Princess Akishino, née Kawashima Kiko (born 11 September 1966) is the wife of Prince Akishino, the second son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan. She became the second commoner to marry into the imperial family; her mother-in-law, the Empress, was the first in 1959. She is also known as Princess Kiko.
Kiko was born in Shizuoka, Japan. She is the eldest daughter of Kawashima Tatsuhiko and Kazuyo. Her father worked as an economics professor at Gakushuin University. She was affectionately called "Kiki" by friends and relatives in her childhood.
She spent her preschool days in the United States when her father received a PhD in Regional Economy from the University of Pennsylvania and later taught there. Princess Kiko attended elementary and high school in Vienna, Austria, when her father became the chief researcher at The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, where he studied spatial science and NGO activities. The future princess became fluent in English and German. She participated in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) in 1987 and continues to be a supporter of the program. She received her undergraduate degree from the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Letters of Gakushuin University in 1989. Kiko subsequently began graduate study in psychology at Gakushuin and completed the first part of the doctorate in 1995.
She was chosen as one of the Young Global Leaders for 2007, drawn from a poll of 4000 candidates.
Prince Akishino first proposed marriage to Kawashima Kiko on 26 June 1986 while they were both undergraduates at Gakushuin. Three years later, Imperial Household Council announced the engagement. The wedding took place at an exclusive shrine at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on 29 June 1990. The Imperial Household Economy Council had previously granted the prince permission to establish a new branch of the imperial family and the Emperor granted him the title Akishino no miya (Prince Akishino) on his wedding day. Upon marriage, his bride became Her Imperial Highness Princess Akishino, known informally as Princess Kiko.
The engagement and marriage of Prince Akishino to the former Kawashima Kiko broke precedent in several respects. First, at the time, the groom was still a graduate student at Gakushuin and married before his older brother, Crown Prince Naruhito. Additionally, the princess was the first woman from a middle-class background to marry into the imperial family. (Although Empress Michiko was born a commoner, she was from a very wealthy family; her father was the president of a large flour-milling company.) Unusual for the time, their engagement and marriage were romantically based, rather than arranged.
Princess Akishino completed her post-graduate studies in psychology in between her official duties and received her master's degree in psychology in 1995. She is known for her continuing interest in deaf culture and the Deaf in Japan. She learned Japanese sign language and she is a skilled sign language interpreter. She attends the "Sign Language Speech Contest for High School Students" held every August, and "Praising Mothers Raising Children with Hearing Impairments" every December. In October 2008, she participated in the "38th National Deaf Women's Conference." She also signs in informal Deaf gatherings.
Since 1997, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko and their children have maintained a principal residence on the grounds of the Akasaka Palace in Motoakasaka, Minato, Tokyo.
The couple have two daughters and one son.