- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2003

TOKYO — The Imperial Palace in Tokyo used to declare its budget on a single piece of paper, with only the barest of details. Now a new book has given the Japanese an unprecedented glimpse into royal life — and how Emperor Akihito spends his annual $240 million of public money.Revealed for the first time is a staff list that includes four doctors on call 24 hours a day, five men who attend to his wardrobe and 11 who assist him in Shinto rites.In all, Japan’s royal family commands a legion of more than 1,000 people, including a 24-piece orchestra, 30 gardeners, 25 cooks and 78 plumbers, electricians and builders.The main imperial palace, in Tokyo, home to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, requires 160 servants to keep it running — partly because of rules like one that a maid who wipes a table cannot also wipe the floor, according to “The Imperial Family Purse.”Meanwhile, the emperor and his family run up a monthly water bill of $80,000.The book, which is opening up public debate about the role of the imperial family, draws on some 200 documents made available for the first time under a new public-information law.Until now, facts about spending were hidden behind the so-called “Chrysanthemum Curtain,” which keeps secret much of the Japanese royal family’s life.”Compared to the time when no information was available, this is an epochal step forward,” writes the book’s author, Yohei Mori, former royal correspondent for the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper. Even so, the Imperial Household Agency refused to consider follow-up questions from the Sunday Telegraph until they were supplied in writing, in Japanese, and was then unable to respond last week. Mr. Mori points out that in addition to the emperor’s own doctors, his palace has a $320 million-a-year clinic with 42 staff and eight medical departments, but only 28 visitors a day.The room in which Crown Princess Masako gave birth to Princess Aiko two years ago was redecorated beforehand at a cost of $220,000. A special 961-strong police force guards the imperial family and their residences at a cost of $75 million. The emperor spent $220,000 building a new wine cellar, which stores 4,500 bottles of 11 types of white wine and seven types of red.When President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa visited Japan in 2001, he was served Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1982, which today costs about $500 a bottle, and Dom Perignon 1992 champagne. The Japanese imperial family consists of an inner court of six: the emperor and empress; Princess Sayako, their unmarried daughter; Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako and their daughter. But the civil list covers a further 19 family members who also live in imperial residences, although they are not forbidden to hold other jobs or run businesses. Prince Tomohito, a cousin of the emperor, and his wife and two daughters, both university students, receive nearly $500,000 a year, even though their royal duties are light and few Japanese even know who they are. Mr. Mori says discussion about the imperial purse has been stifled by secrecy and a lack of scrutiny by the politicians who approve the budget. “Immediately after the war, there was some level of debate,” he writes.”But a sense of taboo means that people have come to avoid peering into the imperial household’s economy.”

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