Japan's Empress Michiko has spoken out about her daughter-in-law's ongoing emotional troubles. In a statement issued to mark her 70th birthday, Emperor Akihito's wife offered her sympathy to Princess Masako, but seemed to hint that she should rise to the challenge of her responsibilities.
"When a member of a family is suffering, it is a source of sadness for everyone in the family," she said. "It's not only I, but all the members of our family who wish for the crown princess' recovery and want to be of help to her."
Masako has only appeared in public on a handful of occasions in the last year, as she struggles with what the Imperial Household has termed an "adjustment disorder". Her husband Crown Prince Naruhito provoked controversy in May when he said she had become exhausted after ten years trying to adapt to royal life.
The Harvard-graduate, who was a career diplomat before her marriage, was also said to be under pressure to produce a male heir. So far she and Naruhito have only had one child, little Princess Aiko, who was born in 2001.
But Empress Michiko, who was the first commoner to marry into Japan's royal family, seemed to indicate she had felt many of the same pressures in her time. "During all the years since, the sense of heavy responsibility has stayed with me all the time that I should not disgrace the Imperial Family, with its long history, who accepted me, an ordinary citizen, as crown princess."
The conservatism of Japan's Imperial Household is well known, and Michiko also voiced her desire that Masako should help the ancient institution to modernise. "I sincerely hope that the two Princesses, Masako and Kiko, will spend long years as members of the Imperial Family, and will be able to see not only the things that I have done, but also the many things that I have not been able to do, so that they will continue to add more to the Imperial Family, fulfilling what I have been unable to accomplish."