Crown Princess Masako of Japan celebrated her 53rd birthday on 9 December and released a statement through the Imperial Household Agency to mark the occasion.
The Crown Princess spoke of her father-in-law, Emperor Akihito’s historic August address to the people of Japan where he discussed stepping down from the Chrysanthemum Throne before ill health robs him of the ability to perform his job. It would be the first Japanese abdication in almost 200 years.
“I watched the TV broadcast feeling awed and took His Majesty’s thoughts seriously,” the Crown Princess said in the birthday statement. She also said she was “filled with emotions” to see the Emperor and Empress Michiko’s dedication to their duties.
Crown Princess Masako has served as Crown Princess for 23 years, but before that had a promising career and excelled in her studies as they took her around the world.
Masako studied Economics at Harvard University/Radcliffe College and spent time abroad in France studying at the Goethe-Institut. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in Economics in 1985.
She then studied law for six months at the University of Tokyo in preparation for the entrance exam of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was accepted and worked for the Ministry for several years.
During this time, she met Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and was linked to him for several years. She turned down two proposals from him because she didn’t want to give up a promising career in diplomacy. On his third attempt, the Crown Prince reportedly told her that serving as Japan’s Crown Princess would be another form of diplomacy, and she accepted. They became formally engaged on 9 December 1992, her 29th birthday.
The couple married on 9 June 1993 in a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. They have one daughter, Aiko, Princess Toshi, who was born on 1 December 2001.
The rules of succession at the time was determined by agnatic primogeniture, meaning only men could inherit the throne. It was discussed for several years that the laws should be changed to allow for women to inherit the throne, however before this happened, Fumihito, Prince Akishino and his wife Kiko, Princess Akishino, had a son, and the Prime Minister of Japan announced that he would not pursue changing the law any further. Their son, Hisahito, is now third in line to the throne behind Crown Prince Naruhito.
Crown Princess Masako carried out royal events for several years, but retired from the public eye in 2002, suffering from an emotional disorder caused by stress. She spent the ensuing decade largely out of the public eye but returned to the international stage to attend the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife, Queen Maxima. Since then, she has carried out more public engagements; this year she carried out 57 engagements, her largest since 2010.
“I want to continue with efforts towards full recovery.”