Japan considering trip for stress-hit princess
Japan's royal minders took the unusual step of announcing that a rare foreign trip is being considered for Crown Princess Masako in a sign they may be doing more to help her cope with a mental disorder brought on by rigid palace life.
"So, her attendance is now under consideration," the official said.
If the trip goes ahead it would be the princess' first official excursion since she was hospitalised with shingles in December last year.
It is extremely unusual for the agency to announce a possible trip by a royal family member before it is confirmed, and suggests that palace bureaucrats are trying to be seen as tackling the princess' illness, which is widely viewed to be of their making.
In July the agency said doctors had diagnosed Masako, 40, as suffering from adjustment disorder.
Many Japanese and foreign observers believe Masako has suffered a nervous breakdown because of the pressure to produce a male heir by the conservative courtiers of the Imperial Household Agency.
The couple has a daughter, Aiko, but she cannot ascend the throne under the current male-only succession law.
Speaking ahead of his solo European tour in May, the mild-mannered Naruhito shocked Japan when he said the princess had exhausted herself in adapting to the imperial household for the past 10 years and appeared to criticise the agency for stifling her career and personality.
Masako was "anguished" by the fact she was allowed to make almost no foreign trips, despite her diplomatic background, Naruhito said at the time.
The once outgoing daughter of a prominent diplomat and a former elite diplomat herself, the multi-lingual Masako has made only five foreign trips with Naruhito since the couple married in 1993.