TOKYO (majirox news) – Some of the following information originated in posts found on Japanese blogs and websites. The people who post on those sites talk about everything they think is wrong or right, including politics, business, scandals and cultural issues. Their comments have received a lot of attention. Their names and e-mail addresses have been removed.
Controversial commentary revolves around Princess Masako, who has become a popular figure of ridicule on certain Japanese websites. The trend started to become more prominent around 2006, the year Princess Kiko, her sister-in-law, had the treasured boy heir.
The 47-year-old Crown Princess Masako and her husband the Crown Prince have only one child, Princess Aiko. This has stirred up debate in Japan about the traditional preference for a male to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Anti-Masako sites are growing since the number of Internet users in Japan has increased and the Web has become easier to access.
Some Web critics call her, “Hog Eater, Masako-sama: The Case File of Dosuko” (dosuko is slang for Mrs. Fatty). One user says, “She’s fat, especially from the back.” “Royal appetite” was the title of a real article that caused Internet users to laugh out loud, “Isn’t it great that Hog Eater Princess Masako is letting the world know of her voracious appetite.”
One site displays a 2008 Associated Press article titled “Critics Feast on Princess’ Appetite for Food,” which is frequently updated. Some of the comments by website visitors referred to her as “Royal Meat” and “Royal Pork” because she likes pork.
Other criticisms focus on her employment status. “Mrs. Masako is unreliable and a Royal Neet, because she doesn’t work.” A “neet” is an acronym for the government classification, “not currently engaged in employment, education or training.”
Even her family, her background and her entry into the Imperial Family have been subject to slurs and conspiracy theories. Some sites claim that her diplomat father is trying to take over the Imperial Family through his daughter’s marriage to the prince. They claim that her high profile was the result of bribery. Some people insist that her daughter Aiko is autistic and developmentally challenged.
The Crown Princess has rarely been seen in public since 2002, allegedly because of emotional problems, which were caused by the pressure to produce a male heir and difficulties adjusting to life in the Imperial Family. In July 2004, she was diagnosed as suffering from an adjustment disorder and reportedly received treatment.
Japan’s media include relentless scandal sheets about the Imperial Family as well as the Bamboo Telegraph, word-of-mouth gossip. While the daily newspapers and TV largely avoid comment on the Imperial Family, weekly magazines and every other form of printed media never let a single issue go by without new fictions, rumors, innuendos and assorted potboilers about the Royal Family.
Although Princess Masako is a particularly easy target, only the Emperor has managed to avoid the poorly disguised rants and desire to manipulate the Imperial Family for their own ends which seem endemic among a few Japanese.
The English Royal Family may be treated with a mixture of contempt for Prince Philip and respect for Queen Elizabeth, while the Dutch Royal Family is treated with great and genuine affection which they have gone out of their way to earn and keep, but no other royal family in the world is the object of such concerted focus by what many say may be some of the most unhealthy elements in Japanese society to control every thought, word, utterance and gesture for their own claustrophobic ends.
The fact that these critics cannot make the Japanese Imperial Family dance like puppets on a string to whatever the latest tune they want to play gets translated into unremitting, blind hatred particularly of some family members, which is why the Imperial Family lives like it is under siege.
In any other country, Masako would be going out to fashionable restaurants, be seen shopping in the best stores (like those in Tokyo’s Roppongi district), and perhaps be setting fashion trends. Instead, the Crown Princess is essentially a prisoner because she is well aware of the critics (and those they influence) out there lying in wait for her, as she is the particular focus of their poison, according to Tomoko Hirada, a royal watcher who lives in Tokyo.
“The Royal Couple are basically a normal family who happens to be in a rather unusual position, something critics rarely mention,” she says. “The mentality of the Masako haters are like school children hectoring her with words like fatty. So what if she likes pork. Would they criticize her if she liked eel?”
“A few days ago,” says Harada, “I happened to be standing in front of my office in Tokyo when Her Imperial Majesty, The Empress, drove by. They closed Meiji-dori (street) for kilometers, and the car carrying Her Majesty was proceeded by two black sedans packed with plainclothes policemen, literally hanging out of the windows, and two sedans following her, also packed with policemen.”
Hirada noted that there were plainclothes policemen and uniformed policemen stationed every 20 meters at every corner and overpass. “It was like something out of a South American dictatorship,” she says. But, she added, it reflected the level of threat that the people who have the duty of guarding the Royal Family must feel.
“I remembered a pub I went to in Amsterdam that had a picture of Queen Juliana having a beer proudly displayed on their wall,” Hirada says. “She had been touring the neighborhood and decided to drop in and say hello. Can you imagine the Empress of Japan doing that? In the political atmosphere that currently exists here, it’s out of the question.”
However, if the Imperial Household Agency or somebody tries to close down these websites or the Imperial Agency sues, the bullying could go further or the Agency would be criticized for suppressing freedom of speech.
While Japan’s Royal Family may seem aloof from the general public, with their contact limited to waving to the crowds on New Year’s Day from behind bullet proof glass in a specially built balcony of the Palace the reality is very different. The Crown Prince and the Empress and Emperor are constantly traveling to every corner of Japan to participate in local events and meeting people from all over the country, although in a rather stiff and formal atmosphere. By their presence they make their feelings well known.
While supposedly entirely non-political and totally divorced from Japanese politics, the Royal Family are powerful political and moral symbols. Neither the Emperor nor any of his immediate family for example has ever visited Yasukuni Shrine, which is considered to this day by many Japanese and most foreigners as the focus of Japanese militarism. There are also undercurrents in Japanese society that what they stand in opposition to is shown just by their conduct.
The taboos of ultra-conservatives keep them from attacking the Emperor too directly, so instead the Crown Princess has become one of the substitute targets for them. Princess Masako is a Princess under siege.