World News

Japan prince says his wife trying to resume duties

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito said on Thursday his wife, who is suffering from stress-related mental illness, is doing her best to fully resume her duties and asked for understanding of her health problems.

Crown Princess Masako, a 45-year-old former diplomat educated at Harvard and Oxford, has been suffering for several years from a mental disorder caused by the difficulty of adjusting to the restrictions of palace life. She will not accompany her husband on his first visit to Vietnam, which starts on Monday.

“Masako is doing her best to be able to resume as many official duties as possible, so I would like to ask you to watch over her with kindness and take a long-term view,” Naruhito told a news conference at his residence in Tokyo.

Masako had once hoped to use her diplomatic skills as a sort of “royal envoy,” but her activities were restrained by court officials, royal watchers have said.

Naruhito, 48, said in consultation with doctors, he had decided to go to Vietnam alone, where he will visit the Mekong River and meet government officials among other things.

“As for future visits to foreign countries, we will make decisions case by case in consultation with doctors.”

Stress-related health problems are bothering Naruhito’s father, Emperor Akihito, as well, and his mother, Empress Michiko, has also suffered illnesses triggered by worries.

The Imperial Household Agency said last week that the emperor, 75, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 2003, will cut the number of speeches he gives, reduce the number of foreign dignitaries he meets and hand over responsibility for some palace rituals to officials.

Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by David Fox