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Japan crown prince, princess celebrate silver anniv. ahead of enthronement

Crown Prince Naruhito, on the occasion of his 25th wedding anniversary Saturday, expressed resolve to “firmly play the role of emperor as the symbol (of the state) as stipulated in the current Constitution” ahead of his enthronement next May 1.

The crown prince, 58, in a statement issued with Crown Princess Masako to mark their silver wedding anniversary, said he believes it is important to inherit the tradition of the imperial family while responding to changes in society.

(Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako at their palace in Tokyo on June 5)
[Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency]

In relation to his 54-year-old wife the crown princess, who has spent more than half of the past 25 years battling a stress-induced illness, the crown prince said she is “doing her best to recover.”

He also said he hopes the public will “take a long-term and warm look” at her efforts. Her condition has improved in recent years and she has appeared more often in public.

The crown princess said in the statement she will “continue praying for people’s happiness” after becoming empress. The couple also expressed gratitude to each other for providing support.

Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne the day after his 84-year-old father, Emperor Akihito, abdicates on April 30, based on his desire to step down due to concern about his age and failing health.

The crown prince, who has made research into water issues his lifework, was educated at Tokyo’s Gakushuin University and studied for two years at the University of Oxford’s Merton College.

At a Gakushuin reunion in January this year, the crown prince told friends who were chatting about reaching the retirement age of 60 in the near future, “In my case, I will be getting started,” according to Yuko Matsuoka, who studied with the crown prince and was also at the gathering.

Matsuoka said she felt the crown prince’s “positive feelings about his enthronement” in the remark.

(The imperial couple and their daughter Aiko, right, at JR Utsunomiya Station in May 2018)

The crown prince and crown princess married on June 9, 1993, after courting for years since first meeting at a reception for Spain’s Princess Elena in 1986.

Harvard-educated Crown Princess Masako, a commoner like Empress Michiko, 83, accepted a marriage proposal and quit her career at the Foreign Ministry, saying she was moved when the crown prince told her, “I will protect you with all my might for my entire life.”

Eight and a half years after their marriage, their only child, Princess Aiko, was born in December 2001, following a miscarriage. But the princess cannot ascend the throne as Japan’s current law stipulates that only males born to the male lineage of the imperial family can.

The crown princess remained under pressure to bear a male heir and began receiving treatment for a physical and mental ailment in late 2003. She was later diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

There has been media speculation of a family rift in the imperial household, especially after the crown prince said in May 2004 in a press conference, “It is true there were developments that were regarded as denying Masako’s career (as a diplomat) as well as her personality.”

He was referring to the fact that the crown princess had thought she could play a meaningful role in furthering international relations in her new position, but found that she was not easily allowed to travel abroad and that this caused the former diplomat considerable anguish.

The crown prince’s younger brother Prince Akishino expressed regret that the crown prince made the remarks without consulting the emperor. But the comments comforted the then 40-year-old crown princess, who was struggling under the pressure to give birth to a boy and not being easily able to go overseas, an Imperial Household Agency source said.

In 2013, she accompanied her husband on a visit to the Netherlands to attend the coronation of Dutch King Willem-Alexander, making her first official overseas trip in 11 years. Notably from last year, she has engaged in an increasing number of official duties and ceremonies.

A former aide to the couple said Crown Princess Masako’s recovery was due to the dedication of Crown Prince Naruhito, who would “stay up all night with her when she couldn’t sleep even if he had an official duty the next morning,” and Princess Aiko having grown up.

A senior agency official said although the crown princess will likely continue recuperating from her illness after becoming empress, “the way the couple help each other in difficulties must win empathy from the public.”

All – Kyodo News+

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