Japan's Princess Masako Says She is 'Making Efforts to Recover' from 'Stress-Induced' Illness

"Taking care of my health, I have tried to fulfill my public and private duties as much as possible this year," she said in a rare public statement

Photo: The Imperial Household Agency of Japan/AP

Crown Princess Masako says she’s trying to recover from the debilitating stress-related condition that has blighted her life for more than a decade.

The Harvard-educated wife of Japan’s heir to the Imperial throne is increasing her official engagements and, according to her medical team, making steady progress.

“Taking care of my health, I have tried to fulfill my public and private duties as much as possible this year,” the Crown Princess, who turned 52 on Wednesday, said in a rare public statement earlier this week.

“With the help of people around me, I would like to continue making efforts to recover,” she added.

Doctors at Japan’s Imperial Household Agency also released a statement acknowledging that Princess Masako has been receiving treatment for a stress-induced illness for 12 years.

“Although Crown Princess Masako is making a steady recovery, there are still ups and downs in her health,” her medical team said.

Her recovery began with her 2014 appearance at a state banquet for the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima.

In November – for the first time since 2003 – Princess Masako appeared at the biannual garden party hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

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Sporty and outgoing, Princess Masako seemed an unlikely candidate for the rigidly controlled world of the Japanese imperial family.

The daughter of a career diplomat posted to Moscow, New York and Boston, she also enjoyed summer sojourns in Germany and France.

After entering Harvard University in 1981, she graduated in economics magna cum laude four years later.

Returning to Japan, Masako attended Tokyo University’s law faculty – the training ground for generations of Japanese leaders – and joined the foreign ministry’s fast track, finishing her graduate studies in 1990 at Oxford’s Balliol College.

Twice she rebuffed marriage proposals from Naruhito, who had fallen for her in 1986. She finally relented, and submitted to rigorous lessons in the minutiae of imperial etiquette before her nuptials.

After the fanfare of her June 1993 wedding to the heir to the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne, Masako slowly faded from public view.

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The Crown Princess was, from the start, under pressure to produce a male heir to continue a regal line that reputedly stretches back thousands of years and has a continuous tradition of male-only succession.

After a stress-induced 1990 miscarriage, Masako gave birth in December 2001 to Princess Aiko. Her birth sparked debate about women entering the imperial line of succession, but officials said there was no rush to change current laws.

Concern about the Crown Princess’s health and frame of mind mounted, with reports of illness and “weariness” that were compounded by Crown Prince Naruhito’s almost unheard of departure from protocol to criticize the deeply conservative Imperial household’s treatment of his wife.

The Crown Princess this week also expressed her hope that her 14-year-old daughter Princess Aiko will continue to enjoy life at Gakushuin Girl s Junior High School.

The Imperial couple s only child was, during her elementary school days, sometimes absent from class, reportedly because of bullying.

A source close to the Crown Princess, quoted in the English-language newspaper Japan Times attributed the royal mom’s recovering health to fewer worries over Princess Aiko s school life.

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