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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 11:15 GMT
Japan protests over princess book
Japan's Crown Princess Masako smiles as she waves to well-wishers from the bullet-proof glass-covered balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Friday, Dec. 23, 2005.
The princess now only makes limited appearances in public
An Australian journalist has refused to apologise over his book on Japanese Crown Princess Masako.

The Japanese government said Ben Hills' book contains groundless claims and insults the royal family, and wants an apology and corrections.

Mr Hills said he had nothing to apologise for and accused officials of trying to suppress his book.

He said the only person who deserved an apology was Crown Princess Masako for her treatment by the royal family.

Princess Masako was a diplomat who spoke several languages and travelled the world before her 1993 marriage to Crown Prince Naruhito, heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

After she joined the Imperial family she began to suffer from a stress-related illness. She is now rarely seen in public and carries out few official duties.

Many blame her ill health on the pressure to produce a male heir, the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says.

The Japanese throne was facing a succession crisis until Crown Prince Naruhito's younger brother, Prince Akishino and his wife, had a baby boy last September.

'Disrespectful descriptions'

Ben Hills said he had interviewed more than 60 Japanese, US and English sources for his unauthorised biography, Princess Masako - Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The sources included her former colleagues and those of her husband, many of whom, Mr Hills said, had never given interviews before.

Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako and their daughter Akiko
The Crown Prince and Princess have a daughter but no sons

But Japan's foreign ministry said the book contains "disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgemental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic".

The ministry said it had sent official letters to Mr Hills and his publisher, Random House, seeking an apology and unspecified "prompt measures".

Mr Hills accused the government of wanting to thwart the publication of a Japanese edition, which is due to be published in a few weeks time.

"I regard this as an attempt by the Japanese government to suppress and censor my book and I think it is absolutely outrageous," he was quoted by Japan's Kyodo news agency as saying.

"There is nothing to apologise for. In fact, there is only one person in this saga that deserves an apology and that's Princess Masako.

"I think the Kunaicho (Imperial Household Agency) should apologise to her for bullying her into a state of nervous breakdown."

Random House declined to comment on the controversy, but said it was standing by the author.


SEE ALSO
Princess trapped by palace guard
03 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan's princess on public view
20 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess ill with stress
30 Jul 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese prince stands by appeal
08 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess 'exhausted'
23 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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