Japan's imperial family makes Instagram debut

Japan's imperial family has made its Instagram debut, in an effort to shake off their reclusive image and reach out to younger people on social media.

The Imperial Household Agency, a government agency in charge of the family's affairs, posted 60 photos and five videos showing Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako's public appearances over the past three months.

The first photo published was of the imperial couple sitting on a sofa with their 22-year-old daughter Princess Aiko, all smiling as they marked New Year's Day.

Other posts included the imperial couple's meetings with foreign dignitaries, including Brunei Crown Prince Haji al Muhtadee Billah and his wife.

By Monday afternoon, their verified account Kunaicho_jp had more than 350,000 followers.

The account does not follow anyone nor interact with the public. Users cannot comment on posts and can only press the "like" button.

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

The agency said they wanted the public to have a better understanding of the imperial family's duties and Instagram was chosen because of its popularity among young people.

So far, the images are limited to the family's official duties and do not include private or candid moments. The agency said it was considering adding activities of other royal members.

Emperor Naruhito's father Emperor Emeritus Akihito - who abdicated the throne in 2019 - and his wife were popular during their time but currently, the royal family's fans largely belong to older generations.

The palace agency set up a team of experts last year to study the effects of using social media on the imperial family.

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The agency became cautious after the Emperor's niece Mako Komuro and her commoner husband faced a severe backlash on social media and in tabloids following concerns over her mother-in-law's financial situation, causing her marriage to be delayed.

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

The Japanese imperial family's social media debut comes 15 years after Britain's royal family joined X, formerly Twitter, in 2009.