A Princess’ Life, Not for Me!

April 8, 2008 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

If you don’t know already, Cinderella never lived happily ever after. Soon after marrying Prince Charming, she plunged into a life of public scrutiny, imperial scorn and utter depression. That was the case for Japan’s own Cinderella, Princess Masako, at least.

Media and public alike were enthralled by her story. The 29-year-old hailed from the well-to-do, but she was still a commoner. So when Masako accepted the Crown Prince’s marriage proposal in 1993 she vicariously fulfilled every young girl’s rags-to-riches dream. Never mind the prince had the looks and charm of Tweedledum; royal blood ran through his veins, bestowing him a lifetime of fine dining and fancy threads.

“You’ll never be a princess!” my dad said to the teenage me after I went behind his back and pierced my ears. It was around the same time of the Masako media blitz and my dad was certain I could’ve married royalty if only my ears weren’t pierced. By tradition, royal brides-to-be were supposed to be virginal, right down to the fleshy earlobe. But I could care less. I knew better than to think Masako would actually be happy in her imperial castle with the great big moat. In fact, I felt sorry for her.

Fifteen years later, Masako suffers from clinical depression following a very public nervous breakdown. It took her years to have a baby and even after doing so she’s still criticized as a failure, unable to produce a male heir.

“Princess Masako: The Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne,” by Ben Hills, gets into the nitty-gritty of her tragic decision to marry into the royal family. She was a Harvard graduate with a promising future as a foreign diplomat. Now she’s relegated to walking three steps behind her husband and barred from speaking her mind. (During a press conference, she was admonished for doing so after someone pointed out that she’d spoken more than her husband.)

Last year, the book became a point of controversy; up until then few dared to speak badly of the imperial family, who fought vigorously against a Japanese translation. It’s an interesting read and gives you a greater sense of Japan’s dark side. Happily ever after…? Yeah right!


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April 2008