Japan Princess Recovering From Illness

The Associated Press
Friday, February 23, 2007; 1:27 AM

TOKYO -- Japan's crown prince asked the public for patience as his wife recovers from a form of depression, saying she needs to regain her confidence before she can fully return to her official duties.

Naruhito, heir to Japan's ancient Chrysanthemum Throne, said his wife, Masako, is improving slowly but is not yet ready to resume official appearances and other duties.

Masako, 43, withdrew from virtually all of her public duties four years ago after being diagnosed with a stress-induced illness called "adjustment disorder."

"I think Masako is, though gradually, getting better compared with a year ago," the crown prince said at a pre-47th birthday news conference, the transcript of which was released on Friday. Members of the foreign media were excluded from the conference, which was restricted to a small group of Japanese newspaper and television reporters.

"What's important from now on is ... for her to widen the scope of her activities and gain confidence," the crown prince said.

Masako, a well-liked former diplomat who was educated at Harvard and Oxford, and Naruhito were married in 1993. After suffering a miscarriage in 1999, she had a daughter, Aiko, in 2001. With no other male heirs in the generation after Naruhito, Aiko's birth generated a movement to revise imperial law to allow the girl to assume the throne after her father.

But that effort has been put on hold since the birth of a son to Naruhito's younger brother.

Naruhito refused to comment on whether he thinks the law should be revised.

© 2007 The Associated Press