Japan’s Prince Naruhito speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on February 5, 2009.

In a press conference ahead of his visit to Vietnam, Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito asked for understanding of his wife Princess Masako’s health problems. Princess Masako has been suffering from mental illness for years. Her condition is widely believed to be depression brought about by the stress of adjusting to life in the Imperial Palace.

The request from Prince Naruhito came on the heels of the decision for Emperor Akihito to cut back on his public engagements. Emperor Akihito, 74, has had his own health issues, including prostrate cancer surgery in 2003. There have been expectations that the crown prince and crown princess will take up the public visits and official meetings that the emperor and Empress Michiko can no longer attend to. It seems that it is just these very expectations that Prince Naruhito addressed in his recent meeting with the Japanese press.

"Masako is doing her best to be able to resume as many official duties as possible, so I would like to ask you to watch over her with kindness and take a long-term view,"

With these words, it doesn’t seem that Princess Masako will be much involved in the Japanese royal family’s public life anytime soon. For one, she will not be accompanying Prince Naruhito on his trip to Vietnam on February 9-15, 2009. Merry Royals continues to wish Princess Masako a full recovery from her illness.

source: Reuters; Image: Newscom