Japan’s Princess Aiko gets job with Red Cross

TOKYO  -   Princess Aiko, the only child of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, will begin work at the Japanese Red Cross Society in April after graduating from university. While details of her new role are unclear, she will continue official duties with the imperial family. The 22-yearold princess is not in line of succession as Japanese law allows only men to ascend to the throne. Japan has the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. In a statement, Princess Aiko said that she has “always had an interest” in the Red Cross, while her new employer added that it wants “to thoroughly make preparations so that the princess can work at ease”. The organisation has close ties with the imperial family, with previous empresses serving as honourary presidents. In October, Princess Aiko visited the society with her parents to observe an exhibition on its relief activities following the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. In recent years, she has also expressed her sympathies to victims and survivors of natural disasters in Japan. She is currently in her final year of study at Gakushuin University’s Faculty of Letters, majoring in Japanese language and literature. The princess is generally well regarded by the Japanese public, many of whom have welcomed her new role. ‘Career woman’ mother Princess Aiko’s mother, Empress Masako, is known as a “career woman” princess and empress in Japan. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, the empress is a former diplomat fluent in several languages. In 1993, she became only the second commoner, after former Empress Michiko, to marry the first in line to the Japanese throne. But once married, speculation raged over if and when she would produce a male heir. The birth of Princess Aiko in 2001 was much celebrated but did not resolve the succession issue. The Japanese government then began debating whether to change the law to allow women to ascend to the throne. Five years later, Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother welcomed a baby boy, Prince Hisahito, to avert the succession crisis. But the pressure on then Crown Princess Masako was evident as she disappeared from public view for more than a decade. In 2004, then Crown Prince Naruhito told journalists in unusually strong comments that his wife had “completely exhausted herself” trying to adapt to palace life.

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