The couple welcomed daughter Aiko, known as Princess Toshi, in 2001
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"At the time of the wedding, the Japanese public believed it wouldn’t be long before the patter of tiny feet was heard in the royal palace. But as time passed – and the crown princess entered her late 30s – the press and public, anxious for a royal pregnancy, began to wonder: Why hadn't Masako yet produced an heir?
The path to the couple's first child was a difficult one, with baby daughter Aiko arriving after eight years of attempts at starting a family, and Masako suffering a miscarriage in 1999. It was after this loss that the empress, who Masako has often said has been a source of comfort for her, came forward with her support for son and daughter-in-law.
"No-one can fully imagine from outside the feelings of the crown princess at having to endure such an experience with her first pregnancy," she said, adding later: "I wish the princess to know that I shall always be available for her if she feels the need to talk… I shall try always to be at her side."