IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Japan's princess weary of royal pressures

More than a decade after their fairy tale wedding, Japan’s crown prince says his wife, Crown Princess Masako, is exhausted from the stress of coping with the ways of the world’s oldest monarchy.
MASAKO
Crown Princess Masako is driven back her home, Togu Palace, after she was discharged from the Imperial hospital in Tokyo on Dec. 8, 2003. Kyodo News via AP
/ Source: Reuters

More than a decade after their fairy tale wedding, Japan’s crown prince says his wife, Crown Princess Masako, is exhausted from the stress of coping with the ways of the world’s oldest monarchy.

Masako, a Harvard-educated diplomat and commoner, married into the imperial family over 10 years ago, capturing the imagination of a public that hoped she would help modernize the tradition-bound dynasty.

Instead, the imperial lifestyle has taken its toll.

“For the past 10 years, she has tried very hard to adapt herself to the imperial family,” Crown Prince Naruhito told a news conference on Monday.

“And in my eyes, she appears totally exhausted from it.”

The 40-year-old princess, who has come under increasing pressure to produce a male heir, has been taking a break from official duties since December when she was hospitalized with shingles, a painful skin rash that can be caused by stress.

Swipe at conservatives
Naruhito, in the latest of a series of frank comments about pressures on his wife, took a swipe at efforts to force her to conform to the conservative ways of the monarchy.

“It is true that there were moves to negate Masako’s career and her personality, which was influenced by that career,” Naruhito told reporters ahead of a trip overseas.

He said while Masako was keen to use her experience as a diplomat to promote exchanges with other royal families, the royal couple had not been allowed to travel overseas for several years after their marriage.

Masako had hoped to accompany her husband to Denmark, Portugal and Spain when he goes there later this week.

“So she is deeply sorry to miss such a precious opportunity.”

Royal succession?
Earlier this year, Masako spent some time at her parents’ summer house, a rare break away from the imperial palace in Tokyo. Royal vacations are almost always at imperial retreats.

Naruhito said Masako was also struggling to raise their two-year-old daughter, their first and only child, while performing her public duties.

Female succession is banned under current Japanese law, but Aiko’s birth fanned debate on whether she should be allowed to become the first woman to reign over Japan in centuries.

The last boy born into the Imperial Family was Naruhito’s brother, Akishino, in 1965.

Naruhito, however, sidestepped a question about what he might learn from Denmark, where women can inherit the throne.

“The rules regarding each country’s royal family are based on that country’s history, culture and the thinking of its people,” was all he would say.