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Tokyo correspondent Juliet Hindell
"Widespread sympathy"
 real 28k

Friday, 31 December, 1999, 05:09 GMT
Japanese princess suffers miscarriage

Japan's Crown Prince and Princess Japan's Crown Prince and Princess days before the announcement


Royal officials in Japan have confirmed that Princess Masako, the wife of the heir to the throne, has suffered a miscarriage.

Princess Masako left hospital on Friday and is expected to recover fully.

Doctors said the miscarriage would not hurt her chances of conceiving in the future.

The announcement that the princess had miscarried ended weeks of public speculation over the future of the royal household, fuelled by pregnancy rumours reported in the media.

A BBC correespondent in Japan says their is widespread sympathy from many Japanese for the royal couple.

Anticipation of an heir to the throne had prompted a frenzy of interest in Japan, as the reported pregnancy was taken as a symbol for an upturn in the country's economic fortunes.

If the princess had given birth to a son, it would have been the first male to be born into Japan's royal family since 1965, placing the baby second in line to the throne.

But the royal household had been reluctant to confirm that Princess Masako, 36, and Crown Prince Naruhito were expecting their first child after six years of marriage.

Under scrutiny

Following a pregnancy "scoop" by one Japanese paper, reporters and photographers began scrutinising the princess's every move.

After initial tests earlier this month, officials had said that she was very likely to be pregnant but added that it was too early to say for certain.

Confirmation finally came with the grim announcement from Kiyoshi Furukawa, Grand Master of the Grand Prince's Household, that the princess had miscarried and doctors had performed an operation to remove the foetus.

The Crown Prince, who had accompanied his wife to hospital, left shortly after the operation to meet with his parents Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He later returned to spend the night with the princess.

According to Mr Furukawa, the prince and princess were "calm" after the miscarriage

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan's Imperial pregnancy riddle continues
10 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan's Princess: Is she or isn't she?
13 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan Princess pregnancy enigma continues

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