Empress of Japan. Born Michiko Shoda in October 1934; married Akihito (b. 1933), emperor of Japan, in 1959; children: son Crown Prince Naruhito (b. 1960).
A confident, intelligent college student, Michiko Shoda married Akihito, the crown prince of Japan, in 1959. Traditionalists were horrified. Michiko had attended a Roman Catholic college (though she was not a Christian), and she was also a commoner. A crown prince of Japan had never before married a commoner. Akihito's mother Nagako sided with the traditionalists, and Michiko was criticized for breast-feeding her babies, carrying them in public, and attempting to raise them herself. Tensions between Michiko and her mother-in-law continued for years. When Michiko suspected her lady-in-waiting of spying for Nagako, she
and Akihito tried to dismiss her. The Imperial Household Agency, however, would not allow it. In 1963, Michiko possibly suffered the first of two nervous breakdowns.
Akihito became emperor on the death of his father Hirohito in 1989. In October 1993, the Japanese press attacked Michiko, accusing her of being domineering toward her husband, a flagrant transgression in the male-dominated nation. Michiko, who tends toward nervousness in public, fell unconscious the following day, on her 59th birthday, and reputedly could not speak for the next six months. When she regained her voice, no official explanation was offered for her affliction. The royal family has been at odds with the Japanese media ever since.