From Career Diplomat to Future Empress

By Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 1993 | Go to article overview

From Career Diplomat to Future Empress


Clayton Jones, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


BY the age of 3, in 1966, Masako Owada was doing what few Japanese dare do: She was becoming international.

Her diplomat father, Hisashi Owada, was posted in Moscow, and his daughter was learning Russian along with Japanese. Two years later, the family was in New York and she was learning English in a suburban public school.

After eight years abroad, she came back to her native Japan in 1971 and entered an elite Roman Catholic school. As an animal-lover, she had dreams of being a veterinarian.

By 1979, her father moved again, this time to Harvard University, while his eldest daughter attended Belmont High School in suburban Boston, where she excelled in softball. She then entered Harvard College, earning a bachelor's degree with magna cum laude honors and writing a thesis on how Japan coped with the two oil shocks. Along the way, she became fluent in French and German.

After returning to Tokyo in 1985, she decided that she had missed out on some Japanese culture, especially that deemed necessary for women, so she studied cooking, the tea ceremony, and flower arranging.

After studying law at Tokyo University for a few months, she decided to take the foreign-service exam. She wanted to follow in her father's footsteps.

With her international background and elite education, she had no problem passing the difficult test and was soon a rising star in the foreign ministry. …

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