February 13, 2008 / 12:14 PM / 10 years ago

Japan prince urged to make time for parents: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito should visit his parents more often palace officials have said in an unusually frank piece of advice, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako appear before well-wishers through bulletproof glass as they celebrate Emperor Akihito's 74th birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo December 23, 2007. Naruhito should visit his parents more often palace officials have said in an unusually frank piece of advice, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Emperor Akihito complained at a 2006 news conference that he and his wife, Empress Michiko, had few opportunities to meet Naruhito’s daughter, Princess Aiko, who is now 6.

Naruhito later told reporters he would try to arrange more visits to her grandparents.

“I think the emperor and the empress are concerned as the number of visits to the Imperial Palace has not increased,” Kyodo quoted the head of Japan’s Imperial Household Agency, Shingo Haketa, as saying at a news conference.

“I would like (the crown prince) to respect what he said,” Haketa said, adding that he had given the crown prince this advice several times.

Naruhito’s wife, Crown Princess Masako, has long suffered from a mental illness thought to be caused by the strain of adapting to the rigidity of palace life.

Palace watchers say pressure to bear a male heir was a factor that led to Masako’s illness. Aiko is the couple’s only child and cannot ascend the throne under current law, which restricts the role to males only.

Plans to revise the law were shelved after Masako’s royal sister-in-law gave birth in 2006 to Prince Hisahito, the first male heir born to the imperial family in more than 40 years.

Masako has recently come under fire in tabloid magazines, some of whom said she was avoiding a full program of official duties, while finding time to wine and dine with friends.

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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