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  #81  
Old 04-10-2008, 08:44 AM
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Post An advice to an Asian princess

The second incident I want to inform you about had happened “at home” in Japan, and already earlier, in July 1996. The economical magazine “Keiei Juku” has a column in which frequently a more or less real person tells his or her life story and asks for advice. In the edition of July 1996 a ”princess of the Far East” was looking for help. (I´ll do my best to literally translate the question as well as the answer but as the answer is rather, well: direct, I am sure I´ll get into trouble there. But I have to do it literally because the crudity of expression obviously makes a notable difference if we want to clearly understand the attitude towards the princess that is standing behind it. So, I apologize in advance for the periods or dashes that may be necessary and hope that you will understand in spite of them. And, as I have been mocking at censure in this forum already several times, I want to explicitly say that, in this case, I absolutely agree with it. I really would not want to read such a text here, except for “documentary reasons”. And I sincerely hope that nobody´s feelings will be hurt by it.)

Question (”princess of the Far East”): “The national interest is concentrated only on my pregnancy. When I go around on the outside the people look at me with questioning eyes why I do not get pregnant. I have stopped going outside because of that. But I want to go out again. What shall I do?”

Answer: “Generally speaking, the people from the imperial family only know awkward se.xual interc..rse. According to a doctor who is an authority concerning the predetermination of gender, it is more probable that gir.ls are being born when the couple has bad or impassionate s.x. So, the idea of artificial insemination would not be bad. But before that I could myself in person teach you good s.x if you want.”

Well, so much for the overwhelming respect that is paid by the Japanese to their imperial family… It has made me think a lot why they react so harshly on a foreign newspaper mocking the crown prince while in their own country nobody seemed to feel disturbed by these openly pornographic remarks. Sure, from a legal point of view it would probably not be so easy to have this sued by the law because there is no name given. (Although talking of “the imperial family” is already pretty unequivocal.) And maybe this is why no official protest from any side was raised. But from a social perspective this does not make much difference because there was obviously only one princess in the whole of Asia who was famous for having problems of getting pregnant. (And, as I will show in the next part, there was a heated debate about artificial insemination and the crown princess going on at the time, so it was really clear about whom they were talking.)

My first reaction on this inconsistency of treatment was: “Oh well, when it goes against a man then, of course, they protest but with women it does not matter.” And, in fact, the tendency of the Japanese article IS misogynist. (Only think of the idea of daughters being created by lack of pleasure and passion: thank you for mentioning it – and, while you´re on it, please give my best compliments to modern science! ) But if you look at it more closely you´ll find that this is still nothing to the purpose: Naruhito is attacked by the Japanese “answer” as much as his wife, perhaps even more so. He is not only seen as deficient as a partner, without passion and vitality (like in the German newspaper, although in the German headline there is, at least, a tinge of irony included, as I have pointed out – and it is, supposedly, only the headline that is so tactless, as, judging from the fact that this is a serious newspaper, I assume the article itself was probably quite o.k.). But the Japanese writer even bluntly offers the princess to sleep with her, obviously not expecting her husband to have anything to say in the matter! In a way, the whole imperial family is being attacked here (if we take a look at the first sentence), not only the crown prince and the crown princess.

If we only heard the first story we would say: “O.k., the Japanese tenno was once worshipped as a god, and we stupid Westerners simply cannot understand how much the Japanese feeling is hurt when we treat this sacred person with disrespect.” We would think this a thing of different cultures and the secrets of the Asian soul, part of which we Westerners are probably unable to ever understand. But when we look at the second incident our good-willed intent to make allowances for a mystically different culture is somewhat disappointed. Of course, the furious reaction on the foreigner newspaper´s disrespect was, by all means, absolutely authentic. This does not allow of the slightest doubt. But it seems to me that it would be too simplified to assume that the Japanese are generally so very much more apt to stand in awe of their royals than Europeans usually are. On one hand, that is true but, on the other hand, there also seem to exist underlying, unadmitted but nevertheless powerful tendencies that injure this worship, and that are, maybe, even more aggressive because they are – officially – not acceptable.

At least, these are the conclusions I have come to… But I would, of course, be very interested to hear your opinion if you think differently!


To be continued
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Old 04-10-2008, 12:16 PM
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I confess that this has me completely riveted...
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Old 04-10-2008, 05:28 PM
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This was actually in a serious magazine about economics? It's ironic: the Imperial Family are totally shut away from the public in one way; but on the other hand, they have no privacy. The most intimate details of their lives seem to be open to public discourse.
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Old 04-12-2008, 04:13 PM
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In addition to german version there are least two language versions of the book concerned:

- Prinses Masako, de gevangen vlinder (in dutch) Prinses Masako, de gevangen vlinder: Een carrièrevrouw aan het Japanse hof - KOBAYASHI YOKO - FRITZ MARTIN

- Masako, la mariposa atrapada (in spain)

- and one presumably in polish
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Old 04-13-2008, 02:21 PM
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Perhaps we English-speakers will be lucky enough to end up with a translation of a translation. I'd certainly get it if it were available in English. Publishers....yoohoo!....Publishers.

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Originally Posted by emmalisa View Post
In addition to german version there are least two language versions of the book concerned:

- Prinses Masako, de gevangen vlinder (in dutch) Prinses Masako, de gevangen vlinder: Een carrièrevrouw aan het Japanse hof - KOBAYASHI YOKO - FRITZ MARTIN

- Masako, la mariposa atrapada (in spain)

- and one presumably in polish
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Old 04-17-2008, 06:47 AM
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Unhappy

You have made me aware how much I have been shocked myself by the Japanese “answer” as I actually felt relieved and comforted by your reactions… Thank you, NotAPretender and mermaid. I did not expect that I would feel like that. Somehow, I think, every woman can imagine what a vulnerable situation it is to wish for a child (even if you are NOT expected to bear an heir) and to wait and to not get pregnant… It is bad enough in itself, even worse to have the whole world watch and discuss this situation but to then be attacked in such a filthy, disgusting way… What a nightmare…
(Bye the bye, I do not want to exclude anybody. Probably men can imagine as well. I only spoke of women because it would feel like having everybody staring at your uncovered body – which is female in this case…)

And, yes, mermaid, as far as I can say it definitely IS a serious economical magazine. The term “Wirtschaftsmagazin” that Fritz and Kobayashi use is unequivocal in German. It would mean a – weekly or monthly – periodical dealing with economical issues such as stock markets, exchange rates, economically booming regions, tips for ambitious managers and that sort of thing. And it would SURELY be serious. (What would be serious if economy were not serious? ) Of course, I do not know the way the Japanese media are organized – maybe they have something like “humorous” columns also in this sort of serious periodical where such a text would not come absolutely unexpected? Somebody who is an expert concerning Japanese media would have to tell us. (Anybody out there?) What I DO know is that it would be very strange for a German economical magazine. I suppose they would lose lots of readers because if a reader wants that he will buy a “ ” (oops, censure again : I mean: a magazine that is specialized in these sort of texts). We would not expect it in an economical magazine, it certainly would considerably weaken its credibility. (I suppose it is the same in France, GB, Australia or wherever in the Western world).

And thank you, emmalisa, for updating us on the translations! So, it was probably the Dutch version that the Belgian lady had read.
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Old 04-17-2008, 06:57 AM
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Post The stork is busy elsewhere…

(This part as well as the three following parts are mainly based on the fourth chapter of the book.)
I have already mentioned that even before her wedding Masako had been made aware by the emperor and empress that her first and most urgent duty would be to bear a child: they had sent the head gynecologist of the court, professor Shoichi Sakamoto, to her who told her to not exhaust herself and to stay relaxed in order to further a pregnancy. A good advice indeed, as her parents-in-law were by far not the only people to put her under pressure… After the engagement the newspapers (serious newspapers as well as yellow press) were full of articles featuring Masako´s “true character”: maternal and home-loving or her presumed ability to change nappies. Even professor Sakamoto (who as we will see later had a certain liking for talking to the press), took the trouble of informing the hopeful mother of the future emperor through the media of his wish for an early pregnancy and his strong willingness to help her hypothetical baby see the light.

And after the marriage had finally taken place all boundaries broke: the media filled pages and pages with good advice for how to get pregnant with a boy. Masako was recommended to eat tofu, shells, octopus, all sorts of dairy, potatoes, almonds… Although the journalists had to admit that there was no guarantee as to the results they still insisted that “it is better than doing nothing”. And Masako could hardly do anything without some of the media taking it as a sign for an early pregnancy and making false announcements – whether she wore shoes without high heels or put her hands in front of her belly for a moment or whether she had to cancel a duty because of a cold - it always raised the same suspicions. (Although we have to admit that at least as far as the cold was concerned the newspapers had a good reason for their presuming: when Michiko had been suffering from early pregnancy indispositions – before the pregnancy had been officially announced - it had always been used as a pretext that she was having a cold.) But, all in all, the making of false announcements got to a point that the usually serene crown prince found it necessary – still with a certain sense of humour - to stop the media and to ask them to only publish articles based on facts as otherwise “the stork might get into a bad mood”. Masako at the time tried to still follow the advice she had been given: to stay relaxed. When asked if she already felt a pressure to get pregnant she said: “Hmm…I do not feel it so much. I think what will be will be.”

But, in a way, that was not the expected answer… Although all this excitement, this haste, these worries may seem a bit hysterical at first sight – if we take a short look at the succession line in the generations before we have to admit that the fears of the media were not wholly without reason. Sure, Michiko did not have a problem to bear an heir as we well know. But - as I have mentioned several times - her mother-in-law Nagako had to wait for a long time to have a boy – she was already in her thirties when Akihito was born. (And at that time women over thirty used to be seen as too old and “useless” for childbearing.)

It has sometimes been said in the actual succession debate that these problems had been created by the abolishment of the concubine-system. But history shows that even concubines would not give you a guarantee for a male heir - as the Meiji-tenno (1867-1912) had to find out: He had one wife, six official concubines (or: “ladies-in-waiting” as they were politely called) and fifteen children. (It is to be supposed that besides these officially admitted consorts he had a lot more, as his mother – who was herself a concubine – felt herself compelled at one time to remind him that even he as the tenno should in his actions be guided by a bit more than just his hasty whims of the moment, and that he, please, never should take a woman for whom he had not clearly made a decision.) But even this gaudy emperor had succession problems of his own: among his fifteen children there was only one son. And this son was so sickly and weak that it was to be doubted if he would live long enough to ever have children… Fortunately, things often turn out otherwise than expected: the Meiji-tenno with his six concubines had only one weak son, but this very son, the Taisho-tenno (1912-1926) had – without a single concubine, only with his lawful spouse - four strong boys: As this prince had been so weak the executives had taken care to get him a very healthy strong wife: Sadako Kujo. And so, Sadako became after a very long time the first empress who actually was the mother of the following emperor. Her husband´s mother as well as the mothers of eight emperors before him had been concubines…

There is an ancient Japanese saying: “Who after three years has not given birth has to leave”. Accordingly, when after three years no pregnancy of Masako´s had been announced the media turned from giving good advice to speculating about the reasons for Masako´s “infertility”. And although there is, of course, no actual reason to suppose the problem to be rather with Masako than with Naruhito this possibility was never mentioned in the Japanese newspapers. The American magazine “Newsweek” took up the issue in June 1996 but was not so much interested in the question WHY there was a problem but how it could be solved – pragmatically, the writers proposed to the crown prince and the crown princess to take refuge with artificial insemination. This advice caused a scandal in Japan: the future tenno to start his existence in a test-tube! (Remark from me: This is probably why the imperial family still insists – against all probability – on affirming that Hisahito was produced “in the natural way” and, also, why they could not have wished to publish the gender of the baby before birth - it looked more natural if they “did not wish to know” – or at least as natural as it could still be made looking…) The national shock about American journalists suggesting artificial insemination for the production of the national symbol (!) culminated in the article I have already dealt with in detail in “An advice to an Asian princess”.

And then, five years after Naruhito´s and Masako´s wedding, resignation began to take over. Articles were published that dealt with the question up to which age artificial insemination would even make sense. In Masako´s press conferences the matter was completely avoided. People pitied her when on her 35th birthday she talked about a weak stag beetle she had found: she had protected him, had got him a female and now was taking care of their little ones... Even the crown prince who in 1996 had still been able to cheerfully answer when he was asked about possible children had lost his humour and only said: “I understand the importance of the issue and the interest of the nation. I´d prefer to refrain from making any further comments.”
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Old 04-17-2008, 06:59 AM
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Post Miscarriage

You remember Sadame Kamakura? He is the one who wanted to make use of Masako´s popularity to create a new image for the Japanese monarchy (for details see “Jealousy”). He became head of the kunaicho in 1996. Fritz and Kobayashi report that in 1997 Kamakura initiated the coming together of a doctor´s team who should help the crown princess to finally become pregnant. As was to be expected, this team was to be led by professor Sakamoto who had assisted Michiko as well as Kiko in all their pregnancies. Sakamoto invited some of his students of the university of Tokyo who were specialists in dealing with infertility, among them Dr Osamu Tsutsumi who is one of the five leading experts for artificial insemination in Japan. Kamakura´s plan was clear: the crown prince and the crown princess should through the support of the most modern scientific techniques be enabled to finally get their much desired child. But, at first, his good intentions were stopped short. As a doctor of the court told the journalist Yohei Mori: “Prince and princess are grown up. The technical details we leave to them.” He could also have said: we HAVE to leave to them – prince and princess obviously strongly resisted the idea to produce their child in such an artificial way. Accordingly, Dr Tsutsumi in 1998 left the court hospital where he had taken up a part-time job in 1997 (besides his work as a gynecologist at the university of Tokyo which he had never given up).

But suddenly, in spring 1999, the project team was called back into life, and Dr Tsutsumi got back his job at the court hospital. It is unknown why but prince and princess had obviously changed their mind. And very soon they saw success: in December 1999 the princess showed signs of pregnancy. Unfortunately, this pregnancy ended with a miscarriage (see also: “Three good reasons for staying at home…”). Masako was diagnosed with a rare sort of miscarriage – the baby had died in her womb but had remained there and so had to be got out by surgery. The princess was deeply grieved and shocked – and what was even worse: she felt betrayed by someone close to her. Her pregnancy had never been officially announced, and still the press had reported about it and had created a huge media hype. And it was sure that they must have gotten the information from an insider – not only the fact of Masako´s pregnancy was known but also the presumed date of birth of the child, her basal body temperature and the date of her last menstruation! Obviously, the princess had the feeling that she could trust nobody: she stayed in her room, communicated with her servants only by letters, looked behind doors if someone was standing there to listen and sometimes even denied to eat. And when she did eat no servant was allowed to be present. And Naruhito suffered as well. The usually warm-hearted prince could no longer react in a friendly way when his servants or executives were talking to him. Who had it been who had informed the media about the most intimate details of their private life?

Shortly after their return from Belgium the big newspaper “Asahi” had covered a fat headline: “Princess Masako – signs of pregnancy – further examination to take place soon”. And shortly after that the TV station NHK brought more details: that the princess was five weeks pregnant and suffering from morning sickness. The togu-executives hastily organized a press conference in which they said that all changes in the schedule of the princess were owing to a cold she had. And the – angry-looking – head of the togu-household, Kiyoshi Furukawa, denied the news that had said that the princess had undergone pregnancy tests. He said that the princess was not “in a state in which it is possible to talk of a pregnancy”.

But the frustrated media that had waited for years for this moment were not to be stopped: on all TV channels there were to be seen romantic pictures of Masako and Naruhito, holding hands, skiing, attending the recent wedding of the Belgian prince Philippe… The newspapers had huge headlines that enthusiastically shouted: “The stork had been taking his time…” Speculations were raised that the child must have been produced on one of the couple´s journeys inside Japan, to the county of Kumamoto. The hopeful grandparents were interviewed – Masako´s parents – who in their turn tried to stop the wild ride of the media. Father Hisashi constantly repeated that he had heard nothing from his daughter, and mother Yumiko with tears in her eyes implored the journalists to please consider her daughter´s feelings: “If the reports should be true there would be no greater happiness on earth. But if they are false princess Masako will be only pained by them. I am very concerned about this…”

When on the 13th December crown prince and crown princess went by car to the palace hospital for an examination the TV channels already had their reports ready that should officially announce the pregnancy. Around the hospital, crowds of journalists were waiting, helicopters were already in their position over the palace entrance to get the overview. But the curtains of the car were drawn, the couple was not visible. Was this a bad sign? At 9 o´clock in the evening, the head executive of the togu palace, Kiyoshi Furukawa, said in a press conference: “After the examination of today we are still not able to publish the pregnancy.” He added that he regretted the media hype of the preceding days that had not found it necessary to wait for the publication of medical facts and that he hoped that in future the media would respect the human rights and the privacy of the crown prince and the crown princess in a sufficient way. He also hinted at the fact that this was as well the opinion and the wish of emperor, empress, crown prince and crown princess.

The press was confused. Did the kunaicho just want to put off the publication? When two weeks later, on 30th December, the next medical examination was scheduled the media again had their pregnancy broadcasts already prepared but they were not quite so optimistic as before. Some had heard rumours that the embryo was not “growing in the right way”. And their fears were proved right. First they had to wait for the press conference for a long time. When it finally did take place at 22.10 Furukawa gravely announced that it had become clear that the embryo had died and that the princess had already undergone surgery. But still the journalists were wild about details. As Furukawa explained that they had made the decision to perform the operation because they did not hear any heart beats of the embryo one asked if on the examination of the 13th December the heart beats had still been audible. Furukawa broke out: “Stop wanting to know every detail! Just consider what a heavy burden the princess had to bear when the article about the signs of pregnancy came out before the medical result was published!” Now most of the journalists were, of course, shocked. Some newspapers of the yellow press tried to get rid of their feeling of guilt by blaming the “Asahi” (that had been the first to publish the pregnancy) as “immoral”, “blasphemous” and “impudent” (although they themselves had acted in the very same way…).

The court journalists – they are insiders and often have insider information that they do not publish for fear of losing their special position - were frustrated. Fritz and Kobayashi say that they might have accepted Furukawa´s critique if they had not found out afterwards that the princess had made a pregnancy test even before their trip to Belgium (as I have already mentioned). They thought that maybe by these accusations Furukawa just wanted to cover up the decision he had taken at the time as the head of the togu household and that now seemed at least doubtful: not to cancel the trip to Belgium (because that could have raised too early suspicions of the pregnancy). Masako´s opinion concerning this decision is not known. Anyway, Fritz and Kobayashi presume that by the waka poem that Masako wrote two weeks after the miscarriage she wanted to tell her husband that he should not blame himself for his part in the decision - what ever that may have been: “Seven years led by you, talking with you, happy times.”
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:18 AM
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Post “Scientific techniques”

So, after the information that Fritz and Kobayashi give I, at least, do not have a doubt left that the first pregnancy had been the result of artificial insemination. The reason already given in “Three good reasons for staying at home…” (two pregnancies quickly following each other) and the times when Dr Tsutsumi got his job at the palace hospital, then left and then got it again seem to me absolutely convincing. Even more so as Fritz and Kobayashi say that they asked one of the insider court journalists about his matter and he vaguely talked of “scientific techniques” having been used. Considering that he would lose his position if he expressed himself more clearly or even went so far as to publish his knowledge that is - as they say - as much confirmation as we can ever expect to get.

The tenno is the highest priest of Shinto, and Shinto is a religion of nature worship. Amaterasu is not an “abstract” goddess like the god of the Jews or the Christians, she is the personification of the sun and also part of nature in a way. That her highest priest should be produced by such artificial, scientific means simply does not fit into the picture of natural harmony as Fritz and Kobayashi point out. After what we know I think we cannot doubt that this did not prevent those means from being used but it definitely prevents that this should ever be publicly admitted.

And the date of the “come-back” of the expert team, spring 1999, also gives an answer to a question that I have always put to myself: if they were using artificial insemination why on earth did they do it – of all times – exactly when they knew they would have to travel to Belgium soon? Well, the answer is: they obviously did not. They had started trying in spring and simply had continued trying, and it was, in a way, simply bad luck that it worked exactly when they had to travel abroad. This also demonstrates the truth of what kimebear said somewhere: that the princess did not get pregnant does not necessarily mean that she did not try for it – maybe also after the birth of Aiko she may have tried at some time and it simply might not have worked. If she does not get pregnant again we (as non-insiders) will never know if she has tried again or not.
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:27 AM
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Post Aiko

As I have already mentioned, Masako was after the miscarriage deeply depressed. Fritz and Kobayashi say that the behaviour of the usually polite and affable couple put the rather inflexible executives under such pressure that they took great pains to relieve the atmosphere. So, in February 2000, the kunaicho let, as an exception, the couple pass a normal holiday, two weeks in a house in a beautiful landscape. Even their dogs were allowed to go with them. But good as this was meant it was still not sufficient. The princess needed more time to recover. She was even unable to attend the funeral of her husband´s grandmother, empress Nagako, in July 2000 which normally would have been a duty.

The crown prince made a point of passing a lot of time with his wife. They went together to the mountains of Nasu and to the imperial farm at Tochigi. In autumn 2000, Masako began to take up riding again, together with Naruhito. She finally was better. On the press conference on occasion of her birthday, in December 2000, she said: “The prince has taken care of me and supported me with loving consideration.” In January 2001 she wrote a waka poem: “I walk with you on the flowery fields of Nasu, hear from you the names of the autumnal grasses and am happy.”

Now the executives of the kunaicho could seemingly relax again. But there was still this memory of the “leak” in the inner circle to be taken care of… Meanwhile, Sadame Kamakura had found out that famous professor Sakamoto who had already assisted Michiko when she gave birth was a bit too fond of talking. He decided to remove him and to put Dr Tsutsumi in his place who was known not only for his expertise but also for his ability to keep his mouth shut. Of course, this could not be done so easily as professor Sakamoto had been serving the imperial family for a long, long time and was very much appreciated. Fritz and Kobayashi say that in order to gain his end Kamakura had to make use of an old samurai strategy: he sacrificed himself and gave up his position as head of the kunaicho to Toshio Yuasa.

And this time obviously all worked together: Only eight weeks after Dr Tsutsumi had taken over, on 16th April 2001, the kunaicho organized a press conference. Experienced journalists already guessed what they would be told as from the beginning of April Masako had cancelled private meetings as well as official duties. On the 1st April Masako had wanted to meet her family as her sister Reiko was coming back from New York, at the 4th she should have travelled to Kyoto, on the 10th she should have welcomed the president of Lithuania. But she went nowhere and no longer was seen on horseback or accompanying her jogging husband by bicycle. So, the big newspapers had already tried to find out more and had employed a lot of people on this behalf. But without success. It later became known that there had only five people besides the couple been in the secret: Dr Tsutsumi, another medical expert, Dr Kawaguchi, the head of the togu household, Furukawa, the present head of the kunaicho, Yuasa, and Kamakura who had preceded him.

So, as they could find nobody who would talk to them the media were very curious to see if Masako would appear on the 17th April for the festival of the blooming cherry trees. If she really were pregnant she would not go as in this case it would be far too exhausting for her. The counseling team of the prince and the princess was, of course, aware of this. Dr Tsutsumi declared that – unlike the time before – the state of Masako was “stable”. And so they decided to publish the news on the day preceding the festival, the 16th April 2001. And on this press conference, the head of the togu household, Furukawa, who had looked so grim on the press conferences on occasion of the unfortunate first pregnancy, was grinning like the Cheshire cat: This time, they had outdone the paparazzi and the journalists of the yellow press. Here they were, announcing officially the princess to show signs of pregnancy, and no premature disclosures had taken place!

The press was as tame as could be wished. They did not again want to give anybody a reason to blame them for causing stress to the princess. During the following months, Naruhito and Masako did not draw the curtains when they went by car to the palace hospital for the examinations, and everybody could see their happy faces. That did not change even on the 30th November when they were driving to the hospital for the last time. They had been waiting for this child for eight years but now the waiting was over and all went smoothly. On the 1st December, after only two hours of labour as Fritz and Kobayashi report Masako gave birth to her little daughter.
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Old 04-24-2008, 06:15 AM
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Post A happy family

(This part as well as the following is based mainly on the fifth chapter of the book.)
But while the announcement of the pregnancy had brought only joy to everybody the birth, to the contrary, caused rather disappointed silence. Only a princess? Now the succession issue was still not solved… Only Aiko´s parents were obviously full of happiness and nothing but happiness. When they left the hospital with their little daughter Masako whispered tenderly: “She sleeps sweetly.” And Naruhito answered: “Yes, very sweetly.” And they happily looked deeply in each other´s eyes. Naruhito who in the beginning years had had a liking to talk about the stork and his moods whenever he was answering press questions on having children but who had been lately too sad to still make jokes now remembered his old friend and told the press that he had not failed to give his thanks to the stork who had brought the child to the palace…

On a press conference in April 2002, they shared their happiness with the public. When Masako remembered the birth of her child she hardly could suppress tears of joy. Naruhito lovingly put his hand on the shoulder of his wife until he was sure that she would be able to keep her countenance. Then she said: “Beginning of life means that a new life starts being very very tiny, grows more and more and then comes into the world in a huge rush of energy. I have felt very strongly that children are really being born in order to live and to be loved by their parents.”

Naruhito was an enthusiastic father. In August 2002 the world saw for the very first time in history a Japanese crown prince carrying his child on his back in public. Together with Masako and Aiko he was walking through the moors of the mountains of Nasu where he had already been staying with Masako in 2000 when he was trying to console her after the miscarriage. Naruhito - who is a mountain climber - declared: “I especially wanted to experience this sort of climbing, with my child on my back.”

And on the family holidays in Suzaki, ten days after that, it was the turn of the emperor and the empress, their children, their daughters-in-law and their grandchildren to demonstrate family happiness together. The press featured the moment when empress Michiko went down to the sea to get some seaweed for little princess Aiko. The empress showed it to her granddaughter - who was in her mother´s arms - and Aiko smiled very sweetly at her grandmother. All seemed to be in order and harmony in the imperial family.
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Old 04-24-2008, 06:21 AM
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Post Wind of change

But this impression was to be only very short-lived. When it was that the family of the crown prince found out that they could no longer deal with the things how they were we, of course, do not know exactly. Maybe they do not know themselves. At least, nothing of it became visible to the public before the shock of prince´s Takamado dying of a sudden and unforeseen heart attack on the 21st November 2002. The prince was the son of a younger brother of the Showa-tenno and had been only five years older than Naruhito. Nevertheless, he had always been a very valuable counselor to the crown prince. He had shared Naruhito`s liberal ideas, and ever since Naruhito had come back from England he had had in prince Takamado a willing partner to exchange thoughts with. Prince Takamado had gained a lot of experience to guide him concerning the question in which way and how far their visions could be put into practice. For example, he had been patron of the soccer World Cup 2002 for which Japan and South Korea had acted together as hosts. (And as the historical relations of Japan and South Korea are rather complicated, to say the least, prince Takamado´s had been an important and difficult task.) Prince Takamado had also been a good friend and supporter to Masako, and his loss deeply grieved and shocked the couple.

(Fritz and Kobayashi do not comment this fact or try to explain why prince Takamado´s decease – obviously – stands on one hand at the beginning of the declining health of the crown princess but also, on the other hand, seems to be the starting point of several open acts of “disobedience” on the part of the prince and the princess. It would obviously be hard to tell which was first: 1. if the couple after the decease of their old friend and supporter finally had decided that the time had come “to walk their talk” and to try and put their ideas in action and if the reaction and suppression that thereupon followed made the already worn-out Masako ill, or 2. if Masako felt on the loss of prince Takamado that her strength was slowly but surly vanishing and that she had NOW to try and change her senseless, useless life as she feared that if she had to wait much longer for an opportunity to serve her country in a form that fitted her abilities she would at last become too ill to take the opportunity when it finally WOULD come, and if the couple then decided that it was now or never.)

Anyway, only very shortly afterwards, Masako was to travel abroad again after she had been obliged to stay at home for a long time. (She went with her husband to New Zealand and Australia). And on the press conference on occasion of this trip, on the 5th December 2002, she gave the first clear hint to the public that something was going wrong. She said: “The last two years I have been busy with pregnancy, birth and childcare. But, honestly speaking, I have made a great effort to deal with the fact that in the preceding six years I could not easily travel abroad.” But although the journalists asked several times what she exactly meant by this the crown princess at the time did not choose to express herself more clearly. Nevertheless, she had already raised attention. It was said that the emperor was “surprised” by Masako´s words and that he asked his servants to hand him the written version of her speech. And as already mentioned the princess was criticized by several persons for what she had said. The grand steward of the kunaicho, Toshio Yuasa, said that he would be “grateful” if the princess could understand that it was difficult to send her on trips abroad that were exhausting for the body when it was still her first duty to bear an heir. And he added: “I did not know that the princess was so urgently wishing to take trips abroad.” As Fritz and Kobayashi point out he obviously wanted to say by this that the princess was egotistical and only thinking of herself.

Two months later the crown prince took up the issue on the press conference on occasion of his birthday: “Masako once wanted to do the international work of a diplomat. That is why I think that it has been painful to her that she could for very many years not make any visits abroad to further international friendship. Also in this regard I think that Masako is very patient.” As I have already mentioned this is probably an example for the awkwardness of the couple (see “Strong characters”). They talked of travels abroad, probably because that was the most obvious sort of service that in their opinion was expected from them and because this was something that they had – visibly for the public - not been given the opportunity of doing. (Nobody knew at the time how often they had “behind the scenes” tried to initiate something and had been blocked – see “Three good reasons for staying at home…”). So, what was really ailing them was that they could not realize ANY of their ideas about what they wanted to do for the nation – inside Japan as well as out of it. But although they did not – and probably could not – publicly explain their vision of “the imperial family coming closer to the people” they showed it by an action that was very much out of the ordinary: in May 2003 they took their daughter into a public park for her “koen-debut”. (See also: “Committed to the world´s peace and happiness”)

On the 13th May 2003 Naruhito and Masako went together with Aiko to a - not very attractive looking - park close by the palace grounds. On this day, they were like a family among others. But when they went there again, ten days later, somehow the media had found out of their intention. Camera teams, newspaper journalists and lots of housewives living close by were crowding the usually not much frequented park. But the little family stood their ground: Aiko played with the other children in the sand-pit, and Naruhito took pictures of her… And they went to this park together even a third and a fourth time, not paying much attention to the sensation they were causing. – According to Fritz and Kobayashi, it is unknown what Naruhito and Masako had expected as a result or what they thought of the success of their trips into “everyday life”. Obviously nobody ever asked them. But in any case it is clear, as Fritz and Kobayashi explain, that for this once they were acting according to their vision and were openly defying the will of the kunaicho-executives. Instead of waiting for propositions that never came they had thought of a measure themselves. This was probably one of the very few occasions when they made an extraordinary effort to act as members of the open, close-to-the-people imperial family that belongs to their vision. And Naruhito – although he really has never been raised for such a role – did it well. To the attentive watchers he gave the impression of being absolutely relaxed and at his ease. Whereas Masako, as some journalists remarked, looked tired, her smile a bit artificial. It could not be overlooked that something was definitely wrong with her.
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Old 04-25-2008, 04:47 PM
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They seems a very "down-to-earth" family, which is good in the sense they wants to be clser to their people and understand it.

But on the other hand, I think they are showing their will of not being Royal . They feel as if they were in jail in palace (at least this is the way I feel when I watch their official pictures), and really free out of it...That's really sad, since they do not realize how much things they could do for people being Royals as they are...

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Old 04-29-2008, 09:34 AM
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Thank you for your comment, Vanesa! Well, I am not sure if Naruhito and Masako really have this option to stay as they are - or as the traditional Japanese imperials are, or even more precise (because it is not clear HOW „the traditional Japanese imperials“ are as the imperial family has undergone considerable changes within every new generation during the last hundred years or so): as the present emperor and empress are... True, there are a lot of people in Japan who want the imperial family to stay as they are (or even MUCH better: go back!) but there are others who are urgently wanting a change, and worst of all, a lot of the younger seem to have lost their interest in the imperial family altogether – they are not making such a noise as the traditionalists because they are simply not interested. But they are young and the future belongs to them... For the present emperor and empress it might not be an issue. Maybe they have just done their share. (And they have done a lot, I am very well aware of that.) But the crown prince and the crown princess have to find something to raise the interest of the younger Japanese, too. It is not easy and maybe it is not even possible but definitely for them, and even more for Hisahito (or Aiko, whoever), it is inevitable to try for it. In my opinion, they have no choice but to give it a try or that will be it for the monarchy in Japan.
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Old 04-29-2008, 09:42 AM
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Post The crown princess falls ill

(This part as well as the following three parts are based mainly on the fifth chapter of the book.)
On the press conference on occasion of the tenth anniversary of their wedding, in June 2003, Naruhito and Masako gave some hints concerning the endangered state of Masako´s body and mind. Masako said, looking back at her life at the court: “I have often experienced difficulties that in former times I could not even imagine.” (And that is a remarkable sentence if we know something of Masako´s life before her marriage: she had been sent at age two to a Russian kindergarten without knowing a word of Russian - see also: “Too much consideration” – she was one of only three women who successfully did the entrance test for the highest level of the diplomatic service in 1986, and afterwards had worked so hard that colleagues used to call her “the woman who does not need any sleep”… - to name only a few examples. And, what is more: we know she had been hesitating to marry Naruhito because she was afraid of the imperial “lifestyle”, so to speak. So, she had actually had an idea of what was expecting her – and now she says that it had been worse than even her worst fears… ) Naruhito was obviously trying to strengthen her courage: “I want to tell her that I am very grateful for the trouble she has taken during these ten years. You have really made a great effort.” And as if he knew what was to happen – maybe he as an insider actually knew already or at least strongly feared that Masako would sooner or later break down – he also assured her that he would love her even if she would no longer be able to make this effort: “For what I want to give my thanks first and foremost is that Masako is present, quite simply. Just by her presence I feel that my heart becomes cheerful.”

Maybe it was also owing to the fact that the princess was feeling unwell that, for the first time after nine years, Masako went to visit her parents´ home for a day. Aiko was with her and in the afternoon Naruhito came to take care of Aiko, so Masako would have some time to relax. They had dinner together but after that they had to go back to the palace… As Fritz and Kobayashi report it had at this time already become obvious even to some visitors of the princess that there was something seriously wrong with her. One remembered: “The princess tried to hide her psychical fatigue because she did not want to cause worries to anybody. But the dark circles around her eyes could not be overlooked, despite of the make-up she had put on.” A friend of Masako´s told Fritz and Kobayashi that this was one of the princess` characteristics: “It is part of her character that she will try to the last to not show her suffering to others.” Unfortunately though, in a certain respect she was too successful doing this: the medical team surrounding the princess (they are always there, not because she was thought to be ill at the time but just because in her position as the crown princess she would always have medicals watching her) did not take her serious when she described to them her symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue and her problems to get up in the morning. Their advice simply consisted in: “Take walks and think positive!” And it very probably did not make things easier for Masako that in June 2003 the grand steward of the kunaicho, Toshio Yuasa, said on a press conference that he strongly wanted the couple to have their second child – and that he was not the only one entertaining that wish…

Masako still carried on a bit but on the 2nd December 2003, only one day after her daughter´s second birthday, she broke down with physical symptoms that the doctors finally HAD to take serious. She was diagnosed with herpes zoster. Herpes zoster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia A famous dermatologist from a big private hospital was called in at once who prescribed a treatment combined of antibiotics and injections. Although this eased Masako´s pain the doctor decided to have her brought to the palace hospital where she remained until the 8th December. But the princess was still not well. So, the celebrations on occasion of her 40th birthday had to be cancelled. The head of the togu household, at the time that was Hideki Hayashida, declared that the princess would not be able to perform any official duties before spring 2004. As a reason he said that Masako was suffering from exhaustion because of the double burden of official duties and the education of her child.

It was at the same time that Masako was publicly informed that she had finally been given up as hopeless to bear an heir. Toshio Yuasa, grand steward of the kunaicho, told the press that for the interest of the monarchy the Akishinos were desired to have their third child. And he added that this should be done quickly in order to not further increase the big gap (in age) already existing between this new child and its elder sisters. Fritz and Kobayashi comment that for an executive, even if he was the grand steward of the kunaicho, it would have been impertinent and by far exceeding his authority to bring public shame on the crown princess in such a way. And they say that as he nevertheless dared to act like this it is to be supposed that he was not speaking for himself but had been ordered to do so by a higher power…

In January 2004, the princess herself gave a comment on her state (in written form). It said: “Since my wedding, approximately 10 years ago, I have tried to give my best in an unfamiliar environment under enormous pressure. But I feel that my illness is owing to the fact that my psychical and physical exhaustion has been accumulating during that time. Since Aiko´s birth I have taken pains to do justice equally to my official duties and to the taking care of my child. But since last year´s spring I feel bad.”
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Old 04-29-2008, 09:44 AM
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Post Time to go home

The kunaicho had planned for Masako to have her “comeback” in May 2004. But when the time came Masako´s health had not ameliorated. The head of the togu household, Hayashida, informed the public that Masako´s health was still not stable, that the princess was still suffering from headaches and shoulder pains, that she had sometimes to stay in bed during the day and that because of all that the doctors had found it to be a good measure for her to pass some time with her family in a quiet place.

At first sight, this would not be a surprising advice for anybody who is trying to recover from any illness, bodily or mental – but for the imperial family that meant a revolution. Members of the imperial family are usually not supposed to stay overnight in commoners´ houses. (When empress Michiko in 1963 had suffered a miscarriage and also was in need of peace for her wounded soul she, in her turn, went to an imperial residence by the seaside.) On the 25th March, the crown princess went, together with Naruhito and Aiko, to her parents` holiday home in Karuizawa that is situated idyllically in the middle of a mountain forest. Masako´s mother was already awaiting them, she had been preparing everything for the arrival of her daughter`s family. Masako´s little pet dog, Chocolat, was there, and on the next day even her father Hisashi who happened to be in Japan was able to join them. But the time that was granted them by the kunaicho, although amply sufficient for a Japanese holiday, was much too short to have any effects on such a lasting illness as Masako´s. At first, they were given only two weeks. Then they asked for more, and the kunaicho allowed them to stay two weeks longer. Naruhito, father Hisashi and mother Yumiko tried to make the very best of it. They took Masako on long walks and talked to her a lot. The prince still had to attend to his official duties in Tokyo, so he went there whenever it was necessary and then came back. Slowly, Masako began to have glimpses of her old self. It was part of her illness that she – usually optimistic and generous – by effect of her ailing saw darkness everywhere but, now, through her parents´ and her husband´s help and the comforting presence of her daughter and her little pet dog, she began to see a glimmer of light again, sometimes. Part of her former active nature became visible again: she actually expressed the wish to drive around a bit.

But then they had to go back. The kunaicho said that it was no longer possible to guarantee for their security – 10% of the policemen of Nagano, 300 men, were busy protecting the princess, and a national holiday, the “Golden week”, was driving near - then they would be needed for other purposes. Naruhito and Masako would still have wanted to stay as the “treatment” had obviously produced such positive effects but - as the kunaicho had already once consented to give them two more weeks – they now did not know how to ask for still more time. So, on the 26th April 2004 the princess returned to the togu palace - to only leave it again on the 4th September to visit her parents-in-law (see “A prince tears down the chrysanthemum veil”). And, after a short while, the glimpse of hope she had begun to see, again left her. She had only just started to recover while staying at her old home, there was still no stability in her state. And she did not have the help she would have needed: no medical expert was taking care of her, and although Naruhito did his best to listen to her and to support her, he was, of course, unable to supply the medical treatment that was actually necessary.

According to Fritz and Kobayashi, Masako was suffering from vertigo, headaches, fatigue and apathy. She reacted very sensitively and emotionally on the people surrounding her, did not want to eat, could not sleep and broke into tears at the smallest irritation. She always thought about the past and was unable to pay attention to the present or the future. All her strength and beauty were gone. It was clear to the crown prince that she was not just having “a bad mood” but that there was something seriously wrong with her. He always had tried to faithfully keep his promise to support and protect her, with his loving care and support she had come safely through the difficult time after the miscarriage, but, although he did not know what was exactly the matter, he understood that it exceeded his personal abilities to effectively help her now. He was afraid that Masako´s will to live, weak already, would completely vanish. He as well as his wife had tried to inform the kunaicho as well as the rest of the imperial family of the seriousness of the case. But although there had been some changes, holidays at home, more time off (as described) the princess had not even had an expert take a look at her. The only measure that the prince could still think of – if he did not simply want to watch silently his wife´s life fade away – was a public call for aid.
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Old 04-29-2008, 09:47 AM
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Post A prince steps up to the plate

The crown prince´s only chance in 2004 to inform the public of his wife´s suffering would be the press conference on occasion of his trip to Europe in May. (The next opportunity would have been his birthday in February 2005. Members of the imperial family only speak to the public on very few occasions and never “just like that”.) And Naruhito was absolutely aware that he would cause a scandal. When he showed his already prepared text to the responsible executives of the togu-department they were, of course, horrified. They had all the time been trying to carefully hide the full truth from the public, had been trying to confer the impression that Masako was only “a bit exhausted”, they had refused to give the princess more time to recuperate in Karuizawa with her parents and they had not been willing to call in an expert in psychology. And now the prince wanted to bring into public flashlight what they had taken such pains to hide! They did their best to stop him and, because of that, the press conference started half an hour later than scheduled. But that was all their success. The prince, although in the beginning visibly nervous, got back his calm just in time when he came to the main point of his speech. He said: “Masako has made efforts to regain her health. It is very regrettable that it still so happened that she could not accept the invitations for the trip to Europe. Masako has joined the imperial family, and doing that, has given up her work as a diplomat. She saw it as a very important task to strive to further international friendship as a member of the imperial family. But trips abroad have not been allowed to her. Because of that she has suffered much.” Up to this point the content of the prince´s words was not new. The prince as well as the princess had already complained of trips abroad being very infrequent. But there was this expression: “have not been allowed”. That meant that there was a person in existence who had explicitly prohibited these trips… The prince went on: “Masako in these ten years has tried with all her strength to adjust to the environment of the imperial family. Doing this, she has totally exhausted herself. It is true that there have been efforts taken to deny the professional career and the personality of Masako.” Fritz and Kobayashi report that after the crown prince had spoken these words there was an absolute silence. And, after that, some reporters confusedly blabbed: “What???”
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Old 04-29-2008, 09:48 AM
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Post The imperial family in the limelight

The crown prince´s speech – as was to be expected – raised a lot of medial attention, inside Japan and outside. Fritz and Kobayashi point out that the tenno – and, in a way, his family – are a national symbol. As they are accordingly required to incorporate all the best traits of Japan (and none of the bad) they ought to be perfect, flawless. And – up until that moment when the crown prince was obviously accusing a member of his own family to have caused his wife´s illness - the tenno could easily be supposed to be perfect. At least, as far as most Japanese commoners were concerned because they had never heard anything to the contrary… And this had been possible obviously only because hardly anything at all had been heard about the tenno, at least nothing about the internal or about family matters. Secrecy is an easy – and probably the only - solution to the question how a human being can keep up the appearance of being a god. (Here we come again to the core of the conflict between emperor and crown prince: if you want to be close to the people and still be perceived as perfect and divine you have to be a god in all earnest. If you are a human you simply don´t have a chance…) So, not only the media reacted on the crown prince´s speech. In the first week after the press conference the kunaicho received 700 e-mails from Japanese commoners who wanted to express their concern and their sympathies with the crown prince and the crown princess. Some blamed the kunaicho for having been unable to solve the problems in time.

The line of defense of all the people who possibly could be held responsible for the princess´s suffering – the grand steward Yuasa, the head of the togu department, Hayashida, and even the emperor himself – was the same: they confessed their absolute inability to understand the accusations or to perceive a problem at all. And they asked for an explanation. On the 8th June, two weeks after his return from Europe, Naruhito complied and published a written explanation. But, of course, he did not go so far as to actually describe in detail what had happened in the family and who it had been who had “denied” Masako´s personality and had prohibited trips abroad. As he himself justly said that would not have been helpful. He wrote: “It was not my intention to criticize certain actions but I have only made my remarks so that the present situation will become intelligible to everybody.” But he again tried to clarify the nature of the problems that his wife was obliged to deal with: “It seems to me that the public directs its attention too much on trips abroad and the succession issue. But, of course, these were not the only reasons. Masako had to make considerable efforts when she was trying to adjust to the environment of the imperial house, including its traditions, customs and the reactions of the media.” And he expressed his hopes for a better future: “I wish that Masako will in future fulfill her duties with her former self confidence and her vital energy, while making full use of her professional career, as a reflection of a new era.”

As a friend of the tenno expressed it when talking to Fritz and Kobayashi: ”The emperor has come to understand that all this is about a matter happening within the tenno-family. It is not about the kunaicho or the executives in the togu palace.” Naruhito´s friend Isamu Kamata commented: “In normal families there is a quarrel between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Also in the imperial family the situation is not much different.” (For more details about this complicated conflict see my summary of the sixth chapter at the beginning of the thread.)

Although Naruhito´s public call for help did, as we know, by far not solve the problem it had, at least, two immediate effects: The executives of the kunaicho were raised from their lethargy and engaged for Masako a “highest authority” in the field of psychiatry who is attending to Masako since June 2004. According to Fritz and Kobayashi, the name as well as the gender of this expert is a secret. (I think I saw a name mentioned somewhere in this forum though – but I do not remember it and the person that gave it did not mention where it came from.) And, second, in the end of July 2004 the kunaicho published – with Masako´s consent – the medical diagnosis: “adjustment disorder”. (Which certainly meant a relief for the crown princess in so far as, up until that time, the public had only gotten the impression that she was sickly and maybe a bit lazy, whining because of simple headaches that other women would hide behind a smile. Now, at least, everybody was informed of the seriousness of the case.)

And on the 8th December the kunaicho informed the public of a medical report that described the beginning of recovery – and maybe, in this description of what was already to be perceived as a sign for the success of the treatment, we can get the best impression of how bad Masako´s psychical and physical state had really been: “The princess has gotten back her ability to do two things right after another without having to lay down in between.” As an example was given that Masako now was able to do gymnastics with Aiko and then, without needing a rest, take a walk in the garden... On the same day, Masako gave a written statement to the public that expressed that she was also aware of the danger she had been in: “More than anything I am grateful for being able to live my birthday this year in this way.”
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:38 AM
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Thank you again ChiaraC for the time and effort you have put into bringing this perspective on the Imperial Family to us.
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Old 05-20-2008, 08:12 AM
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Thank you very much, kimebear.
For the summary of the rest of the book (chapter 2 and 3) I will not be in such a hurry but take my time because – although some of the details are probably only in Fritz` and Kobayashis book - the main points can also be gotten from other sources. So I think it is not so urgent to put the rest of the information here.
This time I also want to draw your attention to an old article that I found while reading old threads. The Princess Wars - TIME

What I find so remarkable is the reason that the Japanese lady gives for her dislike of Kiko: ""Princess Kiko should have stayed in Masako's shadow and supported her," Wada opines."

We have a lot of Masako-fans here around but most of us (I include myself) would not say that if you admire Masako that automatically means that you have to dislike or to criticize Kiko. And even those who would criticize her would give as a reason, as far as I remember, for example that she is a bit boring or too traditional or old-fashioned or too obedient. But I doubt that any non-Japanese would say she should have "stayed in the shadow and supported Masako"… (I certainly have not read such an opinion in this forum.) What Kiko is basically blamed for by this sentence is that she is "putting herself forward", showing off, boasting, is not content with being invisible, unimportant. And lo and behold! - that is the same thing Masako was blamed for when she, on the first occasion of her going into public as crown princess (see "The vision becomes reality – not"), talked fluently to Boris Yeltzin in Russian and to Bill Clinton in English. A princess has to smile, not to speak English – that would be the job of the interpreter… She was not supposed to show her abilities in such an obvious way. So, I really think it a very remarkable phenomenon that if Japanese people criticize Masako or if they criticize Kiko it is basically for the same reason: they do not stay modestly in the shadow as they ought to…
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