TOKYO — Crown Prince Naruhito formalized his engagement to former diplomat Masako Owada on Monday, sending gifts of fish, silk and sake to the family of the future empress in a brief traditional ceremony that was televised live.
The couple have been officially engaged since Jan. 19, when the Imperial Council, headed by Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, approved their betrothal.
Owada, clad in a pale yellow kimono, received an envoy from the Imperial Palace in the living room of her Tokyo home together with her parents. Her father, Hisashi, is vice foreign minister, the ministry's top bureaucrat.
Gifts from the palace included half a dozen bottles of Japanese sake, five rolls of silk and a pair of huge sea bream.
The ceremony, over in less than five minutes, is basically unchanged from that conducted in 1959 when Michiko, the current empress, became engaged to Emperor Akihito, then the crown prince.
Owada's only words during the ceremony were: "I humbly accept."
Owada, 29, now formally betrothed to the 33-year-old prince, will be considered a semiofficial member of the royal family.
She gave up a promising career at the Foreign Ministry after her engagement to Naruhito. Since mid-March, she has spent four mornings a week taking lessons--on topics ranging from constitutional law to classical poetry--required for imperial brides.
A series of ceremonies is scheduled up to the wedding in June. News reports give June 9 as the most likely wedding date, but the Imperial Household Agency has not made an official announcement.