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A smiling Masako rings in the New Year

January 2, 2006
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In an indication that she is recovering from the stress-related disorder that has kept her from her duties since 2003, Crown Princess Masako of Japan took part in the Imperial family's annual New Year's ceremony for the first time in three years on Sunday.

And, further reflecting her slow but steady return to the spotlight, the 42-year-old princess joined her husband Crown Prince Naruhito and the rest of the royal family for the traditional New Year's greeting on the balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Masako, whose condition was confirmed in 2004 after she'd been absent from public life for eight months, has recently been increasing her profile. On December 23, in the last of her handful of appearances in 2005, the crown princess greeted some 14,000 well-wishers from the same spot as part of celebrations for the 72nd birthday of her father-in-law, Emperor Akihito.

"I am gradually getting better," confirmed the former career diplomat and mother-of-one in a statement released late last year.

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Photo: ©
Crown Princess Masako waves from the balcony of the Imperial palace in Tokyo on Monday. The 42-year-old royal, diagnosed with a stress-related disorder, has been making a steady return to public duties of latePhoto: © AFPy
Photo: ©
Thousands of flag-waving well-wishers flocked to the palace for the traditional New Year's greetingPhoto: © AFP

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