Crown Princess Masako Admits in Unusual Statement That She Feels 'Insecure' About Her Role

In a highly unusual move, Japan’s Crown Princess Masako, who will become the nation’s Empress in May, publicly announced on Sunday she feels “insecure” — but pledged to devote herself to her new public role.

In a statement released by the Imperial Household Agency to coincide with her 55th birthday, the largely reclusive Masako said, “I want to devote myself to the happiness of the people, so I will make an effort to that end while gaining more experience.”

The royal, who has suffered from stress-related conditions for nearly two decades, also addressed her “physical condition” and thanked the present Emperor Akihito, 84, and Empress Michiko, 84, for their assistance over the years.

Saying she “was filled with deep emotion and felt nostalgic” that this would be their last year on the throne, she extended gratitude to the imperial couple who “warmly welcomed me and generous continued guiding me and watching over us,” since her marriage to Crown Prince Naruhito.

Masako Owada was a Harvard- and Oxford- trained diplomat when she met Crown Prince Naruhito, 58, at a reception for a visiting Spanish royal in 1986. Twice refusing Akihito’s demand for marriage, the couple became engaged in 1993 and wed in June of that year.

After a successful beginning to their marriage, however, the princess shied away from her public role. Her health has been a subject of concern with Japan’s media and public for years. “I am delighted at the fact that I can perform more duties than before as I have tried to improve my physical condition,” she wrote on Sunday, trying to dispel concerns.

While acknowledging that she continues to battle stress-related issues, the empress-to-be has recently shown signs of improvement. This year she made a rare appearance at an Imperial garden party, reportedly only her second in 15 years.

(In a separate statement also released this weekend, the Princess’s medical team warned that she remains under treatment and is subject to fatigue, especially given the number of events and ceremonies leading up to her installation in May. )

Masako’s frail health and stress issues are often attributed to the pressure she felt to produce a male heir, as Japan’s current household law allows only males to assume the throne. After suffering a miscarriage in 1999, Masako gave birth to the couple’s only child, their daughter Princess Aiko, in December 2001.

Two years later, Prince Naruhito told reporters that his wife had “completely exhausted herself” adapting to palace life and accused certain palace officials of conspiring against her. For the next decade, she was rarely seen in public until her 2014 re-emergence at a banquet honoring the Netherland’s Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander.

In August 2016, current Emperor Akihito announced his wish to abdicate, sending the country into a constitutional crisis. After parliamentary action, Akihito will now step down on April 30. His son, Naruhito, will assume the Chrysanthemum Throne on the following day. “I wish from the bottom of my heart,” Masako’s statement continued, “[the Imperial couple] will unwind from their busy life and spend peaceful days.”

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