The Prince as Traveler, Student, and Sportsman

Article excerpt

IT'S not easy being an emperor in the wings.

The quest by Crown Prince Naruhito for Princess Right has been an embarrassing public event for over six years. It's about all that many Japanese know about the man who will be 127th "Son of Heaven."

At the age of 27, in 1987, he announced that he wanted to be married when he hit 30. A few years later he told reporters he had reached "the seventh or eighth station" on his ascent to the nuptial summit. He took his time, noting that Britain's Prince Charles married late.

One sensational Japanese magazine suggested Naruhito might find a mate sooner if he changed his hair and offered 10 doctored photos of him with different styles.

That kind of coverage was enough for the imperial agency to demand a news blackout on the crown prince's courting in 1992.

He was further embarrassed in 1990 when his younger brother, Prince Akishino, married before him and then fathered a baby girl.

And he caused worried looks among conservative Japanese when he took an interest in Brooke Shields, who was invited as a guest to the palace.

Last January, just before his 33rd birthday, Naruhito finally announced that he would marry Masako Owada, who held his heart since they first met in 1986. …