TSU, MIE PREF. - Sayako Kuroda, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, assumed the post of supreme priestess at Ise Shrine this week, the ancient Shinto shrine said.
Kuroda, 48, on Monday officially replaced the 86-year-old Atsuko Ikeda, elder sister of the Emperor, who served in the post for 29 years, after the Imperial family requested her retirement, the shrine in Mie Prefecture said without giving other details.
Kuroda will visit the shrine as the Emperor’s representative for festive events including Kanname-sai, held annually in October, in which crops are offered to sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the ancestral deity of the Imperial family.
Kuroda became a commoner after marrying a man outside of the Imperial family. She acted as Ise Shrine’s special priestess from 2012-2013, providing support for Ikeda during its Shikinen Sengu event, in which a symbol of the deity is transferred to a new building every 20 years.
The post of supreme priest or priestess leads Shinto priests at the religion’s holiest shrine. It has been assumed by current or former female Imperial family members since the end of World War II.