IMAGE: PRINCESS MASAKO
Koji Sasahara  /  AP
Japan's Crown Princess Masako arrives at Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Dec. 9, 2006.
updated 2/16/2007 2:11:12 PM ET 2007-02-16T19:11:12

A Japanese publisher said Friday it has decided to scrap a translation of a new English-language book on Japan's royal family that has sparked protests from Japan's government.

"Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne," penned by Australian journalist Ben Hills, was released by Random House in December and is billed as a biography of the 43-year-old diplomat-turned-princess, who has suffered for years from stress-induced illness.

Japan's Imperial Household Agency and Foreign Ministry had demanded an apology from the author for "disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgmental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic." The government also protested to Random House in Sydney.

Kodansha Ltd. denied it was scrapping the Japanese translation because of the protest.

Errors alleged
Kodansha editor Kazunobu Kakishima said the decision was in response to Hills' refusal to acknowledge making factual errors during an interview with a Japanese television earlier Friday, causing the publisher to "lose faith" in him as journalist.

"We have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to maintain trustworthy relations with the author and thus we were forced to cancel the book," he said.

Kakishima called the author's failure to admit errors and apologize "extremely inappropriate." Hills has acknowledged the errors, approved corrections in a translated draft and even thanked the publisher for the corrections, he said.

The book details Masako's life in the palace, during which she has come under grinding pressure to produce a male heir to the throne. After suffering a miscarriage in 1999, she and Crown Prince Naruhito had a daughter, Aiko, in 2001. The couple were married in 1993.

Breaking tradition
Wording in the book — one chapter about Naruhito is titled "Mummy's Boy" — contrasts with the gentle, respectful treatment afforded the royal family in Japan's press. Criticizing the emperor was regarded as a serious crime in the first half of the 20th century.

Kakishima said a "substantial number of factual errors" found in the original, including those mentioned by the Japanese government, have been corrected through fact-checking and meetings with interviewees quoted in the book.

A Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as required by protocol, denied contacting Kodansha over the book but refused to comment on the cancellation announcement. Palace officials were not immediately available for comment late Friday.

Hills said in his e-mail to The Associated Press this week that he had no intention of apologizing and that the government was trying to pressure publisher Kodansha to shelve a planned Japanese version of the book.

Kakishima said the publisher has notified Hills and Random House of the decision.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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