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Empress Michiko Collapses on 59th Birthday With AM-Japan-Empress Bashing

October 20, 1993 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ Empress Michiko collapsed Wednesday while preparing for events to celebrate her 59th birthday, palace officials said.

The empress, the wife of Emperor Akihito, was chatting with her husband and daughter in a parlor of the Akasaka Palace when she suddenly collapsed, said an official at the palace, who in keeping with convention spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said that the empress was unable to respond to a doctor’s questions, but it was unclear whether she had fully lost consciousness.

Kyodo News Service reported that the empress was not in serious condition. But palace officials would not confirm that report.

The national television network NHK reported that events planned to mark Michiko’s birthday would be cancelled.

The empress, an avid tennis player, is not known to have any serious health problems now, although she did undergo a hysterectomy in 1986.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Masayoshi Takemura told reporters that the empress’s collapse was due to anemia caused by fatigue, Kyodo reported. At the time of her surgery in 1986, Michiko also was reported to be suffering from anemia.

In the past few months, the empress has faced unusually harsh criticism in the popular press for everything from staying up too late and entertaining too many private guests at the palace to being too bossy with her servants.

The reports have been based on comments from disgruntled, unnamed palace employees, one of whom went so far as to say Emperor Akihito had become a ″cushion″ for her to sit on.

Most of the grousing has been trivial and couched in careful, respectful language. But it has nevertheless tested a cardinal rule of polite Japanese society: If you don’t have anything nice to say about the imperial family, don’t say anything at all.

Akihito became emperor in 1989 upon the death of Emperor Hirohito.

Akihito’s marriage to Michiko in 1959 was strongly opposed by palace conservatives because she was a commoner.