9 FEBRUARY 2009 Visiting Vietnam without his wife this week, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito has once again appealed to the Japanese public to be understanding of Crown Princess Masako's stress-induced illness.
"Masako is making efforts to perform as many official duties as possible," the 48-year-old heir said at a conference ahead of his week-long trip. "Please watch her with warmth and take the long-term view."
The Japanese royal added that he and his wife - who has been suffering for several years with a disorder thought to be caused by the difficulty of adjusting to palace life, and largely remains out of the public eye - are both aware of the importance of state visits, but added decisions had to be made on an individual basis.
"Masako is still under treatment for her illness," he said. "It is necessary to make a cautious decision looking at travel distances, the period of stay and the events to attend."
It is not the first time that Naruhito has spoken out about his Harvard-educated wife's illness. Most recently, the prince asked for support for the mother-of-one when she was unable to accompany him to Spain in August 2008.