Princess Nori, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, offered thanks to her parents as she turned 36 on Monday, her last birthday as an Imperial family member before leaving the palace to marry a commoner.

“What I think has been truly meaningful for me is to have lived for the past 36 years with Their Majesties and to have been able to observe and learn from them,” the princess said in a written response Thursday to questions from reporters.

Born in 1969, the princess recalled that “life in a special position has had both beneficial aspects and also some difficulties,” according to the written response provided both in Japanese and English.

Imperial family members usually make public comments in written form or in a news conference on the occasion of their birthdays. This was Princess Nori’s last such occasion before marrying Yoshiki Kuroda, an employee with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The marriage is expected to take place in late October or November, palace sources said.

The princess must relinquish her royal title after her wedding, in accordance with the Imperial House Law which stipulates that a female member of the Imperial family must leave the household if she marries a commoner.

But she sounded positive about her new life, saying, “I am grateful that I will be able to go about my activities without affecting a large number of people (as I have done as a princess).”

While saying that Crown Princess Masako’s health condition is “well on the way to recovery,” Princess Nori said she was worried by Crown Prince Naruhito’s comments last May that there had been moves that “denied” his wife’s career and personality.

Princess Nori said she was “saddened” because her brother’s comments triggered “unjustified criticism” of the Emperor and Empress, and also affected “overseas perceptions of Japan’s Imperial family.”

In a news conference in February, the Crown Prince offered a public apology for the remarks.

Crown Princess Masako, a Harvard- and Oxford-educated former diplomat, has been mostly out of public view since December 2003.

The Crown Prince said in February that his wife still has “ups and downs,” and that her doctors believe it will take her some time to recover.

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