It is said that Japan is the last country in the world with a royal head of state using the title of Emperor, and their dynasty is officially described in the country as being unbroken since ancient times. Now the current Japanese Emperor, Akihito, has prevailed upon the government in the past several years to allow him to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing advanced age and declining health, and pass it to his son and heir Crown Prince Naruhito, by next year. While this step is a one-off measure accommodating Akihito alone, and no problems are foreseen in the abdication, one party is voicing reservations.
The BBC reports that with the impending abdication of her father-in-law, and the subsequent ascension of her husband Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor of Japan in 2019, Crown Princess Masako has made known how she is feeling daunted by the grand honor and duty that will be given to her once she becomes Empress. She made this comment in a statement made available in the occasion of her 55th birthday Sunday, December 9. Nevertheless, she remarks that she is resolved to do right by the Japanese people and their country.
Born to a Japanese diplomat, the once-Masako Owada was educated overseas, eventually graduating magna cum laude in Economics from Harvard/Radcliffe in 1985. A prospective career in the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cut short when she was courted by Prince Naruhito in 1986 (when Emperor Hirohito still lived). They were married in 1993; and since then Princess Masako has been, in her husband’s words, been beset by the Imperial Household Agency, the government organ that oversees the activities of the Imperial Family, particularly in her failure to bear a son and direct heir for Crown Prince Naruhito. The Prince noted that Masako’s disappearance from public functions was born of complete exhaustion and anxiety, for which he blames Palace officials.
“Giving thought to the days ahead, I sometimes feel insecure about the extent to which I will be able to be of service to people,” the Crown Princess’ statement read. “But I will strive to do my best so that I can contribute to their happiness.” She also noted that she has been recovering from her emotional collapse in past years, enough to perform some, if not many official duties.
Akihito became Emperor of Japan in 1989 following the death of his father Hirohito. The name of his reign era is Heisei (“peace everywhere”), which will end on April 30, to be replaced by a new era name under his son Naruhito, who will be aged 58 upon becoming Emperor. As his only child is Princess Aiko, and women cannot become Emperor under Japanese law, Naruhito’s heir-apparent is his younger brother Fumihito, Prince Akishino. He has a son, Prince Hisahito.
Image from The Japan Times