30 JULY 2008

Japan's Princess Aiko has shot up in the last year – or at least that's how it seemed when she appeared in public for the first time in a long while. The royal youngster looked several inches taller as she waved her dad Naruhito off to attend the coronation of the new king of Tonga.

In his absence six-year-old Aiko will be company for her mum Masako, whose last overseas trip was a 2002 visit to Australia and New Zealand.

Since suffering a stress-induced illness blamed on the pressures of life in the Imperial Household, the 44-year-old crown princess has cut down on her royal workload.

In July, before his solo trip to Spain, her husband pleaded for the nation's kindness and patience. "I would like the public to understand that Masako is continuing to make her utmost efforts with the help of those around her," said the 48-year-old prince.

Doctors also warned that "repeated questions on the reasons why Princess Masako is not accompanying the prince on overseas visits will aggravate (her) medical condition".

Photo: ©
Aiko and her mother Crown Princess Masako bid farewell to Prince Naruhito as he sets off for the coronation of Tonga's King George. Onlookers must have been struck by how much the royal youngster's grown in the last 12 monthsPhoto: © Getty ImagesClick on photo to enlarge