An Unroyal Welcome In Japan

June 03, 1993|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Tokyo Bureau

TOKYO -- The gilded-dressers affair can't hold a candle to Fergie's financial adviser or Diana's rival, but it has made for five of the juiciest days watchers of Japan's straight-laced royal family can remember.

At issue are two ornate Japanese-style dressers and an armoire, made of paulownia wood and encrusted with 1,500 square patches of gold leaf in three layers.

They first broke into public consciousness last Friday, when Yasuyuki Tatsumi, a furniture factory president from Kanazawa, some 200 miles west of Tokyo, proudly displayed them on national television.

They had been made to fill an order from the family of Masako Owada, he said, and they would go into the Imperial Palace after her marriage next Wednesday to Crown Prince Naruhito.

But by Tuesday, with TV stations still repeatedly showing off the gilded chests as part of their exhaustive pre-wedding coverage, the Owada family begged to differ.

Or at least the Imperial Household Agency begged to differ.

The agency's chamberlains, who oversee all details in the lives of all members of Emperor Akihito's immediate family, leaked word to reporters at the palace: In the middle of Japan's worst recession since World War II, Ms. Owada's trousseau would not include anything so gaudy as gold-encrusted bedroom furniture.

The Owadas had indeed ordered the set, according to this officially leaked version. But when Mr. Tatsumi volunteered last February to make the order the first to use his factory's new gilding process, the Owadas had declined, saying gold would be too showy.

Since they did not meet the family's specifications, the chests were refused, the agency said.

As for Mr. Tatsumi, he was "out of reach" yesterday and would not be available any time soon, people at his factory said.

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