'Fairy Tale' Keeps Japanese Royals Up at Night

$1 Million Vacation

"Hearing directly from members of the royal family is extremely difficult," journalist Matsuzaki said.

"They speak to the press on special occasions such as a birthday, wedding or foreign trip. Even so, reporters cannot ask questions freely. The press corps needs to send out a list of written questions which is checked by the agency staff."

"The interview subjects then respond by reading their scripted response. But, still, press conferences give the family members a rare opportunity to reach out to the public."

Although Princess Masako has been tending to a few more official duties, she has been seen more often at private outings, including being snapped by paparazzi dining at lavish Tokyo restaurants.

The family took an unprecedented two-week private trip to the Netherlands in the summer of 2006, accompanied by Princess Masako's doctor. The total cost of the trip, calculated roughly as $1 million, is said have been paid out of the annual stipend the Imperial Household receives from the national government.

The five members of the imperial household -- the emperor, empress, crown prince, Princess Masako and Princess Aiko -- share a total of about $3.3 million of an annual stipend for daily activities. The palace has no breakdown for individual portions.

Give Royals a Break

"I do not mind our tax money being spent for their personal trip so long as they fulfill their responsibilities at home," said Kenjiro Kondo, a 59-year-old Tokyo businessman.

"It cannot be helped that a trip comes with an expensive price tag since they cannot travel or even move around freely like us. Come on, we need to give them a break."

Psychiatrist Kayama hopes the public understanding for Princess Masako will not wear out before she gets better. "There is nothing wrong with meeting with friends or taking a personal trip," Kayama said. "The princess should do what she can, considering her condition. But my fear is that the public sentiment towards Princess Masako may be shifting from sympathy to frustration.

"People may think she now chooses her activities. Someone in the agency or even her doctor needs to come out and give more details about her to help us understand why she does what she does." Kayama said.

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