Spats cast pall over Japan imperial anniversary

Mon Jan 5, 2009 3:48am EST
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By Isabel Reynolds

TOKYO (Reuters) - Emperor Akihito marks two decades on the Japanese throne on Wednesday, but the anniversary is set to pass quietly given the poor health of the royal family that some officials blame on internal squabbling.

The 20th anniversary of the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, comes a few weeks after Akihito, 75, canceled his annual birthday news conference and other official duties due to high blood pressure and intestinal bleeding.

A senior official said Akihito was believed to be stressed over the future of Japan's monarchy and disputes with his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, prompting recriminations between officials from the two households.

But some experts say the problems facing the imperial household go beyond the succession and reflect a gulf between the idealized image of the institution and its reality.

"Imperial Household Agency and East Palace (Naruhito's residence) at war" said one headline in the weekly tabloid Shukan Shincho after officials weighed in on both sides.

"Over the past few years, I have noticed that he constantly seems to be anxious about the various problems facing the imperial household, starting with the succession issue," the head of the Imperial Household Agency, Shingo Haketa, told domestic media last month when discussing Akihito's condition.

Haketa went on to list issues he said were causing friction, from concern over Naruhito's own health, after he was treated for a polyp, to doubt over who was overseeing treatment for his ailing wife, Crown Princess Masako, local media said.

Other officials pointed out that Masako had also been hurt by speculation over the cause of her condition, media reports say.   Continued...