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Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne Paperback – December 27, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (December 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585426105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585426102
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,282,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

True tragedy or simply a bad marriage decision? That is up to the readers--if they decide to make the effort to slog through this less-than-compelling portrait of Princess Masako. Initially packaged as the "Japanese Princess Di," Masako was an intelligent Western-educated woman who probably should have known better than to consign her life to the stringent imperial dynasty of Japan. Intelligence aside, the lure of the royal life proved to be too much, and Masako gave up her budding diplomatic career to marry Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito. She soon discovered, like Diana before her, that life in a fishbowl can be incredibly deflating. Unsuccessful in her efforts to modernize the monarchy, unable to produce a male heir, and hounded by a relentlessly curious public, she currently suffers from serious bouts of depression and lives the life of a virtual recluse. Unable to secure any interviews with the principals themselves, Hills' effort lacks depth but will nevertheless appeal to inveterate royal watchers. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ben Hills, one of Australia's leading investigative journalists and foreign correspondents, is a winner of the Walkley Award (Australia's Pulitzer) and the Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year. From 1992 to 1995, he was the Japan correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, also covering issues and events in China, Siberia, and North and South Korea. His previous books are Japan: Behind the Lines, an account of his three years as a correspondent in Japan, and Blue Murder, a chronicle of the battle for justice by victims of CSR's Wittenoom asbestos mine in western Australia. He lives in Sydney. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The tone of the book was very offensive to me.
Suzani13
To her, the Japanese Imperial Household is an institution that should not be changed in any way.
Ronald P. Ng
If you know nothing of the Japanese imperial family, you might find the book somewhat useful.
LuelCanyon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Australian journalist Ben Hills might as well not have bothered. This is a disappointing second-rate effort at revealing Princess Masako, in fact, very little of anything is revealed. Very little about Harvard-trained Masako Owada, who married into the Japanese Imperial family, and absolutely nothing new about her life as Princess Masako is revealed here. Of course, little enough might have been expected since it's no accident that less is known about the secluded lives of the Japanese imperial family than about any other royal house in history - the iron control of the Kunaicho, the ancient apparatus of functionaries that controls every detail of imperial life, has for 2500 years successfully seen to the absolute secrecy of the dynasty's every move and motivation. Included is way too much uninteresting detail about Masako's businessman father, his typical absentee style of fatherhood and the acquisition of his wealth and position in Japanese society. I can commend the author for his choice of subject - I'd be interested to really learn something of Masako's royal life, but not likely to happen given the petrified nature of the Japanese imperial court and the impenetrable control of the Kunaicho. Two sections of worthwhile photos are included, and a few historical facts about the imperial family. Worse, a completely useless chapter called 'The Last Emperor' details statistically the ruin of royal houses during the 20th century. Boring. Beautiful cover formal photograph of Princess Masako. The book is naturally attractive, attractiveness unrequited once you open its pages. If you know nothing of the Japanese imperial family, you might find the book somewhat useful. Skip it if you're looking for fresh information not already available from other sources.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on January 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
Think of the word princess, and more often than not there's the image of a lovely young woman, dressed in a long flowing gown, usually with a pretty little crown or tiara on her head, and a smitten prince at her side. Rarely this romantic view ever goes on to reveal what happens when the celebrations are over and the reality of life settles in.

While the monarchies of the western world have managed somewhat to balance the public's curiosity about royal life and the royal's own need for privacy, there is one monarchy that has remained firmly shuttered to prying eyes. This is the last Imperial house in the world, that of the Japanese. Australian journalist Ben Hills takes a look at one of the more tragic stories of royalty gone awry, and tells it with equal measures of compassion and anger.

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne tells the unusual story of a young woman, Masako Owada, the daughter of a diplomat who grew up in various cities around the world, and seemed to be heading for an outstanding career of her own. She had been educated at Harvard, spoke more than six languages and was a pretty, rather popular girl who was intent to be the very best. While she was certainly very different than the typical Japanese woman, no one suspected that her life would take a very dramatic turn.

That would occur in 1993, when after a rather stilted courtship following a chance meeting, Crown Prince Naruhito was finally accepted by Masako and she married him in a tradition laiden ceremony in Tokyo. And suddenly, Masako found her life surrounded by protocol, religious duties and the overwhelming pressure to have a child -- specifically, a male child, something that hadn't happened in the Japanese Imperial family for more than forty years.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Princess on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Hills' book combines most of what is already available in English-language newspapers and magazines on Princess Masako's sad life in the royal family. There are some glaring errors. One in particular that stood out to me was the misinformation about past female emperors. Michigan University historian Hitomi Tonomura has written a very interesting article (available online from the Wilson Center special issue on the royals in Japan) on the substantial influence wielded by the former female emperors; they were not merely standing in until a suitable male appeared as Hills contends. Will negative foreign publicity about the constrained lives of the Japanese royals push the Imperial Household Agency into giving them more freedom? Doubtful.
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Format: Hardcover
Even though Britain's royals get all the press, dysfunctional families are not solely in their domain. Witness the foreboding situation in Japan where the Imperial Household Law of 1947 dictates that only a male heir can ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, and then imagine the scrutiny under which the Crown Princess Masako has had to live until she was able to conceive a child. Australian journalist Ben Hills makes an interesting though ultimately superficial attempt at depicting the damaging impact that public pressure has had on the princess since she married the Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993. It is Hills' lack of direct access to the inner workings of the palace that diminishes his book into a lot of arm's-length speculation on what is perceived as the princess' fragile state of mind.

What the author does well is paint a vivid picture of the restrictive requirements of being a royal in Japan. So much of the story sounds eerily similar to Diana's story since both were their father's daughters who represented an attractive combination of contemporary and traditional traits that made them viable candidates for not only a publicly endorsed marriage but also immediate motherhood given the aging bachelors that their husbands-to-be were. While Diana delivered two boys in relatively short order, Masako was unable to conceive a child until she was 37, nine years into her marriage and only after an intensive series of in-vitro fertilization treatments. However, she disappointed the Japanese by having a girl, Princess Aiko. Five years later, she faced further humiliation by seeing her younger sister-in-law Princess Kiko gave birth to a son, Hisahito, thus making questions about Aiko's ascendancy to the exalted position of Crown Empress moot.
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