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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Kevin Mcgue reviews Ben Hills' book Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne
in Metropolis. It's not surprising, but gratifying nevertheless that Mcgue has chosen this book (or the journal's editors handed it to him) to review. It's perfect material for an intelligent Westerner with an interest in Japan.

Mcgue labels Hills "an Australian investigative reporter with considerable experience in Japan" and notes that "Hills allows himself liberties that would be unimaginable for the Japanese press". Which is why this book is so valuable. It injects a fresh perspective into the eager but misguided debate revolving around the throne in this most secretive of countries. The Japanese tabloid press, misled by the people Hills calls the Men in Black (the Kunaicho or Imperial Household Agency), is no doubt institutionally incapable of reaching meaningful conclusions.

"Researching this book ... was undoubtedly difficult for Hills" notes Mcgue. It's an understatement. Getting access to the royals, who many Japanese still perceive as akin to deities, is a fraught business. Hills no doubt does his best, but from reading this review it appears he has possibly overstretched the potential of the few details he's had to work with, and produced words more full of speculation than fact. Until I read the book, I'll have to reserve judgement.

Thanks to Mcgue and Metropolis for covering this book.

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