Crown Princess Masako of Japan recently attended her first state banquet in over a decade, signalling a return to health. Her bright appearance at the 81st birthday celebrations of her father-in-law Emperor Akihito is another indicator that her recovery from a stress disorder continues.
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VIEW GALLERY Princess Masako has increased her public appearances
Wearing an elegant suit and pillbox hat, the 51-year-old greeted crowd that had gathered at the Imperial Palace to greet the family. Masako, who spoke last year of looking forward to a better future, smiled with genuine warmth at the wellwishers.
It is the most at ease the princess has looked in years. She joined on the happy occasion by her husband Crown Prince Naruhito and his mother Empress Michiko.
The family group was completed by Naruhito's brother Akishino, his wife Princess Kiko and their eldest daughter Princess Kako.
In October Masako was also on positive form as she welcomed Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands to her country. She made a special effort to attend the banquet in their honour and looked really pleased to play her part.
The Dutch royals are old friends of the family and Maxima is said to have encouraged Masako on her road back to health and happiness.
Last year, the princess even travelled to Europe for the first time in years to attend Willem-Alexander's inauguration as king and thoroughly enjoyed herself.