Japan’s Imperial Household Agency on Saturday established a formal press relations office to revamp its public outreach.
The launch comes after the agency in charge of the family’s affairs struggled with scandals and sharp, often slanderous, online reaction over former princess Mako’s engagement and 2021 marriage to her university sweetheart Kei Komuro.
The new office is expected to freshen its staid website, which has been the agency’s only direct interface with the public, and consider other options, including using social media, to proactively share information about the imperial family.
Led by Maiko Fujiwara, 44, who formerly worked at the National Police Agency, the office can have up to 10 people. It will first start with nine, one of whom was hired from the private sector.
“We would like to ensure giving in a timely manner a fuller picture than in the past about imperial members’ activities and personalities,” Yasuhiko Nishimura, the head of the agency, has said.
A senior official at the agency has said that “proactively giving correct information would help counter bashing” of the imperial family, although it remains wary to introduce social media, fearing direct posts by imperial family members may prompt unexpected reactions.
While overseas royals like the British royal family use a variety of social media tools, the agency’s website has consisted of Emperor Naruhito and other working family members’ schedules, images and speeches at events.
The limited communication with the public has been blamed by pundits as a factor behind the media reports, which could be considered libelous, over the Komuros, leaving former princess Mako with a stress-related illness.
Both her father, Crown Prince Fumihito, and her uncle, Emperor Naruhito, subsequently sought the media’s understanding of the need for accurate information about their family and building trust with the public.
“It is also important to communicate information about the imperial family at the right time and in a manner that is easy to understand in order to build relationships of trust with the public through repeated exchanges,” the emperor said on the occasion of his birthday on Feb. 23.
The crown prince also did not rule out the possibility of imperial family members turning to social media during a press conference before his birthday last year.