TV & Radio
Author of princess book slams Japan publisher for nixing planned translation
The Associated Press
Friday, February 16, 2007
The author of a book on Crown Princess Masako slammed a Japanese publisher on Saturday for its decision to cancel a translation of his biography following indignant protests from Japan's government, calling the step a "blatant attack on freedom of speech."
Japanese publishing house Kodansha Ltd. said late Friday it has canceled plans to publish the Japanese translation of "Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne," written by the Australian journalist Ben Hills and released by Random house in December.
The tartly worded biography is billed on the cover as "tragic, true story" of the 43-year-old princess, a Harvard graduate who abandoned a diplomatic career to marry royalty. The book describes her as a virtual captive of the imperial palace who has been bullied by bureaucrats into depression.
Hills said in his e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday that he was "disappointed" by Kodansha's decision. "We regard this as a blatant attack on freedom of speech." He also condemned Japan's government for exercising "censorship that would be totally unacceptable in any other advanced country" and pressuring Kodansha to surrender.
"I do not worry whether people love my book or hate my book, but they should be given the chance to read it for themselves and make up their own minds," he said, adding that he hoped to publish the book through another "courageous" publisher — one of three that have contacted him recently.
Japan's Imperial Household Agency and its Foreign Ministry had demanded an apology from the author for "disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgmental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic." But government officials declined to cite most of the passages they found problematic. The government also protested to Random House in Sydney.
Criticizing the emperor was regarded as serious crime in the first half of the 20th century. There is still a strong tradition in Japan of respect for the royal family, who are shielded from view by secretive palace officials.
The book details Masako's life in the palace, during which she has come under grinding pressure to produce a male heir to the throne. She and Crown Prince Naruhito were married in 1993. After suffering a miscarriage in 1999, she had a daughter, Aiko, in 2001.
Kazunobu Kakishima, editor at Kodansha, denied the company was scrapping the Japanese translation because of the government's protest. The decision, he said, came after Hills refused to acknowledge making factual errors during an interview with a Japanese television earlier Friday.
"We have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to maintain trustworthy relations with the author and thus we were forced to cancel the book," he said.
Kakishima said a "substantial number of factual errors" have been corrected through fact-checking and meetings with interviewees quoted in the book. Kakishima declined to describe any specific errors, citing privacy.
Hills, Kakishima said, had acknowledged the errors in discussions with Kodansha, approved corrections in a translated draft and even thanked the publisher for the changes.
Hills said Saturday he and his Australian publisher did not apologize for the errors "because we felt — and feel — that there is nothing to apologize for."
A Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as required by protocol, denied contacting the Kodansha publishing house over the book but refused to comment on the cancellation.
Palace officials were not immediately available for comment late Friday.
Emperor Akihito's chamberlain, Makoto Watanabe, wrote to Hills earlier this month that a veteran palace reporter told him "almost every page seems to contain an error."
In one example, Watanabe said, the book erroneously called the Emperor's duties "all undemanding formal appearances at uncontroversial events."
Another passage, Watanabe said, incorrectly said Japanese royals would be unlikely to take up a cause as Princess Diana did with the Leprosy Mission.
Last Update: Friday, February 16, 2007. 11:22pm (AEDT)
Japan publisher cancels plan to print princess book
A Japanese publisher says it has cancelled a plan to print a Japanese-language edition of a book on the life of Crown Princess Masako that has triggered protest from the Government.
The Foreign Ministry this week said it was seeking an apology and "appropriate steps" from Australian journalist Ben Hills, saying his book, Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne, insults the royal family and contains factual errors.
Mr Hills, who has described his book as "the story of a romance gone wrong, an Oriental Charles and Diana story", has refused to apologise and says he intends to publish the Japanese edition in early March.
The original book in English was published in Australia in November by Random House, Australia.
But Japanese publishing house Kodansha says it has scrapped the plan for a Japanese edition following Mr Hill's refusal to apologise for the errors, which it has already corrected with Mr Hill's consent prior to the Japanese Government's protest.
"We cannot tolerate the attitude the author has shown towards obvious errors in the original book," the publisher said in a statement.
Mr Hills could not be reached for comment.
Following the Japanese protest, Mr Hills had said it was the Japanese Government that should apologise to Princess Masako.
Princess Masako, 43, is a Harvard-educated former diplomat who many Japanese had hoped would help modernise Japan's staid imperial family when she married Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993.
But she has been suffering from a stress-related mental illness caused by the pressures of adapting to rigid palace life, and has been unable to perform her official duties fully for the past three years.
The pressure to bear an heir to Japan's males-only throne was widely seen as one of the causes of Princess Masako's illness, but the stress may have eased when her royal sister-in-law gave birth last September to Prince Hisahito, the first male heir born to the imperial family in more than 40 years.
Princess Masako and Prince Naruhito have a daughter, the 5-year-old Aiko, but she cannot ascend the throne under current law, and plans to revise the law were shelved after Prince Hisahito's birth.
Japan publisher scraps planned translation of Australian book on royal family
The Associated Press
Friday, February 16, 2007
Japanese publisher said Friday it has decided to scrap a translation of a new book on Japan's royal family that has sparked protests from Japan's government.
"Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne," penned by Australian journalist Ben Hills, was released by Random House in December and its billed as a biography of the 43-year-old diplomat-turned-princess, who has suffered for years from stress-induced illness.
Japan's Imperial Household Agency and Foreign Ministry had demanded an apology from the author for "disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgmental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic." The government also protested to Random House in Sydney.
Kodansha Ltd. denied it was scrapping the Japanese translation because of the protest.
Kodansha editor Kazunobu Kakishima said the decision was in response to Hills' refusal to admit making factual errors during an interview with a Japanese television earlier Friday, causing the publisher to "lose faith" in him as journalist.
"We have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to maintain trustworthy relations wit the author and thus we were forced to cancel the book," he said.
Kakishima called Hills' denial of errors in the book and refusal to apologize "extremely inappropriate." Hills has acknowledged the errors, approved corrections in a translated draft and even thanked the publisher for the corrections, he said.
The book details Masako's life in the palace, during which she has come under grinding pressure to produce a male heir to the throne. After suffering a miscarriage in 1999, she and Crown Prince Naruhito had a daughter, Aiko, in 2001. The couple were married in 1993.
Wording in the book — one chapter about Naruhito is titled "Mummy's Boy" — contrasts with the gentle, respectful treatment afforded the royal family in Japan's press. Criticizing the emperor was regarded as serious crime in the first half of the 20th century.
Kakishima said a "substantial number of factual errors" found in the original, including those mentioned by the Japanese government, have been corrected through fact-checking and meetings with interviewees quoted in the book.
A Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as required by protocol, denied contacting Kodansha over the book but refused to comment on the cancellation announcement. Palace officials were not immediately available for comment late Friday.
Hills said in his e-mail to The Associated Press this week that he had no intention to offer an apology and that the government was trying to pressure publisher Kodansha to shelve a planned Japanese version of the book.
Kakishima said the publisher has notified Hills and Random House of the decision.
Ben Hills website