A Not-So-Happy Fairy Tale Ending

Few people outside of Japan are aware of the tragic story of Masako Owada, a contemporary of the U.K.’s Lady Di and every inch just as much a Princess as her more famous counterpart.

Like Lady Di, Princess Masako is a commoner who married into the Royal Family while her husband was still Prince. Unlike her British counterpart, she had tremendous achievements prior to making that decision.

Born on December 9, 1963, Masako is the eldest daughter of a senior Japanese diplomat. When she was two, they moved to Moscow and when she was five they moved to New York. The family moved back to Japan in during Masako’s middle school years, but were soon back in the USA, where Masko finished high school and then went on to Harvard, where she graduated with a degree in Economics. By this time, she spoke five languages: Japanese, Russian, English, French and German.

Upon returning to Japan, Masako became one of only 28 applicants out of 800 to pass the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Entrance Examination, where she served in the Japanese diplomatic corps and was sponsored to take a Masters degree at Harvard. Unfortunately, she quit before quitting her thesis, perhaps a first public sign of issues the troubled Princess would soon have to overcome.

Masako had met Crown Prince Naruhito while a student in Tokyo, who expressed his interest in her throughout these times. After twice turning down marriage proposals because it would prevent her from having a career, Masako finally accepted on the third time.

On June 9, 1993, she married Prince Naruhito and became Crown Princess. As a commoner, she was not made to feel particularly welcome by the notoriously rigid Japanese Imperial Household Agency, which is more interested in keeping the protocols of centuries of Imperial tradition than it is in serving the Royals themselves. A much-accomplished women in her own right, Masako was now limited to ceremonial duties, one whose primary task was royal succession. Much like Lady Di, this pressure combined with increasing demands for her to produce an heir. The stress caused her to miscarry in 1999. A daughter was finally born in 2001. Unlike Lady Di, Masako had failed, failed to bring the Royal Family a son. She has remained largely out of the public eye ever since, reportedly to emotional disorders. The Crown Prince himself made the unprecedented act of blaming it on the rigidity and unbending demands of the Imperial Household Agency, to whom she seems not a real person at all.

So the next time you complain, you haven’t married a Prince, count your lucky stars.

Please, also, think of this lost Princess the next time you unfairly label victims of mental illness.


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