Princess Masako Ben Hills

A brilliant woman sacrifices her career to marry a love-struck prince. Inevitably, the fairy-story turns to tragedy when Masako Owada is unable to adjust to the pressures of living in Japan’s ancient imperial court.

It was feared that the royal dynasty, the world’s oldest with a 2600-year-history, would die out if Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito could not bear a boy – but after nearly 20 years of marriage, both are now approaching 50 and have only a daughter, little Aiko, born with the help of IVF. Even the birth of a new son and heir to her sister-in-law Princess Kiko has done little to relieve Masako’s stress – and has only postponed for a generation the vexed issue of changing the law to allow a woman to inherit the throne.

Inevitably, the strain of it all has had a terrible impact on Masako. She has been afflicted with painful shingles, and is suffering from deep depression – although the palace will not admit it. There has been talk of divorce, though no royal has ever divorced in Japan’s history. Some say the prince is considering renouncing the throne for his love – leaving the crown to his brother. The Emperor is ailing with cancer, and the imperial system is in crisis.

This book draws on more than a year of research in Tokyo and rural Japan, Oxford, Harvard, Sydney and Melbourne. It involved more than 60 interviews with Australian, Japanese, American and English sources – Masako’s and Naruhito’s friends, teachers and former colleagues – many of whom have never spoken publicly before. It explores, for the first time, the ‘Australian connection’ with the royal couple. It includes intimate portraits of Masako and Naruhito from childhood to marriage and beyond; a look behind the ‘Chrysanthemum Curtain’ to the arcane world of the Japanese royal family, where vestal virgins still preside at Shinto rites and the position of royal stool inspector was only recently abolished. Through their love affair it opens a window on Japanese attitudes towards parenting, mental illness, the role of women, and the place of the monarchy.

Princess Masako asks and answers many questions which can never be raised in Japan because of the reverence in which the Emperor and his family are held. What is the real reason Masako had to abandon her studies at Oxford? Why did Kunaicho, the powerful bureaucrats of the Imperial Household Agency, oppose the marriage? Who are the shadowy figures who persuaded Masako to give up her career and marry the prince? Why is there such secrecy over the couple’s use of IVF, and Masako’s mental illness? What does the future hold for the star-crossed couple – and for the survival of the monarchy.

But above all it is the story of a romance gone wrong, an Oriental Charles and Diana story which neither will survive undamaged, but from which neither seems capable of escaping.

How Princess Masako became a best-seller

Princess Masako JapanPrincess Masako became an international best-seller after a crude attempt by the Japanese government to ban the book. In February 2007 the Foreign Ministry called a press conference in Tokyo to denounce the book as “insulting to the Japanese people and the imperial family.” They made no specific claims of factual inaccuracy, contenting themselves with deeply inscrutable statements such as claiming that the book contains “disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgemental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic.

In fact what upset the government were my revelations that the Crown Princess had been forced to undergo fertility treatment after failing to deliver a son and heir, and has been driven into a deep clinical depression because of her persecution by the palace bureaucrats. After this attack, the Japanese publisher Kodansha dropped plans to publish the book in Japan. Fortunately another publisher, Akira Kitagawa of Dai-san Shoken, defied threats from right-wing ultra-nationalists who picketed his offices and published an unexpurgated version of the book in Japanese. As a result of the controversy the book received world-wide publicity and has become a best-seller. It has so far been published in 12 countries and has sold more than 300,000 copies.

 The Truth about Princess Masako

Secrets of Princess Masako, Japan

This companion book by Mineo Noda, an investigative journalist, examines the attempts by the Japanese Establishment to prevent Ben’s book being published, and the attempts by the Kodansha publishing company to censor it. Published by Dai-san Shokan in August, 2007.

Other International Publications

Princess Masako Denmark, Ben Hills

Denmark

The latest edition was published in May 2009 in Denmark by Politikens Forlag.

Den japanske kejserfamilie har ikke meget tilfælles med andre af verdens kongelige, inklusive den danske kongefamilie. Indhyllet i myter og mysterier er hoffet ved verdens sidste og længst regerende kejserlige dynasti et arnested for rygter og gætterier, konspiration og intriger. Den japanske kejserfamilie lever efter ældgamle traditioner, og kun yderst sjældent får omgivelserne et indblik i livet “hinsides voldgraven”

Det var denne middelalderlige verden, den kvikke, livlige og veluddannede Masako Owada giftede sig ind i. Hun var overbevist om, at hun ville kunne puste nyt liv i det antikke hof. Men nu, tretten år senere, ligger drømmen i ruiner. Masako er fange af netop den institution, hun provede at reformere – med et ødelagt helbred og et krakeleret image. Dette er bogon om prinsesse Masakos skæbne og et sjældent kig ind i en af verdens mest hemmelige familier.

Princess Masako Turkey, Ben HillsTurkey

In 2009 the translation Prenses Masako was published in Turkey by Dogan Kitap.

Peri masali gibi baslayan ancak bir trajediye dönüsen bir öykü “Prenses Masako”…

Ancak, her seyden önce, bir seylerin yanlis gittigi bir askin öyküsü…

Yetenekli bir kadinin, askiyla yanip tutustugu bir prensle evlenmek ugruna kariyerini feda edisinin, ancak Japonya’nin tarihi imparatorluk sarayinda yasamanin baskisina uyum saglayamayisinin öyküsü…

“Prenses Masako” da Japon imparatoru ve ailesine gösterilen derin saygi nedeniyle hiçbir zaman gündeme tasinmamis birçok sorunun yanitini bulacaksiniz.

Ben Hills, Avustralya’nin taninmis arastirmaci gazetecilerinden ve en deneyimli yabanci muhabirlerinden biridir Otuz yili askin bir süredir, Fairfax grubu gazeteleri için elliden fazla ülkeden savas, seçim, skandal ve kutlama haberleri hazirlamistir. 1970′li yillarda Londra merkez olmak üzere, Afrika ve Ortadogu’yla ilgili haberler yapmis, 1980′lerde Hong Kong’da, 1990′larda da Masako’yla ve Naruhito’yla ilgili ilk haberini yaptigi Tokyo’da çalismistir. Avustralya’nin en önemli gazetecilik ödülü Walkley Ödülü’nün sahibi olan Ben Hills’in, Wittenoom asbest felakitini anlatan “Blue Murder” ve Japonya’daki üç yillik gazetecilik deneyimini anlattigi

“Japan-Behind The Lines” adli iki kitabi daha vardir.

Princess Masako IndonesiaIndonesia

Princess Masako was published in Indonesia by Alvabet.

Inilah impian kebanyakan kaum Hawa: menikahi seorang pangeran tampan, pindah ke istana megah, dan hidup bahagia selamanya. Tetapi, bukan seperti itu yang terjadi pada Masako Owada, seorang perempuan sangat modern yang bertubrukan dengan sebuah sistem kuno.

Menelisik diam-diam dunia keluarga Kekaisaran Jepang yang misterius, buku ini menguraikan tekanan yang dilakukan Pengurus Rumah Tangga Istana Kekaisaran Jepang terhadap Putri Masako karena tak bisa menghasilkan keturunan lelaki guna menjaga dinasti kekaisaran tertua di dunia dari kepunahan. Karya ini juga mengungkapkan dampak lahirnya anak lelaki dari rahim Putri Kiko, saudara ipar Putri Masako, pada kehidupan Masako yang sudah penuh masalah dan pada harapan yang mungkin dia bangun bagi putrinya, Aiko kecil, untuk menjadi kaisar perempuan Jepang.

Princess Masako Poland, Ben HillsPoland

The Polish edition was published by Videograf II.

Dla wielu osób brzmi to jak bajka – poslubic przystojnego ksiecia, zamieszkac w luksusowym palacu i zyc dlugo i szczesliwie. W przypadku Masako Owady – zony japonskiego nastepcy tronu – bajka ta okazala sie koszmarem.

W wyniku skrepowania zasadami obowiazujacymi na dworze cesarskim ,a takze nacisków na to ,aby w obliczu kryzysu dynastycznego urodzila syna , Masako stracila zdrowie i nieomal postradala zmysly.

Na kartach tej ksiazki sledzimy zycie Masako – od dziecinstwa w rodzinie dyplomaty, przez studia na wielkich swiatowych uniwersytetach i kariere w dyplomacji, az po zycie za Chryzantemowa Kurtyna.

Menelisik diam-diam dunia keluarga Kekaisaran Jepang yang misterius, buku ini menguraikan tekanan yang dilakukan Pengurus Rumah Tangga Istana Kekaisaran Jepang terhadap Putri Masako karena tak bisa menghasilkan keturunan lelaki guna menjaga dinasti kekaisaran tertua di dunia dari kepunahan. Karya ini juga mengungkapkan dampak lahirnya anak lelaki dari rahim Putri Kiko, saudara ipar Putri Masako, pada kehidupan Masako yang sudah penuh masalah dan pada harapan yang mungkin dia bangun bagi putrinya, Aiko kecil, untuk menjadi kaisar perempuan Jepang.

Princess Masako CzechCzechoslovakia

Publishing Info

Princess Masako was published in Australia by Random House on November 1 2006 and in the US by Penguin/Tarcher – a new paperback edition was published there in January 2008 which is described on the cover as an ‘international best-seller.’

Reviews

Bloomberg TV, 30 September 2007 (1)

Watch Ben’s interview with Bloomberg TV, September 30th, 2007. Watch here >

Bloomberg TV, 30 September 2007 (2)

Watch Ben’s interview with Bloomberg TV, September 30th, 2007. Watch here >

Bloomberg TV, 30 September 2007 (3)

Watch Ben’s interview with Bloomberg TV, September 30th, 2007. Watch here >

CNN International Interview, 23 August 2007

Watch Ben’s interview with CNN International. Watch here >

Reuters TV, 22 August 2007

Report on the release of Princess Masako in Japan 22 August 2007. Watch here >

The Catch Up, 16 March 2007

Interview with Channel Nine’s national The Catch-Up programme with Zoe Sheridan, Lisa Oldfield and Mary Moody, March 16 2007. Watch here >

Straits Times, 9 March 2007

“Book that sparked a battle royale.” — David Chew, Straits Times. Download PDF >

Sydney Morning Herald, 4 November 2006

“This is a well written and well researched account.” Download PDF >

ABC Radio, 30 October 2006

Richard Fidler interviews Ben on The Conversation Hour, ABC local radio (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide) 30 October 2006, repeated 16 February 2007. Read more > Listen here >

Related Articles

The Australian

The Australian profiles the Japanese publisher of Princess Masako, Akira Kitagawa. Download PDF >

SMH Good Weekend Magazine, 28 October 2006

The Good Weekend Magazine published excerpt of Princess Masako. Download PDF >

Princess Masako ChinaChina

The Chinese edition of Princess Masako was published in Taiwan by Sun Colour.

Princess Masako RussiaRussia

The Russian edition was published in 2009.


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