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Masako happy at the prospect of a relaxing country break

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In keeping with her increasingly upbeat appearance of late, Japan's Crown Princess Masako greeted onlookers with a sunny smile as she set out for the imperial organic farm, 62 miles north of Tokyo in the hills near the town of Takanezawa.

The reason for her good mood wasn't hard to see. The royal was accompanied by her husband Naruhito, who has been a pillar of support during her stress-induced illness, their pretty daughter Aiko and the family pet Yuri.

Now seven and a lively little girl who enjoys watching sumo wrestling and picking flowers amongst other pursuits, Aiko is source of enormous pride for the couple.

Last year she started elementary school at Tokyo's exclusive Gakushuin academy and her development may have helped her mum make good progress in recovering from her depression.

Certainly the 45-year-old former diplomat is now seen more often at high-profile public engagements. Most notably she helped welcome Prince Charles to Japan, chatting animatedly with the British royal on his visit in October 2008.

Photo: PA
The spring weather seemed to have put the royal in a sunny mood as she set out for the imperial ranch with daughter Aiko and husband Naruhito - as well as the family pet
Photo: PA
She later handed over pup Yuri to her seven-year-old before the royal party set off

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