Click here to see our special on Princess Masako

10 MAY 2004             Click here to send this news item to a friend

On the point of departing for a three-nation European tour which will encompass the much-publicised Danish and Spanish royal weddings, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito has revealed that his wife is "greatly distressed" that she cannot accompany him.

In what amounts to a criticism of the rigorously traditional Imperial Household Agency, which keeps a tight rein on all royal activities, Naruhito said in a press conference on Monday that Crown Princess Masako was "anguished that she was hardly allowed to visit foreign countries although she left her job as a diplomat to join the imperial family and believed it was an important role for imperial family members to promote international friendship."

Masako had a promising career as a diplomat and twice refused Naruhito's proposal because of her fears over what life would be like within the royal family, before finally marrying him in 1992. The couple made their last trip abroad together in December 2002, to Australia and New Zealand. Since then, Masako has admitted suffering "fatigue" and has dropped out of public view.

The prince, who swore to protect her all his life, said at the press conference that, "Masako seems worn out in her efforts to adjust herself to life as a royal over the past 10 years... There was something that amounted to a denial of Masako's former career and personality." Questioned on this, Naruhito cited his own and Masako's distress at "the inability to visit foreign countries."

The crown prince said that his wife, who also suffered enormous stress over the expectation that she should produce a male heir, is gradually rebuilding her confidence, but that it may take "longer than initially expected" for her to return to her official duties. The couple have one daughter, Aiko.

Having left her job as a diplomat to join the royal family, Masako is "anguished" that she is hardly allowed to visit foreign countries, her husband has revealed
Photo: AFP
Click on photos to enlarge

Masako joins her husband on her last foreign visit, to New Zealand, in December 2002
Photo: AFP