Japan's stressed crown princess to return to duties
Japan's Crown Princess Masako, the former career woman who has kept out of the public eye for a year due to stress, promised on her 41st birthday she would try to get back to her official duties soon.
"This has been a hard time but I feel my health is improving gradually thanks to support by the Crown Prince and many other people," she said.
"It may take some more time to resume full-fledged duties but I would like to make efforts to recover and show my cheerful self," she said.
Her statement came amid signs that her plight, which has triggered widespread sympathy among Japanese, has set off a royal family feud.
Her husband has accused conservative royal minders of mistreating her but the empress and her brother-in-law have defended the ways of the world's longest-running monarchy.
The princess in her brief statement said only that she was grateful for warm support from Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and voiced "my heartfelt gratitude" to the people who have showed sympathy for her.
Masako, who is a Harvard graduate and is fluent in four languages, gave up a promising diplomatic career to marry Crown Prince Naruhito who is purported to have promised her breathing space.
Hideki Hayashida, grand master of the Crown Prince's Household, said Wednesday the princess may be able to attend a small number of New Year's events.
But doctors said her current condition cannot allow them to declare a recovery as she was still experiencing a sleeping disorder and other problems.
They hope the princess will go out for private errands as part of treatment.
The crown princess suspended all official duties since being hospitalized last December with shingles. In January, she released a statement saying she was suffering from accumulated "mental and physical wariness".
The Japanese public last saw her smiling on December 1 when the palace released a video in which she and Crown Prince Naruhito played with their daughter on Aiko's third birthday.
Crown Prince Naruhito told an unusually open news conference in May that his wife had exhausted herself trying to adapt to the royal household.
But he came under fire from Prince Akishino, who last month took the unusual step of openly criticizing his elder brother for going public with his concerns.
Empress Michiko, in a statement on her 70th birthday in October, made veiled criticism of her daughter-in-law by saying the Imperial Household Agency "is not a place that should be censured as it is now."