Hopes for the recovery of Japan's Crown Princess Masako were dealt a blow at the weekend after she cancelled a public appearance. The 41-year-old, who has been struggling with emotional difficulties for over a year, had been expected to attend the Special Olympics Winter Games in Nagano.
She cancelled the engagement just a day in advance, however. "It was unfortunate that I cannot go," said the princess. "I am sorry to trouble so many people." Her visit to the mountain city, where she spent a six-day break with her family just last month, was to be her first official trip outside Tokyo since November 2003.
The Imperial Household Agency has confirmed that ill-health was the reason for her cancellation, describing the royal's condition as "inappropriate" for attendance. The princess has been struggling with what minders describe as an "adjustment disorder" for the last 14 months.
Royal experts say the main source of her difficulties has been the intense pressure to provide a male heir. Plans for a constitutional amendment clearing the way for her daughter Aiko to accede to the throne are expected to get the green light, but it seems Masako is still not quite ready to return to public life.