Asia

Japan Crown Princess Masako attends first banquet in 11 years

Japan’s Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito leave a welcoming ceremony for King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on 29 October, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Princess Masako has largely stayed out of public view in the last decade

Japan's Crown Princess has attended a banquet for visiting Dutch royals, her first such appearance in 11 years.

Princess Masako, 50, is the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, the heir to the Japanese imperial throne.

She began to suffer from a stress-related illness after joining the imperial family in 1993.

Since the birth of their daughter in 2001, she has made rare public appearances but has largely stayed away from royal duties.

Princess Masako also attended a welcoming ceremony for King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife Queen Maxima, at the Imperial Palace earlier on Wednesday. It was her first welcome ceremony appearance in five years.

The event was hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Princess Masako and the family did travel to the Netherlands last year to attend the king's inauguration in what was seen as a sign of her recovery.

Image copyright AP
Image caption After much pressure to produce a male heir she gave birth to a daughter, Aiko, in 2001

Profile: Crown Princess Masako

  • Born on 9 December 1963, Crown Princess Masako is the daughter of a senior diplomat
  • Because of her father's job she attended school in Moscow and Boston before attending Harvard University
  • Fluent in several languages, she joined the Japanese foreign ministry in 1987
  • She reportedly turned down Crown Prince Naruhito's proposals of marriage twice because of a fear imperial life would be too constricting, but married him in 1993
  • The princess had a miscarriage in 1999, but two years later gave birth to a daughter, Princess Aiko
  • Media scrutiny and restricted royal life are said to have contributed to her ill health

Image copyright AP
Image caption Japan's Emperor Akihito (fourth left) gives a speech to welcome King Willem-Alexander (third left) and Queen Maxima (second right) as Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako listen

Before marrying the Crown Prince, who is the eldest son of the Emperor and Empress, Princess Masako was a successful diplomat who spoke several languages and travelled extensively.

Observers say she had an abrupt transition from her cosmopolitan lifestyle to the rigidity of royal life in Japan.

She was diagnosed with "adjustment disorder", which is linked with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Many blame her ill health on the pressure to produce a male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne as the royal family went through a succession crisis.

The crisis was resolved when Crown Prince Naruhito's younger brother, Prince Akishino and his wife, had a son in 2006.

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