Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado of Japan came to today's opera and post-performance reception party. We couldn't use the normal elevator to get to the stage from the orchestra lounge on the 5th floor, the shades were drawn on the 5th floor as well, we had to stand and applaud with the entire audience when she entered the hall and had to wait for her to leave at the end of the performance. And similar protocol followed at the reception party, all of it very explicitly dictated as to how we were expected to behave in her presence. We don't have royalty in America, so this sort of treatment seemed a little strange.
After she entered to the planned applause at the reception, she was seated at a table in the front, with a man kneeling behind her chair to pull it out for her. This was the first time I saw this wide-smiled little Japanese woman of 62 years. After sitting through several formal speeches by various government people, the announcer said, "Please listen as we can hear some of the precious words of Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado." Her chaired was pulled away from her as she stood and she walked up to the stage as the microphone was magically adjusted to her height. And she began to speak in slow, sometimes halted, but very gentle sounding Japanese. She gave no pause for the translators and I saw them in the corner, quickly trying to get down everything they would have to convey. And then much to their relief, she seamlessly switched into the most beautiful and expressive English. It seemed to flow much more smoothly than her Japanese. She spoke of the how the specific aesthetic qualities in the production made it especially effective, how powerful the performance was for her. It was like listening to a art journal's review being composed extemporaneously. She was so gracious, so graceful. The room was silenced listening to her.
I had heard some interesting things about this Her Imperial Highness. She married into the family but before this had been educated at Cambridge. In fact, she had lived in England for much of her life, having moved there with her family as a child. She has degrees in anthropology and archeology and a PhD as well, and worked as a interpreter before meeting her future husband at a reception and saying yes to a proposal a month later. I had heard that she had had a difficult time adjusting to a non-working imperial lifestyle and that there was some stigma associated with the fact that she did not give birth to any boys, thus ending the succession through their family.
An interesting life. Before she spoke to all of us, the anti-royalty heritage in us thought this kind of treatment for a figurehead to be over-the-top. And some of me thought that maybe it's just an opportunity to give excellent service, which seems to carry a certain pleasure in itself. But she seems wholly worthy of it, perhaps for the fact that she is just a human being. Her husband is no longer living but this Eliza Doolittle has been transformed into royalty and carries it flawlessly. Of course she was extremely well educated, of course she was given many resources even for her "commoner" beginnings. But still, she was not royalty at birth but has become it and worthy of the service it endows. Maybe we are all princes and princesses.