TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Crown Princess Masako attended a banquet for visiting Dutch royals on Wednesday in her first such appearance since developing a stress-related illness more than a decade ago.
The Imperial Household Agency said Masako accompanied her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, at an imperial banquet for visiting King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Palace officials said it was her first appearance at an imperial banquet since she attended one for the Mexican president in October 2003.
Masako, 50, became ill soon after giving birth to the couple's daughter, Aiko, now 12, and largely withdrew from official duties. In a sign of her recovery, the royals last year attended the king's inauguration in the Netherlands, where they have close ties.
The princess, in a silky white formal dress and a silver tiara, smiled as she talked with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, seated next to her, over French food at the banquet, part of which was shown on television news. About 160 guests, including other royals and political leaders such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also attended.
Earlier Wednesday, Masako attended a welcoming ceremony for the king hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. Masako greeted Queen Maxima, with both women wearing hues of orange, the Dutch national color.
Akihito, in his banquet-opening speech, touched on Japan's aggression during World War II in the Dutch-occupied Indonesia, where many soldiers and civilians from the Netherlands were taken prisoners.
"It was most unfortunate that these long friendly relations between Japan and the Netherlands should have been marred because of World War II," Akihito said. "While never forgetting this past, we hope to give more attention than ever to the promotion of good will between our two countries."
Willem-Alexander said the Dutch people's ordeal should not be forgotten, but understanding of each other's pains is the foundation of reconciliation.