Sayako Kuroda (黒田清子, Kuroda Sayako, born 18 April 1969), formerly Sayako, Princess Nori (紀宮清子内親王, Nori-no-miya Sayako Naishinnō), is an imperial Shinto priestess of the Ise Grand Shrine, currently serving as the Supreme Priestess. She is the youngest child and only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.
Kuroda held the appellation "Nori-no-miya" (Princess Nori), until her marriage to Yoshiki Kuroda on 15 November 2005. As a result of her marriage, she gave up her imperial title and left the Japanese Imperial Family, as required by law.
Princess Sayako was born on 18 April 1969 at the Imperial Household Agency Hospital in Tokyo. She studied at and graduated from the Department of Japanese Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters, Gakushuin University, with the Bachelor of Letters degree in Japanese language and literature in 1992. Later in the year she was accepted as research associate at the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, where she specialized in the study of kingfishers. In 1998, she was appointed researcher at the same institute. She contributed articles about birds to various academic works.
Apart from her research, she has traveled extensively abroad and within Japan, as a representative of the Imperial family.
Prior to Sayako's birth, the announcement about the-then Crown Prince Akihito's engagement and marriage to the then-Ms. Michiko Shōda had drawn opposition from traditionalist groups, because Shōda came from a Roman Catholic family. Although Shōda was never baptized, she was educated in Catholic schools and seemed to share the faith of her parents. Rumors also speculated that Empress Kōjun had opposed the engagement. After the death of Sayako's paternal-grandmother Empress Kōjun in 2000, Reuters reported that she was one of the strongest opponents of her son's marriage, and that in the 1960s, she had driven her daughter-in-law and grandchildren to depression by persistently accusing her of not being suitable for her son.
On 30 December 2004, the Imperial Household Agency announced the engagement of the 35-year-old Princess Nori to the 39-year-old Yoshiki Kuroda (黒田慶樹 Kuroda Yoshiki; born (1965-04-17) 17 April 1965 ), an urban designer with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and longtime friend of Prince Akishino. Upon her marriage, which took place at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo on 15 November 2005, Princess Nori left the Imperial Family, taking the surname of her husband; at 40 years of age he became the first non-aristocratic commoner to marry an Imperial princess. This change in her status is mandated by the Imperial Household Law that requires females of the imperial family to relinquish their title from birth, official membership in the imperial family, and allowance from the state upon marriage. At 36 years of age, she became the sixth female member born into the Japanese imperial family to marry a commoner since the passage of the Imperial Household Law in 1947, and the first member of the family to lose royal status since the marriage of Princess Masako of Mikasa, one of Emperor Akihito's cousins, in 1983.
The Emperor and Empress were in attendance at her wedding, as were Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako and other members of the imperial family. About 30 people attended the ceremony, and some 120 guests attended the reception. Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets between the royal palace and the city hotel where the half-hour marriage rite took place.
Kuroda resigned from her job as an ornithologist to focus on her family life. While she is no longer entitled to an imperial allowance, she reportedly received an allowance worth US$1.2 million from the government. To prepare for her change of lifestyle, Princess Sayako reportedly took driving lessons and practised shopping at the supermarket.
In April 2012, Kuroda was appointed as a high priestess of the Ise Grand Shrine to assist her aunt, Atsuko Ikeda, Chief Priestess of the shrine, who was also subjected to the conditions of the Imperial Household Law upon marriage. She was among the guests during a banquet held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace in honour of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium in October 2016. In years after her marriage, Kuroda has continued to appear during some formal occasions with other members of the Imperial Family. She officially replaced Atsuko Ikeda as the supreme priestess of Ise Shrine on 19 June 2017.18 April 1969 – 15 November 2005: Her Imperial Highness The Princess Nori
15 November 2005 – present: Mrs. Yoshiki Kuroda
Japan: Grand Cordon of the Order of the Precious Crown.