Japan’s low-key royal family takes to Instagram

More than 450,000 people are already following the account, which went public on Monday.

A close up of a phone screen showing the new Instagram account of the Japanese royal household
The Instagram page of Japan's Imperial Household Agency on a mobile phone [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

Japan’s publicity-shy royal family has joined Instagram, releasing a flurry of posts on Monday and quickly acquiring nearly half a million followers.

The first post on @kunaichi_jp (the name for the Imperial Household Agency in Japanese) showed Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako sitting on a sofa with their 22-year-old daughter Princess Aiko, smiling as they marked New Year’s Day.

The most recent, published on Tuesday, showed the royal couple visiting areas in the Noto Peninsula that were hit by January’s earthquake.

The account was announced last week and set to private until it went live on Monday.

The Imperial Household Agency said that the launch of the account was part of an attempt to give the public a better understanding of the family’s official duties and that Instagram was chosen because of its popularity among young people.

The Japanese monarchy has mythological origins stretching back more than two millennia and any public criticism of the emperor remains taboo in the country.

The Instagram posts remain highly formal, however, with no private or candid moments.

The captions are also strictly factual and there is no opportunity for the public to engage – followers can only “like” posts and cannot comment.

Those who want to send messages to the imperial family have to use the official website.

“It’s nice we get to see a bit of their activities because we hardly know what they are doing,” said Koki Yoneura, a 21-year-old student. “It’s good that they seem to be a bit closer to us.”

The account does not follow any other users.

Some social media users joked it was good the royals had chosen the more “civilised” Instagram over X, the short messaging platform which was known as Twitter until Elon Musk took control of it.

Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum throne in 2019 in a traditional ceremony after his popular father became the first emperor to abdicate in more than two centuries.

Other royal families around the world run active social media accounts, including the monarchies of Denmark, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

Japan’s palace officials last year set up a team of experts to study the effects of using social media on the imperial family amid caution after a media backlash against the Emperor’s niece Mako Komuro and her commoner husband caused the marriage to be delayed.

At the time, the former princess said she suffered psychological trauma because of the media bashing, including comments from those online.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies