Japan’s Emperor Naruhito has said his wife Empress Masako “still has ups and downs” as she battles to get over a longstanding stress-induced illness associated with her royal duties.
The health of Empress Masako, who was fit enough to attend all of Emperor Naruhito’s ceremonies when he was sworn in as emperor last year, may be a major point in Japan.
Hopes were raised that she had recovered from her illness as she was present at a series of public events last year but Emperor Naruhito warned the empress was “still on the trail to recovery”.
“Her condition has its ups and downs and her fatigue tends to be prolonged after an enormous event or when events happen one after another,” he told reporters at a press conference to mark his 60th birthday.
“I want her never to increase herself an excessive amount of but still work on what she will do,” he said, describing her as “a good consultant on both private and official matters”.
The Harvard and Oxford educated Empress Masako left behind a promising diplomatic career to marry into the royalty in 1993.
In 2004, the palace disclosed she had been undergoing treatment for stress-induced adjustment disorder, which has forced her to skip some royal engagements.
The couple’s only child Aiko, 18, will study Japanese literature from April at Gakushuin University, of which Emperor Naruhito is an alumnus.
She cannot succeed her father as only a male heir can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother Akishino is first in line to the throne. His son, 13-year-old Hisahito, is second.
Aiko would lose her royal status once she marries a commoner.
That has raised the prospect of a succession crisis if Hisahito doesn’t have a son but the emperor avoided commenting on the male-only rule.
He said he talks about the difficulty with Akishino but went no further than that.
A public gathering to celebrate his first birthday because the emperor was cancelled as fears grow over the spread of the new coronavirus within the country.
“I hope the spread of infections will stop as early as possible,” he said while praying for the recovery of patients and thanking medical workers.