Japan's Crown Prince Grateful for Support
TOKYO (AP) - Crown Prince Naruhito returned Monday from royal weddings in Europe to a furor over his suggestion that unidentified palace forces contributed to his wife's stress-induced illness.
Naruhito drew attention to Crown Princess Masako's troubles before his European trip by issuing an unprecedented rebuke of palace officials for restricting his wife's activities.
Palace officials scrambled to respond, saying they would ask the crown prince to explain more fully when he returned home.
Masako did not accompany Naruhito to royal weddings in Denmark and Spain because she has not fully recovered since suffering from shingles - a skin rash often induced by stress and fatigue. She has stayed out of the public eye since December.
In a statement issued upon his return, Naruhito lamented Masako's absence during his travels and thanked others for their support.
``It is truly unfortunate the crown princess was unable to accompany me. I am grateful for the encouragement I received from the people I met from various countries and for their inquiries'' into how Masako was doing, Naruhito said.
``I would be happy if the two of us could make the trip together some day.''
In remarks to the media on May 10, the prince criticized unnamed individuals for denying his wife's right to be herself.
``Masako has tried her best these 10 years to try to adjust to palace life, but it has exhausted her,'' Naruhito said then. ``It is true that there have been movements to deny Masako's career and her character.''
Analysts say Naruhito was blaming officials at the Imperial Household Agency, which tightly controls affairs of the royal family and has a reputation of being exceedingly conservative.
Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat fluent in several languages, has only been abroad five times since her 1993 wedding - a restriction that ``greatly distressed'' his wife, Naruhito said.
The princess also faces heavy pressure to produce a royal heir. Masako, 40, and Naruhito, 44, have a daughter, but women cannot accede to the throne.
I read the article in People magazine, and I felt so terrible for Masako. She has tried so hard to fit in as a member of the Imperial Family and gets beaten down just like Diana did (but Diana didn't have to hear she wasn't producing an heir). It is time for the Japanese monarchy to reform and get rid of the Salic Law banning women the right to inherit. If they do not strike a balance between tradition and modern times, there will be no monarchy left. My heart goes out to Masako and the Crown Prince :cry:
Just had to add my own two cents.....
Methinks the Imperial Household Agency is LONG overdue for Sex Ed 101 -Masako has NO (zero, nil, nada) control over the gender of any child she becomes pregnant with........
Of course I don't intend CP Naruhito to be blamed either - he also has no control over the actual process.....
Am getting SO tired of the same old, same old from the IHA.
The article in People:
Princess or Prisoner?
Japan's prince says demands of a male heir have driven his wife into seclusion
For 125 unbroken generations, the Japanese royal family has been governed by rigid protocol.On May 20 a crack appeared in the lacquer.A a press conference before a solo European trip, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, 44, said his wife, Princess Masako, 40, had been pushed to the breaking point by officials anxious for her to produce a male heir.Since suffering a stress-induced case of facial shingles six months ago, the prince said, his Harvard-educated wife had been resting in seclusion, "completely exhausted" from trying to fit into the royal household, which he charged had "nullified her career and nullified her character."
Naruhito's words were an attack on Japan's IHA, which controls royal life, from the Shinto ceremonies the family performs to access to private phone lines."When the royal family makes public visits, they cannot even go to the bathroom when they please, " says Isao Tokoro, an expert on the monarchy."If you enter that environment at the age of 30, it can be very difficult."
So it was for Masako, the daughter of a diplomat who went to high school in Boston.A rising star in Japan's foreign ministry, she disappeared behind palace walls soon after marrying Naruhito in 1993.After a 1999 miscarriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Aiko, 2, reportedly withthe aid of fertlity treatments in 2001, but by law, only males may inherit Japan's throne."The IHA put her under enormous pressure to conceive a male heir, " says a journalist Yasushi Kunoh, who thinks Naruhito's outburst may be an attempt to reform the law, a change most Japanese support.Now he certainly has the palace's attention.Said IHA chief Toshio Yuasa:"When the crown prince comes back, I want to meet him directly, listen to his true intentions and improve what I can.'"
Now my fingers hurt. :(
From the Peninsula,
It was obvious from the start that something was not right about Crown Prince Naruhito's press conference. The courtiers of the Imperial Household Agency, unbending in matters of punctuality, had scheduled a three o'clock start. But it was closer to 3.30pm when the Crown Prince entered the roomful of journalists in the Togu Detached Palace in central Tokyo.
As always, the questions had been submitted and vetted days in advance; the Prince, seated behind a bouquet of seasonal flowers, read his answers from a sheaf of papers. He has made such appearances two or three times a year since his youth, but last week he seemed almost nervous, stumbling over the earnest platitudes which are the staple of Japanese imperial utterance.
He congratulated two other Crown Princes, Frederik of Denmark and Felipe of Spain, whose weddings he was about to attend. He expressed his condolences to the victims of the Madrid bombings. He talked with polite enthusiasm about Portugal, which he was also about to visit. The words were as neat and bland as the Prince's light blue suit and dark tie; until he was asked about the woman who should have been sitting alongside him, his wife, Crown Princess Masako.
For the past six months Princess Masako has been ill; although no Japanese journalist has reported as much, people close to the couple say that she has had a breakdown and been treated with anti-depressants. There has been discreet media speculation about the causes of her illness - the stress of being the mother of a two-year old daughter, perhaps, or pressure to produce an imperial heir. None of the royal reporters present would have dared to put any of this directly; the question was a discreetly vague one about the Princess's "current condition and prospects". And the answer was completely unexpected.
Gone was the habitual indirectness and delicate understatement; Naruhito's answer was full of emotional superlatives. The Princess, he said, "regrets from the bottom of her heart" that she could not travel to Europe. He himself found it "very regretful"; "I feel," he said, "that I am wrenching myself away as I depart." Masako, he went on, has "completely exhausted" herself in trying to adapt to life as a princess. In the past, she has been "greatly distressed that she was not allowed to make overseas visits for a long time". "In fact," he went on, in the sentence which has reverberated through the imperial establishment ever since, "there were moves which nullified Masako's career, and nullified her character based on that career".
The words were spoken calmly, but it is hard to underestimate the violence of their impact on the rarefied, protocol-bound world of the Japanese imperial household. "I was quite astounded when I heard," says Toshiya Matsuzaki, a veteran royal reporter. "In almost 40 years, I have never heard anything like that."
It has brought to the surface a tangle of tensions which have been developing within the Imperial family over the past ten years. They originate in the crisis over the succession; after 126 unbroken generations the world's oldest unbroken royal line is running out of heirs. They raise questions about the Imperial family's treatment of its women, about how it is funded and administered. Most remarkably, they suggest a generational conflict between Emperor Akihito and the son who will one day succeed him. "His remarks were unprecedented," says Minoru Hamao, a former chamberlain to the Crown Prince's household. "He has never shown his emotions like this. The Crown Prince has declared war against the Imperial Household."
The story begins in 1986 when the Crown Prince, then 26, met 22-year old Masako Owada at a tea party in the Akasaka Detached Palace in Tokyo. She was a graduate of Harvard and Tokyo universities who had just passed the demanding examinations for the fast track of the Japanese foreign ministry; he was at the age when a Japanese mother will start to worry about a son who does not have a regular girlfriend. Further discreet meetings took place, several at the British Embassy under the cover of the Japan-British Society. The Prince proposed; Masako politely declined, embarked on her diplomatic career, and soon picked up another degree from Oxford. The Prince, meanwhile, remained single. After further proposals, and discreet arm-twisting of Masako's father, a senior Japanese ambassador, Masako and Naruhito became engaged.
She married him in a Shinto ceremony in 1993, dressed in a traditional 12-layered kimono, amid an atmosphere of happy celebration.
Before the wedding the princess-to-be underwent 62 hours of private tutorials from protocol experts on such matters as how to walk and the appropriate angle of an imperial bow. There were Masako dolls and Masako silk scarves in the shops, and a rash of optimistic speculation about the tonic effect that this young woman would have on one of the most closed, conservative and controlling institutions in the country.
Never had the palace been home to someone as intelligent, educated, and ambitious. Optimists predicted that she would become a role model for young Japanese women, uniting femininity, education and tradition. "If she ends up politely smiling royal smiles," the Asahi newspaper observed, "the Crown Prince's bride will not have been put to good use." From the point of view of the palace, however, Masako's intelligence and education were secondary to her primary task: to provide an imperial heir. Six years passed, with no sign of an imperial baby. In December 1999, it was announced that Masako was pregnant; a few weeks later, she miscarried.
Among the many things known among Japanese royal watchers, but never discussed publicly, is that Princess Aiko's conception a few months later came about as a result of fertility treatment. At the time, any disappointment over the baby's sex was outweighed by relief that the couple could at least have children. It is now widely expected that, in the next few years, the law will be changed to allow Princess Aiko to succeed as a reigning empress. But many legislative and political obstacles remain, chief among them the vehement opposition of the far-right, and the pressure on 40-year-old Princess Masako is heavier than ever.
In December she formally ceased her official duties; the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), the government bureaucracy that runs the Imperial court, reported that she was suffering from shingles, painful blisters caused by the herpes virus and often associated with stress. But conversations with friends and associates close to the couple suggest that she has suffered a breakdown.
Since well before the birth of her daughter, one friend of the couple reports, she has not been herself. Once a keen sportswoman, she seems to have lost interest in exercise. At a party held for her husband's 44th birthday in February she appeared drawn, and retired after the briefest of appearances. She has consulted specialists, and been prescribed with a low-dosage anti-depressant. In April she spent a month in a holiday home in the mountain resort of Karuizawa with her mother and baby. She suffers from dizziness and headaches, but it is clear to those who know her that the problem is more psychological than physical. She has ups and downs, they say, but is essentially as unhappy as she was six months ago.
What has triggered her depression? There are numerous theories. One rumour among journalists and in internet chat rooms is that little Princess Aiko has a developmental problem, possibly autism - but in her few public appearances there has been no obvious sign of this.
Anxiety about producing an heir must also be great, especially after the IHA's Grand Steward, Toshio Yuasa, told reporters: "I strongly wish for one more child."
But the biggest reason may be no more than loneliness. Palace insiders describe a life of quite extraordinary human isolation. Apart from their intermittent official appearances and occasional breaks at a handful of country and seaside villas, the couple rarely leave the Togu, the central Tokyo palace reserved for the Crown Prince and his household - no discreet dinners at fashionable restaurants, no roped off tables in night clubs, no weekends spent yachting. Even in their own home, the couple rarely entertain. IHA security rules make it impossible to invite people over on the spur of the moment; the couple do almost no regular socialising, outside their immediate family. Naruhito and Masako do not even have direct phone numbers of their own - calls must be made and received by courtiers to be transferred to the Prince or Princess, if appropriate.
Although its monarchy was spared, Japan's aristocracy was abolished by the postwar American Occupation. Unlike their counterparts in Europe, Japan's royals have no stable of skiing, water-skiing, partying toffs to cavort with and marry. What is more extraordinary, they have no money of their own - not a yen. Their living expenses and the cost of official travel are paid for by the state, and all of it has to be accounted for.
The vast grounds of the Tokyo palaces can never be leased or sold; the family possesses no jewellery or art collections or race horses. The Princess has made only a few overseas trips - the reason given is that onerous official business is a distraction from the task of conceiving a future emperor. And even if they wanted to escape on a private holiday, they do not have the financial wherewithal. They carry all the burdens of royalty, without any of the perks.
For Masako, brought up by cosmopolitan, multilingual parents in the US and Japan, this is stifling. It is an open secret that her mother-in-law, Empress Michiko, suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1960s after snobbish treatment from her aristocratic mother-in-law; in the early 1990s she lost the power of speech for several months after another collapse. Gossip - again unsubstantiated - suggests that the Empress may not have the best of relations with her own daughter-in-law.
Imperial courtiers reported that Emperor Akihito was "surprised" by the Prince's remarks last week.
Privately, they ask: Why didn't he come and talk to us about this? At the very least, his remarks suggest an extraordinary breakdown in communication between the parents and their son and daughter-in-law.
Scrutiny of their press conferences reveals that they have been hinting at their unhappiness for a while. Eighteen months ago she spoke of the effort of adjusting to a life without foreign travel. In February he said outright that pressure to have an heir had made her ill. Royal watchers speculate that the couple were pinning their hopes on travelling together to Europe this week. When the IHA insisted that Masako could not go, it was the last straw.
The Crown Prince's aides, the theory goes, prepared a draft of his more innocuous press conference answers. Then, at the last minute, he added the anguished lines about Masako - hence the delay, as the courtiers pleaded with him not to go ahead. Who knows what cuts and compromises were made behind the scenes in that half hour?
What will come of the showdown is anyone's guess. The institutional stubbornness of the IHA cannot be underestimated. On the other hand, Japan has a Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, devoted to reforming the country's sclerotic financial and political institutions - why not its monarchy too? Most importantly, it has an Emperor in waiting who is prepared to take unthinkable steps to protect his wife.
"Masako-san," Naruhito famously said when he was wooing her, "I will protect you for my entire life." This month, after 11 difficult years, he has kept his promise.
:( This is all so sad. The IR have no control of themselves.
That is so awful.
This is all so sad... :cry:
I hope that Masako will get some more freedom in the future...we live in the 21th century...
And I really don't know why they don't allow Aiko to get the throne, Japan has had female heads of state before...I really don't see the point... :cry:
This really is sad. As anyone who has ever suffered from depression knows, life in the abyss is really hard. (For an excellent description and beautiful writing, read William Styron's very short book Darkness Visible, Random House Publishers, 1990, paperback $10.00) I feel very sorry for her, and for her husband, too. I had no idea they owned nothing of their own and have none of the perks that other royals have. It's a shame the US abolished another country's monarchy. It seems like it is time to modernize that monarchy or give it up completely. Masako must feel like a caged animal.
This tale just keeps getting sadder and sadder. Masako has so much to offer to the Imperial Family and her country. She is cultured and well educated. My guess is that she is so intelligent that the "grey men" of Japan stomp her down--they want no opposition any more than their counterparts in England did when Diana stood up to be counted. :sick:
Princess Aiko should be accepted as future empress. If the couple has had fertility problems, then the IHA should be happy that a child was produced!! Masako is getting older, and it may be much more difficult now for her to conceive and carry a child to term. She is not a brood mare!! :angry: She is a human being who deserves to be treated with the respect and dignity due to her!!
Brava. Quite well said.
If that bravo was for me Kara, thank you very much! :flower:
Is there any new reports on how Masako is doing????
Well, said, Tiaraprin, also!
Well if ever there was a case to be made for threatening to leave the monarchy, this is it. If I were the CP and as in love with my wife as he seems to be, I would certainly issue some ultimatums about life and travel or step down on principle alone. In a country as dutiful and duty-bound as Japan, I doubt this will happen.
But perhaps the people will rise up and support Masako. She had a lot to offer.
Or, he can let her go, divorce her and free her. Painful as that might be for him, it would be generous.
Since the little princess isn't in line for the throne, unless they change that, I don't see custody being a problem. Princesses aren't valued anyway. THen Masako and her little girl can come live in California or Europe and have an actual life. (I say California because the weather is nice and it's not that far to Japan.)
If I were her, I'd be plotting my escape and defection.
I agree 100%. If the IHA doesn't have the sense to see what they have in Masako then she should be set free to live her life as she sees fit.
What a tragic, tragic waste of life and potential.
I don't think though that Naruhito wants to divorce Masako and he loves his daughter too. Naruhito chased Masako for seven years before she consented to marry him--Naruhito truly loves her.
In ways, I feel Naruhito is a victim also. He is trapped in a position that, like the royal family of England, he cannot get out of--in fact, worse than England!!. The power rests with the courtiers, not the royals. He also has centuries and centuries of tradition to fight too. Unless the whole Imperial Family stands up as one to fight this, it isn't going to go away. The Emperor and Empress have to stand behind their son and daughter-in-law. It is the only way I see the possibility of this situation changing.
TOKYO (Reuters) - She's 2 1/2 years old, the spitting image of her dad, and she could well become Japan's first reigning empress in more than two centuries.
Japan's littlest princess, Aiko, has been shielded from the public glare as media ponder the plight of her mother, Crown Princess Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat who has been suffering from a stress-related illness since December.
One week before her 11th wedding anniversary, however, Masako's sad tale is casting a spotlight on the simmering question of whether Japan will follow the trend of other modern monarchies and change its males-only succession law to let Aiko ascend the Chrysanthemum throne.
Royal watchers say Aiko's father, Crown Prince Naruhito, almost certainly had his daughter's unsettled future as well as his wife's present distress in mind when he uttered surprisingly blunt remarks last month about the pressures on Masako, 40, to adapt to conservative imperial ways.
"He made the frankest appeal that he could," said Keio University Professor Hidehiko Kusahara.
"It isn't possible for the crown prince to comment directly on the succession problem ... so he did it that way."
Japanese TV, tabloids and mainstream media have been abuzz with gossip about Masako ever since the prince dropped his verbal bombshell before departing -- without his wife -- on a trip to Europe.
Explaining why Masako would stay home, Naruhito said she had "completely exhausted herself" trying to adapt to royal life since their marriage on June 9, 1993.
"It is true that there were developments that denied Princess Masako's career up to then as well as her personality driven by her career," he told a news conference in words that reverberated within as well as outside the conservative court.
SAD CROWN PRINCESS
It was an unusually outspoken comment for one of Japan's self-effacing royals, who have kept their support among the public high since the emperor renounced his status as a "living god" after World War II largely by crafting an image of a "middle-class monarchy" -- earnest, well-behaved, even dull.
"The crown prince was saying, 'Almost surely there is not going to be another child, so let Masako play the diplomatic role she wants to play and let's start making plans for an empress'," said Portland State University professor Kenneth Ruoff, author of "The People's Emperor," a book about Japan's modern monarchy.
A promising diplomat when she took to heart Naruhito's pledge to protect her "forever with all his might" and accepted his proposal, Masako had dreamed of becoming a sort of "royal envoy."
Conservative courtiers, eager for an heir, had other ideas, and she has been able to take only five trips abroad.
After more than eight years of marriage during which the stylish, vibrant Masako seemed to fade into a demure, almost dowdy alter ego, she gave birth to Aiko in December 2001.
But neither the toddler princess nor the two daughters of Prince Akishino -- Naruhito's younger brother and the last of the imperial male line -- can inherit the throne.
Disappointment over Aiko's gender prompted Japan's top court bureaucrat to call publicly for the royal couple to have a second child and later for Akishino and his wife to consider a third, comments that undoubtedly contributed to Masako's unhappiness.
The crown princess's woes have garnered a good deal of sympathy, especially from women who can relate to her effort to preserve her identity and pursue a career after marriage.
"I think the majority of ordinary people -- their hearts go out to her," said Yuko Kawanishi, a sociologist at Tokyo Gakugei University. "She is a person who seemed to have everything and now is in the middle of a tragedy."
Few among the public support the notion that only a male should ascend the throne. Media surveys show that about 80 percent favor revising the 1947 succession law.
Conservatives, however, cite several reasons for Japan to buck the global trend toward royal gender equality.
Topping the list is the argument that while Japan has had eight reigning empresses, none of those passed the throne to her own child. Instead, traditionalists believe, the imperial lineage stretches back through 2,600 years of patriarchal succession.
"It's not simply that Japan is more male chauvinistic than other countries," Portland State's Ruoff said.
"It probably is, but that's not all there is to it. It's because a substantial bunch of hard-core supporters of the throne believe a reigning empress is the end of history," he added.
Conservatives also worry that an empress-to-be would have trouble finding a spouse because suitable men would be unwilling to accept the subservient position of royal consort.
Whatever the logic, the reality is that there are simply no royal males in Aiko's generation.
That reality has forced politicians to ponder reform but many seem loathe to push too quickly, perhaps for fear of offending powerful support groups such as Shinto shrines.
While ideas such as reviving Japan's prewar nobility to find a distantly related royal male to inherit have been floated, ultimately conservatives will likely have to bow to the times.
"There is not one single male among the emperor's grandchildren," Keio's Kusahara said.
"That means there is no other option.
This is such a shame. It seems as though Masako was afraid of what would happen to her if she married the Prince, and her fears have been borne out. I'm so glad he finally stood up for her.
The IHA should have stopped to think about the effect their attitude would have on Masako since between them and the old Empress (Hirohito's wife) they managed to drive Empress Michiko to a couple of nervous breakdowns. If they really think that that's a good way to get a modern, highly educated, and intelligent woman in her 30s to have lots of sons, they need a collective brain transplant. What a bunch of cruel idiots.
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