- The Washington Times - Monday, January 2, 2006

TOKYO — Japanese Crown Princess Masako appeared with the rest of the imperial family yesterday as hopes grew that she was resuming her royal duties after a two-year absence.

The princess, educated at Harvard and Oxford universities before beginning a career in the Foreign Ministry, has been suffering from a stress-related form of depression.

But she appeared healthy and smiling on the palace balcony from where Emperor Akihito and other royals traditionally deliver New Year’s greetings to well-wishers.

This year, the princess appeared three times, whereas she had been able to appear only once last year.

Princess Masako, 42, also attended palace ceremonies on Sunday for the first time in three years and has made occasional official visits, including attending the Expo in Aichi in July.

She was considered a breath of fresh air when she married into the royal family in 1993, but struggled to adapt to palace life and the pressures of media attention.

Her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, promised to protect her when they married. His frustration at apparently being unable to keep his word boiled over in 2004, when he said it was “undeniable” that courtiers had tried to “deny Masako’s character and career.”

The couple clearly hoped that the princess’ skills as a diplomat and linguist would enable her to play an important role as an ambassador for Japan.

But the prince had to make overseas trips alone while his wife first was expected to bear an heir to the throne.

Many of the princess’ difficulties are thought to stem from the pressure to produce a male heir. Under law, only males may inherit, and there is no son beyond the next generation.

Princess Masako suffered a miscarriage in 1999 and the couple’s only child is a daughter, 4-year-old Princess Aiko.

Japan is now moving to enable Princess Aiko to become reigning empress, thus lifting the pressure from Princess Masako.

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