Japanese Emperor Akihito Thursday weighed in on a
months-long controversy surrounding his
daughter-in-law's stress-related illness, saying he was
shocked by his son's accusations earlier this year that
palace officials were to blame.
In an imperial statement released to mark his 71st
birthday, the emperor said his son's imprudent remarks
had "caused a flurry of discussions including
speculations not based on fact ..."
The controversy _ sparked by Crown Prince Naruhito's
criticism of the officials in May _ has led to
speculation of a rift in the family. At the time,
Naruhito said his wife's handlers were trying to "deny
His comments garnered public sympathy for Masako, who
since last December has withdrawn from official duties
due to depression attributed to the pressures of palace
However, Naruhito's younger brother, Prince Akishino,
publicly rebuked his elder sibling for the statements,
saying the crown prince should have consulted his father
before accusing palace officials.
Educated at Harvard, Oxford and Japan's prestigious
Tokyo University, Masako gave up a career in Japan's
Foreign Ministry and married Naruhito in 1993.
Before falling ill, she complained of hardly being
allowed to travel abroad. Critics have suggested palace
officials were reluctant to let Masako, 41, travel until
she produces a male heir.
Masako and Naruhito have one daughter, 3-year-old
In July, the Imperial Household Agency said Masako was
suffering from an adaptive disorder and was being
treated through counseling and medication. She has
largely stayed out of the public eye since last
Akihito said he has talked with his son several times
about his remarks and learned that Masako was facing "a
number of problems," but he added: "There are still some
things that I have not fully understood yet."
"I sincerely hope that in frankly conveying the hopes
that they now have, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess
will be able to move towards the realization of those
hopes and that this will bring them stability and
brightness in their life together."
Under Japan's postwar constitution, the royal family has
no official political power but plays an important
symbolic role in society.
The emperor's birthday, a national holiday, is only one
of two days during the year when the public is allowed
behind the palace walls. On Thursday, hundreds of well
wishers cheered Akihito as he waved at them on the
balcony, accompanied by his family, including Naruhito.
Masako was absent, however. Kyodo.