Masako book author spurns call to apologize


An Australian journalist refused Wednesday to bow to the Japanese government’s demand that he apologize for “groundless claims” in a book he wrote about Crown Princess Masako.

Instead, Ben Hills, an award-winning investigative reporter, went on the attack, saying the government’s reaction to the book, which was released in Australia in November, has been “bizarre, unprofessional and bewildering.”

“I regard this as an attempt by the Japanese government to suppress and censor my book, and I think it is absolutely outrageous,” he said.

On Monday, diplomats from the Japanese Embassy in Canberra delivered letters to Hills and publisher Random House Australia, protesting the content of “Princess Masako, Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne.”

The government’s letters said the book is defamatory and contains “disrespectful descriptions, distortion of facts and judgmental assertions . . . pertaining to the birth of Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko and the physical conditions of Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess Masako.”

The government has demanded an apology and corrections.

Hills said the letters had no details about which parts of his book are wrong or inaccurate.

“They (the letters) really didn’t specify anything in particular they were complaining about,” he said. “They were just a complete, widespread rave. It was most unprofessional.”

Hills said the diplomats told him one of the defamatory points was his claim that the Crown Princess’ daughter, Princess Aiko, was conceived by in vitro fertilization.

The claim was widely reported in the international press but ignored by the local media, Hills said.