TOKYO • Japan's Crown Princess Masako yesterday pledged to do her best despite feeling "insecure" about becoming empress in mere months, in a candid statement released on her 55th birthday.
Emperor Akihito will step down on April 30 next year - the first abdication in the Japanese imperial family in more than two centuries. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who is Princess Masako's husband, will ascend the throne the next day.
"Even though I feel insecure about how helpful I will be when I think about the days ahead... I want to devote myself to the happiness of the people, so I will make an effort to that end," said the Crown Princess.
Harvard-and Oxford-educated Princess Masako left a promising career as a diplomat to marry into the imperial family in 1993.
She gave birth to Princess Aiko in 2001 but continued to face pressure to produce a son as only male heirs can take the throne under Japanese law.
The pressure eased in 2006, however, when her sister-in-law gave birth to Prince Hisahito, now 12.
Princess Masako has made few public appearances since 2003 and has struggled with adjustment disorders.
In her birthday statement, she revealed that she was recuperating from a stress-induced illness ahead of the imperial succession.
"I am delighted at the fact that I can perform more duties than before as I have tried to improve my physical condition," she said.
But her doctors warned in a separate statement that it is important for the Crown Princess to continue treatment as she remains vulnerable to fatigue, especially after a large ceremony or successive duties.