Princess turns 41; seen on the mend

Crown Princess Masako marked her 41st birthday Thursday by continuing to show signs of recuperating from a stress-induced illness and raising prospects that she might resume some official duties for New Year’s.

“I feel my health is getting better gradually,” the Crown Princess said in a statement issued before her birthday, but added that it will still “take some time before I fully resume my official duties.”

The Crown Princess has suspended all official duties since last December, when she was hospitalized following a bout of shingles.

The Imperial Household Agency said in July that she is suffering from an adjustment disorder due to stress arising from her status and busy schedule, a psychological state that leads to anxiety and depression.

Speaking in a news conference ahead of her birthday, Hideki Hayashida, grand master of the Crown Prince’s Household, said, “There is a possibility that she will attend” some New Year events, as long as it does not cause her too much strain, as it would still be “difficult” for her to undertake heavy duties.

Hayashida also quoted the princess’ doctors as saying her health is “heading toward recovery,” as she can now continue to do several things consecutively, citing an example in which she was able to take a stroll after enjoying some exercises to music with her 3-year-old daughter, Princess Aiko.

Hayashida, however, did not disclose what particular New Year events the Crown Princess might attend.

The doctors, in a separate statement, said they are hoping she can resume her official duties gradually from next year, but said they cannot consider her fully recovered.

The doctors said she is still easily tired, both physically and mentally, and remains unable to sleep well or regularly.

In May, Crown Prince Naruhito said, “There have been developments that have denied Masako’s career as a diplomat as well as her personality.”