Anyone expecting the Japanese royal family’s new Instagram account to generate memes or showcase a new side of the world’s oldest continuous monarchy should lower their expectations.

There is nothing flashy to see here, people. No behind-the-scenes levity or spontaneity. Just some royals politely posing for pictures in their usual, formal way.

The new Instagram page for Japan’s Imperial Household Agency — its first on any social media platform — posted its first image early Monday morning. By Tuesday evening, it had uploaded 19 more and collected nearly half a million followers.

The page mostly shows Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and sometimes their daughter, Princess Aiko, standing up, sitting down or bowing at formal events over the past three months. There they are at an exhibition of bonsai plants at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, or posing with visiting dignitaries from Kenya and Brunei, or presiding over the awarding of awards.

The Japanese public hardly figures into the page, except in a brief video of a flag-waving crowd at a 64th birthday celebration for Emperor Naruhito, the 126th person to hold that title in a hereditary line that stretches back more than 15 centuries.

In that sense, the page’s content isn’t much different from that of the imperial household’s website.

This is not the first time that members of Japan’s royal family, which tightly controls its image, have made a concerted effort to connect with the public through a popular medium. In one example from the 1990s, a newspaper published photos of Empress Michiko, the previous emperor’s wife, in her kitchen.

On social media this week, some critics said the royal family should never have taken to Instagram because the platform was beneath them, or that their feed should have featured Crown Prince Akishino, who is first in line to the throne. (Incidentally, his daughter Mako Komuro, formerly Princess Mako, renounced her royal heritage in 2021 in order to marry Kei Komuro, a commoner.)

Other people in Japan praised the page, saying that it made the royal family look dignified.

“When I look at the smiling faces of their majesties the Emperor and Empress and Princess Aiko and their beautiful demeanor, I can feel my back straighten,” Mika Ahn, a television personality, said on Tuesday during a talk show on the channel Nippon TV.

A few visitors to the Kokyo Gaien National Garden, near the Imperial Palace, agreed to talk on Tuesday to a reporter about the royal family’s new social media presence.

Mika Hirano, 38, who works part-time at a welfare facility, said that she hadn’t heard about the Instagram page. She predicted that it would not be particularly interesting because the royal family has never been especially accessible to the Japanese public.

The page could perhaps help the family reach a younger generation, Ms. Hirano added, “but if they are too informal or casual, they will be criticized for lacking dignity.”

Yuko Tanaka, 53, and Noriko Yamada, 51, were sitting on a nearby bench, looking at cherry blossoms.

Ms. Tanaka, a banker, said she had heard about the Instagram page on the news. Ms. Yamada, a doctor, said she had heard about it from Ms. Tanaka.

Ms. Tanaka said that, because of the family’s royal status, and also because Princess Aiko is not an heir to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne, it would not be appropriate for the public to see too much of its members’ private lives.

“I think it’s good that they’ve turned the comments off,” Ms. Yamada added. “Because there are a lot of people with many opinions.”


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