When I saw the obstetrician’s face, hope receded. She tried to find a heartbeat but there was no heartbeat in my body but my own

It’s late 2001 and Crown Princess Masako of Japan is having a baby. Her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, is heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. Sinking into its fourth recession in a decade, Japan hungers for good news and hopes Masako might have a boy. The Imperial Household Law of 1947 decreed that only men could assume the throne as emperor.

The doubleness of the term “confinement” – imprisonment and childbirth – seems especially apt for Masako. Though she lives secluded in a palace, she is such an object of scrutiny that she may as well reside in a glass cube at the centre of Shibuya crossing.

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