in August 1957, at which the couple met, had been arranged by Akihito’s Christian chamberlain Koizumi Shinzo. The couple fell in love after several games, but the first game was not accidental. Koizumi wrote to Elizabeth Vinning [Akihito’s former tutor] in Philadelphia: ‘It is not only His Highness’s but our choice, too. We rather chose first.’ Koizumi chose Michiko also because of her education, as all the schools which she attended, from the Futaba elementary school to the Seisen (Sacred Heart) Women’s University, were Catholic institutions.”
– Japan’s Multilayered Democracy, edited by Sigal Ben-Rafael Galanti, Nissim Otmazgin & Alon Levkowitz, 2014