Did Princess Masako suffer a nervous breakdown or was she simply depressed?


I usually don’t cover Japan’s royal family. Actually, I’ve never covered them before, but I have read articles about poor Princess Masako, the Crown Princess of Japan. She was an educated, professional woman when she married Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993. According to my five-minute research on Wikipedia, Naruhito was enchanted with Masako for many years, and proposed to her three times before she finally agreed to marry him. The marriage has produced only one child, a daughter named Princess Toshi. The Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan is even more sexist than Europe’s royal houses and many believed that Naruhito and Masako should have worked harder to provide a male heir. This criticism – focused mainly on Masako – led to Masako to basically become a recluse. She rarely appears in public and barely ever travels.

The reason I’m writing about Masako now is because she did step out last week, and after that, People Magazine had a fascinating write-up about what’s going on with her. You can read the full People article here, and here’s what I found interesting:

For many young girls, becoming a princess is a dream come true. But for Japan’s Crown Princess Masako, somewhere along the way, the fairy tale went wrong. The 50-year-old princess, who has lived a life largely in seclusion since 2002, made headlines this week for a rare public appearance at an imperial banquet honoring the Netherlands’ Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander.

For years, rumors have swirled about the notoriously private princess. Once a young Harvard grad with a promising career as a diplomat ahead of her, she gave it all up to marry Crown Prince Naruhito, now 54. And then – she vanished from public life. Princess Masako withdrew behind the walls of the Imperial Palace, amid reports that she had suffered a nervous breakdown and speculation that it was the result of being unable to produce a male heir.

Japanese royal officials have said only that she suffers from an “adjustment disorder,” though many speculate that depression is the real culprit.

Prince Naruhito, who appears totally devoted to his wife, has defended her from detractors, memorably saying in 2004 that the princess was “completely exhausted” from trying to fit into the royal household, which he added had “nullified her career and nullified her character.”

But over the years, other events appear to have driven Princess Masako further into isolation.

In 2006, her sister-in-law, Princess Kiko did what Masako couldn’t and gave birth to a son, Prince Hisahito. He is third in line to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne. Since then, Kiko, 48, has enjoyed a beloved-celebrity status that still eludes Masako.

“Princess Kiko was courageous to give birth to a third child in a society of low birthrate,” said House of Councilors president Chikage Ogi in 2006. “This is what women should learn from her.”

For all of her impressive accomplishments, Princess Masako is still, and likely will always be, defined by her inability to produce a male heir in the rigid Japanese monarchy. Could the tragic story have a happy ending? One can only hope that this week’s appearance brings more public outings, and hopefully, some peace for the princess.

[From People]

I’m sure there are people much more familiar with Japanese cultural norms, but it seems like Masako’s issues are rarely spoken of in compassionate terms in Japanese society, and that a royal woman dealing with some kind of depression or anxiety disorder is seen as somehow “damaged.” It’s sad. I feel for Masako and I hope she’s getting help from doctors. I like that her husband seems to always stand up for her.


Photos of Masako, courtesy of Getty. Photos of Masako from 2013, courtesy of WENN.

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123 Responses to “Did Princess Masako suffer a nervous breakdown or was she simply depressed?”

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  1. Someonestolemyname says:

    I think Both.
    Poor woman.

    • Lemonsorbet says:

      I was in my early teens and still living in Japan at the time of their marriage. The media coverage centred on how Masako had a very promising career which she was giving up to be with the Crown Prince. Because back then and even now to some extent, women are expected to focus on family life once they get married. Over the course of the next few years, there were speculations about the possibilities of heirs. The sad thing is that they tried several times, but many of these attempts weren’t full-term. At one point, I remember everyone getting excited at a rumour that her latest scan showed she’d have a prince, except she then had a late-term miscarriage.

      According to some Buddhist/Confucian ideals, not being able to produce a male heir is “oya-fukou” (making parents and ancestors unhappy, because children are produced so that they can look after you in your old age). The Uyoku (right wingers) and the Imperial family are as old fashioned as you can get. So in light of that, Masako would’ve been made to feel inadequate, regardless of what a smart woman she was.

      It has been whispered that the pressures of having lost the prince (after the birth of her living daughter) was what made her more retired. True, the Imperials aren’t like the British Royal Family, in that they don’t go to events and charities several times a week to hang out with plebs, but yes, Masako hasn’t been seen in public for some time. I’d think, knowing what my countrymen are like, the general populace don’t really blame her, and find her a more tragic figure having lost so many babies.

  2. Abbott says:

    Hope the princess is feeling better.

    Are we allowed to give unsolicited *honks* for more royal coverage?

    • FLORC says:

      I was very pleased to see this article.

    • QQ says:

      I’d Honk for Masako and all the Royal Houses… even the Grimaldis AKA the white Trash of Royalty!

    • LadySlippers says:

      •Abbott• •Florc•

      Totally agree.

    • ArtHistorian says:

      I agree. There are a lot of very interesting people in the European royal houses and many of the do a lot of good work + they do more tiara events than the BRF. The Nobel Dinner is coming up in Sweden and there will be a royal wedding as well.

      Will and Kate have already been discussed to death since they don’t do much and their pattern is very predictable. Their personalities seem rather dull as well.

      • notasugarhere says:

        I concur, the CeleBitching on Hellqvist and her past could be highly entertaining.

      • LadySlippers says:


        I could not agree with you more. And the SRF has indicated Madeleine will be at the Nobel Dinner in December. Wahoo!


        Oh my. Tumblr has had a field day with Sofia’s past…I personally think the reason Carl Philip is having such a long engagement is so she can be a princess of Sweden. I bet that the government told him she could become his dichess and nothing more (similar to what happened in Spain with both Infantas’ husbands). Strictly a guess on my part.

      • notasugarhere says:

        My hope is Mr. and Mrs. Bernadotte, if they actually marry. Chris refused a title when he married Maddie, Sofia should refuse (or be refused) one too. Sweden needs to scale back the number of royals on the payroll, and that means stopping with Victoria, Daniel, and Estelle. I think the only reason Leo is a princess is because Estelle is currently an only child. If/when Estelle gains a sibling, eventually Leo will no longer be a princess of Sweden.

      • LadySlippers says:


        Naw, Leonore will only get stripped of her place in sucession if she doesn’t move back to Sweden soon. In general, the Swedes seems to like their Royal family but Sofia will certainly be a test…

      • notasugarhere says:

        LS, that’s what I mean. IF Estelle ends up with a sibling or two, there is no need for Leo (or CP’s kids who would be ahead of Leo in the succession) to be trained as “the spare.” There is talk of Maddie and Chris moving to London eventually, but not Sweden. There’s no way someone as independent as Chris is going to move to the fishbowl of Sweden unless there is no other choice. As long as Estelle ends up with at least one sibling, I think Maddie and Chris will live in London and Leo will not be raised in Sweden = out of the line of succession.

        If Estelle ends up as an only child, I can see the remote possibility of the Swedish government ruling C-P and kids out-of-the-line due to Sofia. In that case, Maddie and Chris would move to Sweden and Leo would be the official “spare.”

      • LadySlippers says:


        Ah, got it.

        My guess is Estelle might end up being a only child because Daniel has some health issues. Hopefully I’m wrong though.

        It’ll be interesting to see how accepting the Swedes are of Sofia — so far, not as much as Carl Philip hoped. Although, considering her past, I think Carl Philip had hoped for way too much.

        Doesn’t Leonore have to be living in Sweden by age six??? So London could still come into play before Sweden…
        I think Chris enjoys working and being his own man comes into play before the fishbowl. That and rumour has it he isn’t fluent in Swedish.

      • kibbles says:

        Unlike Duchess Kate, Princess Masako is an intelligent woman of substance. Princess Masako is the type of princess girls can look up to both as a role model and also as a cautionary tale that there are better things in life than being a real life princess. Masako had other interests and dreams before finding her prince. She could have contributed a lot more to society had she been allowed. She really did marry Prince Naruhito out of love and because he pursued her. I am glad to hear that Prince Naruhito truly loves her and has always stood by her. Hope to see more of her and I hope the Japanese finally realize that Princess Masako could be a true asset if they allow her to spread her wings.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes please. How about saving the Will & Waity posts for those very rare occasions they actually do something, and replacing the endless ‘William get’s job, doesn’t actually do job’ and ‘Waity cancelled work commitments, went shopping, has hair’ posts with posts about more interesting royals (hint, all of them).

  3. Talie says:

    The royal court in Japan is even more traditional and Victorian than Europe, so I can’t even imagine how archaic it must be.

    • LadySlippers says:


      Victorian is WAYYY too modern. Try the Dark Ages — it’s way more akin to that than anything else.

  4. original kay says:

    excuse me, but I believe it is the sperm that determines the sex of the baby?

    how did they forget very VERY basic biology?! fooking idjits.

    Will the baby be a Girl or Boy ?

    At conception, gender is determined by chromosome characteristics – and it will be the male
    (or rather the male’s sperm) that dictates whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.
    Prior to conception, the unfertilized egg carries an X chromosome while the sperm can carry either an X or a Y chromosome. The gender of the baby comes down to one simple event:

    If the sperm carrying an X chromosome fertilizes the egg, a girl will be conceived.
    If the sperm carrying a Y chromosome fertilizes the egg, a boy will be conceived.

    • Izzy says:

      ^^THIS. A billion, zillion, fajillion times this.

      Dear People Magazine: Please put a biologist on staff. You look like idiots. And you sound like it too.

    • Jen2 says:

      The whole “she didn’t give me a son” crap makes me furious. For People to say that she was not able to bear a son is so 16th Century. Lop off her head says Henry VIII, she did not have a boy. He should have loped off his own “member” as he was the failure. That kind of burden is just so unfair, especially when the woman has no real say in the matter of the gender. Sexism and patriarchy…two terrible factors and when you put them together, can be deadly.

    • LadySlippers says:

      •Kay• •Izzy•

      People is simply reporting how the Japanese feel. In Japan (and the Japanese are a very well educated society) a married women’s sphere is her children and family. So even though they know men contribute the gender determining chromosome — their culture has ‘given’ the sole responsibility of children to the woman.

      Now do you see why Japanese women don’t want to get married? I think they need to change a lot of cultural norms in order to encourage young people — especially women — to marry. But Japan clings to it’s traditions as if its dying. Sad thing is, clinging to those same said traditions, is in fact, killing them.

    • lower-case deb says:

      not in a male-oriented country or male-oriented society. yet another thing females can be blamed for.

      this is a real thing that my grandmother and mother has to face (and my generation to a small extent). it’s the girls who ate the wrong thing thus the acidity level stops certain types of sperm (to ensure male babies) from getting to the ovaries. it’s the girls who doesn’t do enouh prepation, maybe she’s not a virgin. it’s the girls who got into the wrong position, it’s the girls who think the wrong thoughts during pregnancy. its the girls who don’t pray enough, who does too much work, etcetc.

      you’ve got a problem? they will find a way to blame the girls for it.

      (oh your man is impotent? the girl is the wrong girl because the right one will miraculously make the man fertile through her wifely devotion. I KiD You Not)

      also, in some traditional courts it is still acceptable to divorce your wife for not giving you a male heir. and god forbid if your exhusband then got a male child from another woman. some parts of society will never let you live it down.

      • shixappeal says:

        On the flip side my Grandparents had six boys for want of a girl. Patriarchy is scary but it is (I hope) changing. My ex is Korean and I wasn’t allowed to meet his family because I am white. Probably mostly because of his father. The Japanese have had a strong hand in Korean culture but I am not sure to what extent. I am not excusing anything, just saying something. My parents got one of each.

      • Lisa says:

        Men are just as likely to suffer from fertility issues as women. 40% of the time it’s male related, 40% female related and in 20% of cases there is no known cause.

    • notasugarhere says:

      In all of the Blame Masako game, the Imperial Household kept wanting people to forget that Naruhito had mumps post-puberty. While Masako may have trouble carrying, it is clearly not all “her fault” in their fertility struggles.

      • FLORC says:

        Right. And yea. It is all on the guys side for gender.
        Still, I think there’s much to be said for the pressure put on Masako and how stress can hinder fertility. Perhaps it’s speculated Masako would have been able to conceive more often increasing the odds. And that’s some justifiable blame. On top of blame the woman social acceptance.

        Open question because I don’t know.
        Naruhito pursued Masako because he was entranced by her. It’s clear there’s love so this doesn’t really apply to them, but… Do men in that culture seek smart or accomplished women as a status of the best of the best and expect them to become submissive in marriage? As a way to show off the man’s (not sure of word to use) Appeal? Accomplishments? How desirable he is? To take a woman who is very intelligent and capable and have her act like her life was empty without a husband?
        Maybe the last line was too critical, but I hope I made my point.

      • LadySlippers says:


        Naruhito fell in love with Masako immediately. He had hoped that she (and he) could change the face of the Japanese Imperial Family and make it more modern. In his mind, not only was she (and still is) the love of his life, she was incredibly smart and talented enough to change minds. What he didn’t bargain for, was how incredibly intrenched those archaic attitudes were and are. Naruhito and Masako were no match for the Japanese Household Agency with its looooonnnnngg history.

        As for Japanese culture. Men are the jewels that women should strive to attain. Not all men think that but the culture says they should (my daughter was a Brownie Girl Scout and my son a Cub Scout and we met a lot of very forward thinking men through the cultural exchanges with the various Scouts).

      • FLORC says:

        Thanks for the clarification. It’s not exclusive to their culture when explained that way. Even in the states men (especially well off or handsome men) are jewels women strive for.

      • deehunny says:

        So don’t all jump on me at once, but I keep reading this as she didn’t make enough effort to have MORE kids, and then one of them should be a male. Of course it is all ridiculous, backwards, and stupid to blame her for any of it.

      • Betty says:

        @FLORC Stress has very little effect on fertility. If it made huge impact, how do you think women in war zones, women who are raped, women who are in abject poverty, etc., manage to conceive and give birth? At most, stress can delay when a woman ovulates by a few days or so, making it harder to conceive if she’s using some sort of ovulation timing to do so. While some studies have shown a correlation between stress and fertility, no scientist has suggested that it plays a huge role in a woman’s ability to conceive. Most women who need IVF and the like are stressed, but many of these women go on to conceive. I mention this because the No. 1 thing women who struggle to conceive are told is to relax, as if that is the magic solution. This attitude ignores that these women might have endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids, compromised fallopian tubes, etc. that have been proven to hamper fertility.

      • LadySlippers says:


        Since Masako did not have any more children, they see it as a failure, regardless of how much actual effort went into getting pregnant. Results count — not attempts.

        Hopefully that helps clear it up.


        It’s nothing like we have in Western culture. It’s just that extreme.


        Not true. If a woman is stressed plus have any other health issue it compounds the problem. Stress, in and of itself, can be a reason for infertility. But if a woman is healthy but stressed, as you pointed out, she still has a possibility of pregnancy. From all reports, both Masako and Naruhito might have been the one to have fertility issues.

      • FLORC says:


        It’s simple truth. And pointing out women in war zones conceiving is another way women who have reproductive issues get shamed. It makes conceiving sound so easy. That a war can literally be going on around you and you can still conceive.

        Links aren’t going through, but I urge you to search stress and infertility links. It comes down to hormones. When you’re stressed on a different level it can cause your period to be late or even stop (amenorrhea). That’s a very mild example.
        How do you think that isn’t a direct link between the reproductive system and stress? And please check sources like the mayo clinic or CDC for better credibility. That stress of both kinds can effect your fertility.

        I forgot he may be the source for the fertility issues. And look. Masako is the 1st to be blamed and the one continuing to shoulder the brunt of it.
        Fertility issues get me riled up. because some women can conceive with such ease doesn’t mean that is the norm and creates a stigma/shame for those ladies that appear very healthy and happy, but still can’t conceive naturally or even with IVF. It’s sad this is still not understood.

    • HughJass says:

      I’m sure they all know that the sperm determine gender. The idea is that she was supposed to keep pumping out babies until one with a penis arrived.

    • ArtHistorian says:

      Because intensely patriarchal societies ALWAYS put the blame on the woman.

  5. LAK says:

    That statement from Chikage whathisname about Princess Kiko just made me so ragey!!!

    Low birthrate is what you get in a society that values boys over girls. Why risk the societal censure for having girls???!!! And no one is pointing fingers at the males.

    It’s so ragey that everyone pretends Princess Masako’s problem was simply depression for her inability to produce a male heir.

    That woman was caged right from day 1. She was publicly criticised for speaking more words during her engagement interview, it’s been downhill ever since.

    • The Original Mia says:

      Exactly! Rage! Poor Masako. Poor Toshi, as well. My hope is that this little family shower each other in love, in spite of the JHA.

    • notasugarhere says:

      The way they treated (and continue to treat) Masako and Aiko is horrible.

      It is obvious that Kiko and Akishino did sex selection for the third child to have a boy. She was 40-41 at the time of the birth, 12 years after their second daughter was born. She publicly snapped at him when he belittled how dangerous her pregnancy had been. Not sure if they or the Imperial Household were behind it, but obviously done only to have a boy.

      • Lisa says:

        Really? Several studies have shown miscarriage rates go up significantly as men age, regardless of their partner’s age, as do a woman’s odds of having peeclampsia, hypertension and certain problems with the placenta.

        All the most severe birth defects a child can get- called sentinel birth defects-are related to the father’s age, not the mother’s, and half of all cases of Down’s Syndrome are linked to fathers 40 and over and have been for years.

        There were several studies back then linking older fathers to numerous different illnesses. None of these illnesses were ever linked to maternal age, except autism.

    • LadySlippers says:


      Have you seen some of the articles that came out a few years back? They basically called for Naruhito to step down because, in essence, his wife is a failure and it reflects poorly on Japan. Of course, the articles never came out and stated that directly (not the Japanese way) but the message was conveyed clearly in its many snide remarks. I was SO upset! 😡😡😡

      And Naruhito has been so wonderful and supportive to her. 😊😊😊

      • FLORC says:

        She so fortunate to have the support of her husband.
        It’s not really close, but Charlene went through some parallels only with an unsupportive husband. Trapped, reduced to an incubator and judged on how long it takes to conceive. Even though in her life she’s quite accomplished.

      • LadySlippers says:


        I actually am not sure I buy Charlene is caged theory. I think she might like Albert. Or tolerate him. Although the rigidity of people’s attitudes is certainly similar but I think Masako really has a horrific time of it.

      • LAK says:

        The JHA would never, ever say such a thing. Except that they did, if you read between the lines. It’s the art of saying extremely rude things whilst being polite.

        Back to the articles, what struck me was the implication that it would be a noble sacrifice since he’d had the bad luck to have a failure of a wife!!

        RAGE!!!! RAGE!!!! RAGE!!!

        This is story makes me cross. Has done for years.

      • FLORC says:

        Feeling ragey too. It’s only highlighting how strong of a woman Masako is and how supportive her husband is of her.

  6. Jenns says:

    “Princess Kiko was courageous to give birth to a third child in a society of low birthrate,” said House of Councilors president Chikage Ogi in 2006. “This is what women should learn from her.”


    • BendyWindy says:

      And how is it courageous exactly? I assume the low birthrate has much to do with the cost of raising a child in Japan (I haven’t looked, but I would assume it’s astronomical due to having a large population and space concerns), which obviously isn’t an issue for a royal.

    • Cheryl says:

      This directive stopped me in my tracks, as well. WOMEN should be learning this form of courage…??? How is it courage? What century is it?

  7. FingerBinger says:

    “Princess Kiko was courageous to give birth to a third child in a society of low birthrate,” said House of Councilors president Chikage Ogi in 2006. “This is what women should learn from her.”

    I didn’t realize Japan had a low birth rate. That’s interesting.

    • cr says:

      Has had one for awhile:

      “Earlier this month, a Japanese government advisory panel proposed for the first time a numerical target that, it said, would address the problem of Japan’s declining population.

      The goal is to ensure a population of 100 million 50 years from now, which would mean raising the current total fertility rate of 1.4 births per woman to over 2 during the next 20 years, a tall order. Until now the government has refrained from setting a specific target for fear of intruding into private decisions about having children. Given present trends, Japan’s population will decrease from 127 million today to 87 million in 2060, at which point about 40 percent of the population will be older than 65. The economic and social consequences of the shrinking and aging population are dire.”



      I tend not to read articles on Masako, because the way she’s been treated makes me stabby and ragey.

      • FingerBinger says:

        Thanks for posting this. If the drop in population is accurate,that’s really frightening.

      • Lexie says:

        Fascinating, thanks for the info!

      • Tessy says:

        Many countries are experiencing lower birth rates. Maybe the population drop especially for Japan is a good thing, given that it is a limited area which is partially poisoned with radiation from Fukushima. Anyhow, if they require more people they could always welcome immigrants who need a place to live like many other countries do.

      • kibbles says:

        Many societies experiencing low birth rates are those who do not value women and do not support their professional endeavors. Want women to reproduce? Then give them the support they need to do so. Women who are single mothers or divorced should not be shunned and shamed. Mothers who choose to purse a career should be given the vacation time and maternity leave without feeling guilty. I love Japan and much of its culture, but it really needs to progress in the area of women’s rights.

    • Izzy says:

      Well, they value boys over girls, and many feel that once they have a boy it’s no longer necessary to reproduce, and they don’t want a female child anyway. And since girls are the ones who go on to give birth… you reap what you sow, right? Their low birth rate is a direct result of their sexist point of view, IMO.

      • FingerBinger says:

        It’s the same kind of mentality in China right? Yet they have 10 times the population.

      • Izzy says:

        Good point. But I do still think their attitude has a role to play in their current predicament. With China, they are trying to control overpopulation, and people there sometimes give up their female children in the hopes of trying for a male. In Japan it’s the opposite. And, like I said, if you don’t produce enough women in the population, eventually your population declines.

        Ugh. The whole subject of how Masako has been treated just pisses me off royally. Pun intended.

      • cr says:

        There was an interesting article a few years back about how in India and China favoring male children over female children has led to a dearth of ‘local’ females available for marriage. I had no sympathy whatsoever.
        Though it will be interesting to see how this affects immigration policies (those wives have to come from somewhere) and attitudes toward women.

      • notasugarhere says:

        The sex-selection in those countries is also causing a new phenomenon – violent, anti-social bachelor villages. This is the first generation (in China at least) that is beginning to see what happens when you deliberately decrease the female population.

      • Dany says:

        Women carry babies. No women – no babies – no legacy.

        Now there are lots of desperate men in these countries. In China men STEAL little girls from poor villages/ areas to marry them. They know that is their only change to get a wife.

      • Catherine says:

        CR, Japan has very little immigration, so the dire consequences of the low birth rate/aging population won’t be halted until they rethink that policy.

      • notasugarhere says:

        Japan is also known to be a racist country, deeply suspicious of foreigners and immigration. Traditionalists will not want the population to increase if it means increasing the non-Japanese portion of society. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4671687.stm

    • serena says:

      so courageous *rolls eyes*

  8. MollyB says:

    For some reason, I thought her daughter’s name was Princess Aiko?

  9. CandyKay says:

    Reportedly she never wanted to marry the crown prince in the first place, but was pressured into it as her ‘national duty’, since he was unable to find another suitable candidate.

    Their daughter, who is second in line to the throne after her father, has also had challenges; she was bullied in school, to the extent that her mother had to come to school with her for awhile.

    The current emperor’s second son and his family are generally more outgoing and more suited for royal roles, but that’s not the way it’s done in Japan.

    • lower-case deb says:

      i thought Hisahito is the second in line since they never really did formally pass the ruling to change it to absolute primogeniture?

      the only reason why i thought this was because i remember all the huge kerfuffle in the government trying to get Toshi to be her father’s successor. then Kiko gave birth to Hisahito and there’s the proverbial sigh of relief that they didn’t have to rush the bill through parliament.

      but has this changed?

      • inthekitchen says:

        I wonder if Naruhito will change the rules when he is crowned Emperor? Would that be possible or would it require an act of the government? I wonder if it would make any difference (in the people’s minds regarding the rules of succession) if he kicks up a big fuss about his daughter inheriting the throne and girls being equal to boys (assuming he feels that way)…or if the ‘gray men’ of Japan have him mysteriously disappeared or something…

      • LadySlippers says:


        It needs to become law and the JIF are surrounded by über traditionalists.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Aiko is not in line to the throne. It will pass from her father, to her uncle Akishino, to her male cousin Hisahito. There was government discussion in 2005 about changing the succession laws to allow female succession. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4205427.stm

      Prince Tomohito’s comments were particularly disturbing, about how they should use concubines to get sons. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2005/11/04/2003278666

      All of a sudden in 2006, Kiko showed up pregnant and expecting a boy at 40. How convenient and surprising. Not.

    • Dany says:

      If i remember well they haven´t changed the rules to favour a female heir. Toshi was outranked when her male cousin was born. Now the CrownPrince´s younger brother Hisahito is second in line and then his little son. Toshi and her other female cousins are behind them.

      yes, i heard how this young girl is bullied in school. Unbelieveable :(

  10. LadySlippers says:

    People did a fantastic write up.

    Japan isn’t the most compassionate country on the planet when it comes to be different. ‘Fitting in’ is WAY more important than ‘staying true to oneself’. As is a strong work ethic (working overtime is mandatory not something one volunteers for). So basically in their eyes, Masako and Naruhito should have enlisted medical help after, max, a year of no results. They did wait a long time to get help.

    Japan is also ridiculously patriarchal and male oriented. Men are allowed to pee in public, whereas if a woman did it, it would cause outrage and criticism (luckily I was spared ever seeing that). I could go on and on. I adored the three years spent living there but it is a very different culture from the various American cultures I’ve experienced — with both cons (as you can seen) and pros (some truly wonderful ones).


  11. Sparkly says:

    What a sad story. I wish we did hear more about her. She’s quite lovely. It’s wonderful of her husband to stand up for her, but perhaps he should work a bit more on some changes so that such behavior wouldn’t even be necessary. They’re so big on honor, but there’s nothing honorable about such casual dismissal of and attacks upon women.

    Actually, yeah, that’s something maybe the whole world needs to work on. Still. *sadness*

    • LadySlippers says:


      My guess is Naruhito *has* done a lot to change the JHA perception and treatment of Masako but got absolutely nowhere with his efforts.

  12. m says:

    One nice thing- she has a really lovely friendship with Queen Maxima. The last real appearance she made before last weeks visit was at the Dutch inauguration last April. Before that it was the Dutch visit to Japan a few years ago where their daughters played together.

    • LadySlippers says:


      Beatrix personally asked the Crown Prince family to come to the Netherlands in 2006 hoping that a change of scenery would help Masako recover. From all reports I’ve read — it helped immensely. And then at Willem-Alexander’s inauguration, Maxima personally called to invite Masako to attend. I think it’s awesome for the Dutch Royal Family to do that.

      Masako has been seen out in public though. She and Naruhito attended a concert which made headlines (shortly after the Dutch trip too).

      • notasugarhere says:

        I also thought that was Beatrice’s way of showing the Imperial Household how wrong they were, not that they’d listen to a “mere” woman on the issue. Beatrice is one of three sisters, Max and Wax have three daughters — and The Netherlands couldn’t be happier.

      • notasugarhere says:

        Excuse me, Beatrix not Beatrice.

    • byandby says:

      Oh, I LOVE hearing that. My first thought when thinking of how difficult it would be to be a highly educated, accomplished career woman trying to reconcile that with the restrictions (to say the least or Masako) of your royal role, I thought of how Maxima does this most succesfully.

      How warm and gracious of her to recognize that in someone else and reach out to them, give them someone to relate to. Maxima seems warm and welcoming, anyway.

      • ArtHistorian says:

        It is one of the reasons Maxima is very endearing to me – she seems to have a big heart and a warm personality. This pics from the Dutch State Visit to Japan really shows the effect on Maxima and Willem-Alexander’s warm and happy personalities on everyone.

        Reportly, Maxima has also been very kind to Charlene, offering support and advice.

      • cr says:

        @ArtHistorian: IIRC, when Maxima first started dating Willem, and it was obvious that they were serious, wasn’t there initially some resistance to her because she was seen to be a partier and whose dad was part of the Argentinian junta? I knew that she won over people pretty quickly, but I’m glad to see that she’s been reaching out to her fellow royals that she notices seem to be isolated.

      • notasugarhere says:

        There was resistance to her father, so her parents did not attend the wedding. I think that’s why she wept so openly when Adios Nonino was played during the ceremony. She was leaving behind her birth country AND her parents were not there to witness one of the happiest days of her life


    • CuriousCole says:

      M- I suspected that CP Masako being friends with Queen Maxima is why Masako was able to put on the Pearl Sunburst tiara/attended the state dinner. I admire how friendly and warm Maxima is, it’s lovely that she helps brighten Masako.

  13. ViktoryGin says:

    @ Original Kay,

    I was about to say this. I can’t believe this antiquated thinking is still extant in the 21st century in a technologically advanced society despite the fact that we have science that PROVES that gender is not determined by the female!

    I don’t know why I’m surprised. I just moved from South Korea, and though it is subtle, especially compared to India and China, preference for male offspring is marked. And royalty has always exacted the most stringent of expectations, especially these Confucian-influenced cultures.

    It still pisses me off. Ugh.

  14. anne_000 says:

    If they wanted a boy so much, they could have done it through the use of science, which is what the people around them should have offered as an acceptable choice.
    And like what someone else here said, it’s the sperm that determines gender.
    Also, in Japan’s history, there have been Empresses who ruled on their own sans Emperors, so they could have used this precedent to allow Masako’s daughter to be the next Empress instead of skipping over her, but oh well.
    From Wikipedia: “…eight female imperial reigns (six female emperors including two who reigned twice)…”

    • LadySlippers says:


      The Japanese view those empresses regnant as mere holdovers until a viable male was available.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Naruhito and Masako went through extensive IVF treatment for years. Their doctor publicly wrote about it. They did everything they could to have biological children.

      • FLORC says:

        It’s so unfortunate.
        So many people look at other couples that can’t esily conceive and assume the fault is from lack of effort. It’s just not as simple as doing the act and conceiving.
        Women of no public image go through such backwards thinking and blame. I can only imagine the level of criticism Masako got from being a public persona, royal needing to produce a male heir, and the cultural pressure. I think i’d easily have a breakdown.

      • notasugarhere says:

        And as you said, the pressure and stress causes physical changes that make the whole process less likely to succeed.

      • FLORC says:

        Stress on the body can start so many issues or worsen conditions. Masako being a bright woman couldn’t live in a reclusive life and assume a hear/see no evil.
        She’s such a role model! In so many ways she’s to be amired.

  15. MsMercury says:

    The Japanese Royal family is one of the most interesting imo so I’m glad you (and people mag) did this write up. I feel so bad for how the women in this family are treated. I do love however how protective the Prince is towards his wife.

  16. Kori says:

    It seems a pretty open secret that a male was born to Kiko through very artificial means. The rumor is that Masako refused to undergo any IVF. She had already had a number of fertility issues (including at least one lost pregnancy) and had enough. And Kiko had serious issues during this pregnancy as well–including placenta previa which caused the prince to be born 2 weeks early. There were moves to change the law so their daughter could inherit as there is a serious lack of males in that family. But then Kiko had a son and all was tabled for now. (The law had only changed in The Imperial Household Law of 1947.) He is definitely the favored one in the family because of his gender though. It’s perhaps for the best as their daughter (and her female cousins) will escape the royal prison eventually through marriage.

    Masako at least has a loving, supportive husband but there’s no doubt the Imperial Household did the same number on her they did on her mother-in-law who still wrestles with depression and other issues and has for decades–mostly due to the same reasons as Masako , though she did produce 2 sons. For Michiko it was the fact that she was a commoner which raised the ire of Japan’s version of the ‘Grey Men’ who made life so difficult for Sarah Ferguson and Lady Diana Spencer. Also, her mother-in-law (who only died about a decade ago) was deadset against the engagement and made her feelings quite apparent. Michiko suffered several nervous breakdowns over the years.

    Luckily both women have husbands who are loving and devoted but the Court has a way of taking talented, accomplished women and chewing them up.

  17. Jasmine says:

    I feel bad for Masako, but even more so for her daughter who has to grow up thinking a whole country doesn’t want her and wishes she were a boy.

    • notasugarhere says:

      Reading the articles about Japan posted here, I imagine there are many who are unhappy with the current attitudes in Japan and who would welcome an empress. Imagine how revolutionary Aiko’s reign could be for Japanese society?

  18. LA Native says:

    I remember when they married and it was a pretty big deal. She was so accomplished, wore beautiful smart clothes and held herself well. She knew she had to give up her professional life upon entering the marraige so there’s that. But wow, she really did disappear and I have not seen anything about her since so this makes me sad but not overly surprised.
    giving my *HONK* for more royal coverage from Japan

  19. Clever hand says:

    Honk! Better late than never. I’m in for any royals, any time.

  20. OTHER RENEE says:

    I believe her father pressured her into marrying him as a national duty and she acquiesced. I always felt sorry for her.

    My brother has been living in Japan for almost 30 years. His Japanese girlfriend is the businesswoman; he is a teacher and takes care of their home. They’ve been together for at least 10 years and he has NEVER MET HER PARENTS EVEN THOUGH THEY LIVE IN THE SAME CITY!!! Clearly a cultural issue, probably because he’s not Japanese. They probably don’t even know he’s Jewish (and wouldn’t that go over well??)

    • ArtHistorian says:

      My sister travelled to Japan once as a part of her job (she was a sailor) and she noticed that many establishments (in a small town) had signs at the doors saying “Japanese only”. People also pointed fingers and laughed at her and her shipmates.

      • LadySlippers says:


        What port did your sister pull into????

        Also *hangs head in shame* the American military has not always conducted themselves well in foreign countries, so due to that — many places in Japan banned foreigners (gaijin).

        I never got laughed at but I certainly encountered my fair share of stares (to be fair, I’m also 5’10.5″ blonde woman — not terribly common anywhere in Japan). And a good number of Americans never ventured beyond ‘the beaten path’ either, so the Japanese living a distance from a large city and/or American military bases, never had any exposure to people of European heritage.

  21. lrm says:

    Um, I like how we are all treading lightly and saying these factors are ‘cultural issues’-ie, sexism and racism [the many stories on here saying they cannot meet their partner's family b/c they are not japanese]. That’s crazy. and if it were the USA, people would (rightly so) be calling prejudice for what it is. Cultural relativism has its down sides, IMO, when used as an excuse.

    • OTHER RENEE says:

      Ok. My brother’s girlfriend’s parents are clearly racist if in fact that is why they want nothing to do with him.

    • Nikki says:

      yes! this, exactly! We tread lightly and “allow” this behavior by attributing it to culture so we don’t offend anyone or so we don’t get called racist for pointing it out. Well, hands wringing and shaking our heads over “culture” is what gets people killed. Call it for what it is, Japanese traditionalists are racist. They do not like foreigners, they will refuse to do business with foreigners and they do their best to ensure that foreigners, no matter how long they have lived in Japan, live as separately as possible. Once gaijin, always gaijin.

    • Kath says:

      Thank you! It always kills me that countries with mass immigration programs (usually in the West) are always getting called ‘racist’ if they don’t want to open their borders to all-comers, yet somehow a country like Japan gets away with having ZERO immigration and no one (including the UN, Amnesty International etc) says a word. Cultural relativism has gotten out of hand, IMO.

    • LadySlippers says:

      Cultural Relativism has both pluses and negatives — absolutely — and here we’re running into several negatives. However, when we throw stones we need to be aware that most cultures (including our own) are far from perfect. Japan is no different.

      Japan is insular to say the least. However, immigrants have moved there, otherwise there’d be no need for the several schools for foreign children. And I mean above and beyond the American DoDEA schools — there’s American, British, and Canadian schools just in Tokyo alone. A woman from Albert Lea, MN is running an international daycare in Yokohama. There’s even a few districts in Tokyo where the majority of people living there are ex-pats, for example Riponngi is the American one. Heck, Toyko even has a JCC (Jewish Community Center).

      As for gaijin (stranger), you can be from one village and still be a gaijin in another village just up/down the road — the term gaijin is used that liberally, even with other Japanese. In their society, every ‘clan’ or village is unique with their own social morés that a foreigner might not know.

      Japan CAN be racist, sexist, and very extreme in their behaviour. The need to conform is enormous. However, they can also be attentive, gracious, helpful, humble, and the perfect hosts. Americans have done some horrific things (rape and murder) in Japan, yet they are still quite friendly and welcoming. I promise you — most people would struggle to reciprocate to the level the Japanese do.

      And as •tarheel• and others have pointed out — the CPss has supporters throughout the country. From what I remember most Japanese want to see Japan modernise and join the rest of the world. It’s just a few, VERY vocal “conservative” minority that resists. Loudly and forcefully.

      Please don’t paint the entire country with the same brush stokes as the vocal racist/sexist/extremist minority, there is a lot more to any country than the conservative mouthpieces that spout that crap.

  22. tarheel says:

    The Japanese Court has insane insane insane protocol, just beyond suffocating. If you’ve ever done Aikido, been to a Zendo, seen kyudo, etc., imagine that times a zillion.

    That, combined with the misogyny directed toward Masako, has broken here.

    My Japanese friends have told me that many Japanese citizens are on Masako’s side.

  23. Victoria says:

    Erm.. their daughter’s name is Aiko (Princess Aiko), not Toshi…

    • LadySlippers says:

      Toshi is an honorific title the Emperor gave her.

      From wiki:

      Aiko, the princess’s personal name, is written with kanji character for “love (愛)” and “child (子)” and means “a person who loves others.”[1] She also has an imperial title, Princess Toshi (敬宮 toshi-no-miya) which means “a person who respects others.”

  24. maleficent says:

    Amal allamudden clooney..this is your future..
    You could have been a contender but now you’re just a Wife to an actor…pay attention gurrl..

  25. Haydee says:

    I don’t know if this is widely known outside Japan, but the royal family has been a figurehead throughout their history basically, and they are prisoners, to this day. The Kunaicho is currently the proxy through which they are controlled.

    Japan is still run by the those responsible for WW2, criminals, and it is probably fortunate that their culture will die off because of their xenophobia. If you believe Japan is a democracy, check out what party has “won” all elections saved for one(won by splinter party of the one true party) since WW2..

    The princess is a perfect example of Asia’s problem. There are heavy pressure on all women to start a family by a certain age, there are various sayings for this, involving going bad after a certain birthday.

    So in Japan, where you actually have females getting higher education then males, but then are forced to leave the workforce because they are not promoted above certain levels. It is pretty dumb and inefficient.

    The Princess was perhaps extraordinary enough to rise above this social control, her dad was not through, and there were many rumors of financial difficulties, and pressures from her father, and that is what forced her into marriage with the obsessive prince, who is a “slow” fella. She is definitely not happy, and they(Kunaicho) are locking her away intentionally.