'Fairy Tale' Keeps Japanese Royals Up at Night

The Imperial Household Agency, which manages the affairs of the Japanese royal family, canceled birthday events to mark Princess Masako's birthday because she had a fever and other cold symptoms.

A recent statement from the head of the Imperial Household Agency shed some light on the condition of Princess Masako. The household official also shared his personal views regarding the Emperor Akihito, who also canceled some official events due to ill health.

"The emperor has suffered inflammation in the stomach and intestine," said Shingo Haketa, the grand steward, or senior official of the Imperial Household. "Physical and mental stress seems to be partly responsible for his condition."

Haketa said the emperor seems to have been concerned about the crown prince and his wife Masako, who has been receiving treatment for the past five years.

Even Emporers Need Rest

He said the emperor was "deeply hurt" by some views blaming the state of the imperial household as the reason for Princess Masako's illness.

"It seems to me that [the emperor] has been worried about various issues concerning the imperial household for the past few years," said Haketa, "including the issue of imperial lineage into the future."

The 74-year-old emperor, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer five years ago, still carries a full load of official duties. The emperor took four days off in November of last year. "I would like the emperor to reduce his busy workload in the coming month," Haketa told the Japanese media.

The Japanese emperor is the "symbol of the state" with no political power under the post-war Constitution. But his life and that of his family remain the subjects of close attention among Japanese.

"Empress Michiko has always shown me the way of life and who I would like to be," Tokyo homemaker Tsuyako Igarashi, 80, said.

"I raised five children, lived with and took care of my in-laws and participated in the family business," she said. "I did it all as I watched the Empress do her part, raising three children and tending to official duties."

Those official duties and the lives of the royal family are controlled by more than 1,000 staff of the Imperial Household Agency. It handles day-to-day activities of the royal life from managing schedules to making travel arrangements.

Maintaining the imperial lifestyle and tradition is a primary concern for the agency.

"Therefore, producing a male heir became a main responsibility for Princess Masako," journalist Matsuzaki said. "This made it difficult for the princess to establish her new role, to promote international goodwill by making the most of her experience as a foreign diplomat."

The crown prince said that his wife was "greatly distressed that she was not allowed to make overseas visits for a long time."

"The birth of Prince Hisahito does not necessarily resolve every issue the current royal family faces," said Manabu Oshima, a reporter for the Japanese daily Sankei Shinbun.

He followed the family closely for two years, covering the birth of Prince Hisahito, who is now third in line for succession following his uncle, the crown prince and his father, Prince Akishino. Four more male members of the family are also eligible to become the emperor.

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