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Crown Princess Masako of Japan to attend first palace banquet in 11 years

October 28, 2014
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Crown Princess Masako of Japan will attend her first banquet at the Imperial Palace in 11 years – signalling a return to her official engagements. The 50-year-old royal has largely been absent from public duty after she was diagnosed with a long-term stress-induced illness in 2004. According to the Imperial Household Agency, Masako and her husband Crown Prince Naruhito will attend a dinner on Wednesday held in honour of their good friends King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands.

masako1 © Photo: Getty Images

Princess Masako said last year that she was "making efforts" to recover

The banquet will be hosted by Naruhito's parents Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and will also see other members of the Japanese royal family in attendance. Masako was last present at a palace dinner in October 2003 to welcome Mexican President Vicente Fox and his wife. The crown princess, who shares 12-year-old daughter Princess Aiko with her husband, is also expected to participate in a welcome ceremony at the palace on Wednesday morning. She may also take part in discussions at the Emperor and Empress' residence on Thursday afternoon.

masako2 © Photo: Getty Images

Princess Masako shares daughter Princess Aiko with her husband Prince Naruhito

Masako will no doubt look forward to her friend Máxima's impending visit, as the Dutch queen was said to have played a key role in the princess' improving health. When Masako was unsure if she would fly to the Netherlands for King Willem-Alexander's inauguration in April 2013, Máxima personally rang her to convince her to make the journey, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. "The conversation with the queen about the trip to Holland served to strengthen [Masako's] self-esteem," the publication reported. It was the first time that Masako had left Japan in 11 years.

masako3 © Photo: Getty Images

Good friends Princess Masako and Queen Máxima will be reunited on Wednesday

Later that year in December, on Masako's 50th birthday, the royal released a two-page public statement that hinted of a brighter future. "I feel strong gratitude toward the many people who helped me get to where I am now," she wrote. "Since my birthday last year, I've been making efforts to accomplish my duties, whether business or personal, as much as possible." She added, "I would like to continue my efforts toward my recovery while receiving help from people around."

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