In a rare public statement, Japan’s Crown Princess Masako opened up on her feeling “insecure” about the prospect of becoming empress after Emperor Akihito officially abdicates the imperial throne on April 30, 2019. Princess Masako, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated former diplomat who married Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993, has struggled with adjustment disorder since becoming part of the imperial family and has rarely appeared in public over the past two decades. Upon Emperor Akihito’s abdication, Prince Naruhito is set to assume the throne.
“Even though I feel insecure about how helpful I will be when I think about the days ahead … I want to devote myself to the happiness of the people so I will make an effort to that end,” Princess Masako, 55, said in a statement.
In recent years, many have suggested amending Japanese law to afford the imperial family’s women the same privileges as its men — current imperial law allows only men to succeed the throne. Similarly, while female royals are required to give up their royal status should they choose to marry commoners, male royals are permitted to marry commoners without having to give up anything. Japan’s Princess Ayako became a commoner with her marriage in late October, and her sister, Princess Mako, is also set to marry a commoner in 2020.
Earlier in her life, Princess Masako faced significant public pressure to produce a male heir in order to continue the dwindling imperial line. Masako gave birth to a daughter, Princess Aiko, in 2001, but Masako’s sister-in-law, Princess Akishino, later eased the pressure by giving birth to the emperor’s only grandson, Prince Hisahito, in 2006.
At a statement given on her birthday this year, Princess Masako revealed that she had been suffering from a stress-related illness.
“I am delighted at the fact that I can perform more duties than before as I have tried to improve my physical condition,” she said at the time.
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