Chiara, thank God my in laws were not Emperor and Empress of Japan. They would have been the first to take their dirty laundry to the press, "they won't visit us enough," only my m-i-l would have gone on TV to cry about it, loudly, and hold my photo up.
They went through life with a similar M.O.; they were the elders, they were the parents, the commanded respect and therefore could do whatever they wanted. But it seems Naruhito is standing up to them, and that I respect him for tremendously.
That's just typical family dysfunction and manipulation, people who want to behave badly and then do so because they are given a right to do it.
Here's a question - if Masako was diagnosed with depression, has she been going to therapy? Is Naruhito accompanying her? Any Western therapist would have told them to stand their ground on the demands of parents who first insist you visit and then insist on what amounts to mental abuse during the visit. Just say no, they would say, and both husband and wife must stand their ground. Would the powers that be permit her to go to therapy?
Honestly, I am highly ambivalent towards the emperor and empress. The emperor has done a lot to make amends for Japan´s militarist past and to foster friendship with Japan´s Asian neighbours. He has always made a point to be more than a puppet and I respect him enormously for that. One very nice example is also the following. (You have to know that since recently some politicians are trying to bring back the old anthem from war times and that, for example, teachers at public schools are being reprimanded or even fired if they refuse to sing it.) O.k., there is this nice story of the Tokyo Metropolitan District official who boasted in front of the emperor that all the employees of the TMD now sang the national anthem. Akihito´s dry retort -- "Yes, and wouldn't it have been nice if they had not been coerced to do so?" -- left that official completely speechless.
Concerning the empress, it is a miracle that she even survived. As I said before (when I was talking about Kiko), I would never say that she is the bad one. In another forum, a member said that someone should write a book about the succeeding generations of "Mad Empresses and Insane Consorts of the Royal Family" and call it “The Ring Parts One, Two, Three, Four...” where “each Empress is turned into the voracious little scary girl who eats the souls of the succeeding Empresses.
How do you stop the curse?” Also Michiko´s mother-in-law, Empress Nagako, had been given a very hard time, first before her marriage when some accused her of being unfit as imperial consort because of an alleged colour-blindness. Later, when she had four girls in a row, her husband was put under pressure to take a concubine. He was even given to understand that if he refused to cooperate, there was his younger brother who might take over as emperor and produce a son... (Reminds one a bit of what is happening presently, the difference just being that Empress Nagako finally succeeded in having Akihito. Incidentally, a very good article about her is to be found here: http://www.unofficialroya...ferocious-dowager-empress
I, for one, believe that there is a conflict in the imperial family and as far as this conflict is concerned, I absolutely side with Naruhito and Masako. As you say, Naruhito is showing tremendous courage by standing up to his parents and the IHA, and even more so as he knows that a lot of people in his country neither understand nor appreciate his attitude – which is partly due to the traditional value system and partly to the fact that the Japanese media is doing a very bad job in informing people about what is really going on.
But apart from that, I would always insist that neither the emperor nor the empress are bad people. I am sure that they both have really tried to be better parents/parents-in-law than the previous emperor and empress were. Nobody has ever told them that this might not be enough, that although bad treatment is admittedly better than very bad treatment, it still remains bad treatment. That is why I think that a big part of the blame goes to the traditional value system that says that parents can do whatever and children still have the duty to be respectful and obedient, that a mother-in-law may treat her daughter-in-law as nastily as she ever chooses, her son has no right to call her to task.
And that is the point where we come to your question about the therapists. First, one has to say that this was the point that drove the crown prince to publicly call for help in 2004. Already in the nineties, there had been rumours that the crown princess was depressed (at the time probably still in the colloquial, not in the medical sense of the word). But, at the latest, her reaction after the miscarriage and the media-hype surrounding it (in 1999) should have convinced any unprejudiced watcher that she needed help. The details of the princess´ monthly period had been leaked to the press, obviously by someone who had very intimate knowledge of her. As a result, she locked herself up in her room, communicated with staff members only by letters, sometimes even refused to eat. And when she did eat, no staff member was allowed to be present. It took her a year to recover from the shock. That she was able to do that was, in great measure, due to her husband´s tender support. Then she had Aiko and, for around a year, all seemed to be well. But then, the pressure obviously increased again. Members of the imperial family are surrounded at all times by a team of doctors who are responsible for their health. But when Masako described to them her symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue and her problems to get up in the morning, their advice simply consisted in: “Take walks and think positive!” (which, not surprisingly, did not help at all
At last, Princess Masako had to be hospitalized with a severe bout of shingles, a stress-induced illness. But although the physical symptoms disappeared after the treatment, she still kept suffering from vertigo, headaches, fatigue and apathy. She reacted very sensitively, could neither eat nor sleep and broke into tears at the smallest irritation. She was constantly brooding on past things and was unable to direct her attention to the present or the future. All her strength and beauty were gone.
As an extraordinary exception and only conforming to medical advice – women who marry into the imperial family hardly ever go home to their parents and certainly never stay there for the night – she was allowed, in March and April 2004, to pass four weeks with her parents at their holiday home in Karuizawa which, to the great joy of her husband and parents, considerably improved her condition. But then the IHA declared that they “could no longer guarantee for her safety.” The princess was obliged to return to the palace where she, very soon, lapsed into her former state of apathy. Her husband feared for her life, and this is why he took a desperate measure… He had, before their marriage, vowed to defend and protect Masako for the rest of his life to the utmost of his power. At first, the prince tried to emotionally support her as he had done after her miscarriage. But soon he came to understand that her present condition was beyond his abilities. She needed the help of a specialist which, without the consent of the IHA, he was unable to get for her. The imperial bureaucrats were afraid that, if they stopped pretending that all was in order (or would be so very soon), the circumstances of imperial life that had made the princess ill might become publicly known. That is why they flatly refused to consult an expert. So, the desperate crown prince decided that it was his last hope to make use of the already scheduled press conference in order to call the public for aid, being fully aware of the mayhem he would cause…
Although Naruhito´s public call for help did, as we know, by far not solve the problem it had, at least, two immediate effects: The executives of the IHA were raised from their lethargy and engaged for Masako a “highest authority” in the field of psychiatry who has attended to Masako since June 2004. And, second, in July 2004 the IHA published – with Masako´s consent – the medical diagnosis: “adjustment disorder”. (Which certainly meant a relief for the crown princess in so far as, up until that time, the public had only gotten the impression that she was sickly and maybe a bit lazy, whining because of simple headaches that other women would hide behind a smile. Now, at least, everybody was informed that there was a medical reason for Masako´s disappearance from the public eye.)
I do not know, obviously, what her doctors tell the princess. But they have repeatedly supported her by publicly recommending that arrangements be made for Masako to engage in public duties where she could take advantage of the expertise and experiences she accumulated before her marriage, in order to help her recover. (It does not seem to me, though, that their advice is heeded. Else they would not have to repeat it.) Still, as Toshiya Matsuzaki, a veteran journalist specializing in the imperial family, said: "[The statement] represents a bold message from the crown prince and princess, effectively requesting the Imperial Household Agency to respect Masako's personality and her past career experience as a diplomat to create an alternative form of duties. Officials of the agency must have been shocked by the statement."
However, this does not necessarily mean that the therapists would tell Masako to never mind the attitude of her parents-in-law. Also the advice of therapists depends on the value system of the society they are living in (and changes with it). In an article published January 2006 (Princess's plight:Masako's doctors emphasize that a change in her public duties is needed), psychiatrist Rika Kayama maintained that one of the problems is that the crown princess is a career woman who sees work as an opportunity for self-fulfillment. The princess, Kayama says, is typical of women of her generation who feel obligated to play a meaningful role that can be only played by them. "But imperial duties are rather passive and symbolic, making it difficult for the princess to feel challenged or rewarded, which may have gradually eroded her self-esteem and identity," Kayama speculated. "While the (doctors') statement seems to hold her environment primarily responsible for her mental state, the nature of imperial duties cannot be changed, and the princess might need to rethink and address her instincts in order to overcome the situation." Kayama has never personally examined the princess but her advice reflects traditional Japanese values: it is the individual who has to adjust to society, at all costs. It is indeed remarkable that a psychiatrist would tell a patient who is suffering from depression to “rethink” in order to overcome the illness. I hate to be impolite but imo this is, obviously, nonsense and it is proof for what I have read: mental health treatment in Japan is widely regarded as lagging behind that of many other developed countries. Here is a comment on a 2009 article that discussed a documentary that explores the „taboo subject of mental illness in Japan“. It shows that the situation leaves a lot to be desired:
I have just finished working [in Japan] with the sister of a friend to help get her through severe post-natal depression. Shes doing great now, but she had ZERO support - a doctor who basically said "get over it, you have a baby to feed" and a bunch of friends who responded to her pleas for help with "nice weather were having". She was told she "couldnt have medication beacuse it would stop her breastfeeding". The woman was virtually comatose - she couldnt even change a diaper. http://www.japantoday.com...f-mental-illness-in-japan
Besides, it seems that the generational conflict in the imperial family reflects a conflict that is common in many Japanese families. Jin Ito, editor in chief of Shukan Josei, a variety magazine for women said, „Articles on the imperial family are widely read because such ordinary problems as child-rearing and delicate relations with in-laws that seem to plague the imperial family make readers feel relieved. The difficult environment facing the crown princess is being viewed as a result of generational conflicts with the traditional way of life at the imperial family," he said. "Women in their 30s and 40s, who are our readership base, naturally relate to the problems facing Masako."
One of those readers is Miki Fuda, a 38-year-old homemaker from Hamura, western Tokyo. Fuda began closely following Masako-related coverage in the media after the crown princess began suffering from stress. She said the princess was likely under tremendous pressure to give birth to a male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. "When I became pregnant with my second child, there was the unspoken understanding that I must have a boy," she recalled. "When a test at the advanced stage of my pregnancy suggested that I would have another girl, my mother-in-law looked very disappointed and immediately asked if the test was really reliable. I was shocked by her reaction and started to feel that I had no value as a member of the family unless I give birth to a boy," she said. "The crown princess must have been in a similar situation, but on a much larger scale. I just cannot help feeling sympathetic toward her." http://transnews.exblog.jp/2475442
But a 68-year-old woman in Yachiyo, Chiba Prefecture, who visited the Imperial Palace on Emperor Akihito's birthday on Dec. 23, was critical of the princess, even though she says she feels sympathy for Masako in her tough environment. From the perspective of a mother-in-law, the woman says, Masako appears a bit too self-oriented and assertive. "I put up with a lot of things while living together with my parents-in-law for over 40 years, but I took care of them until they died at 90 and 98," she said. "But my son and daughter-in-law visit our place twice a year at most, although I and my husband desperately want to see our granddaughters." She said her son and daughter-in-law never really consulted her on big decisions, such as working after giving birth. "They may say it is a generation thing, but if anybody in a family is too self-oriented and assertive, the relationship among the entire family may go bad. I guess even the imperial family is no exception. I feel kind of relieved because it looks like even they have similar problems that we have."