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Her early life was spent travelling as a result of her father's job. She attended kindergarten in Moscow, high school in Boston, and university at Harvard, graduating in 1985 with a degree in economics.

She then entered the faculty of law at Tokyo University - the training ground for the cream of Japanese bureaucrats.

Fluent in several languages, she entered the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 1987, spending some time at Balliol College in Oxford for further studies.

Palace pressures

But since her marriage, the restrictions imposed by the Imperial Household have meant the former jet-setting Princess Masako has only travelled a handful of times.

It has been assumed that conservatives in the Imperial Household have wanted her close to home so she could concentrate her energies on conceiving.

In the stultifying atmosphere of Tokyo's Togu Palace, even phone calls to her parents are rumoured to first need approval by a vast entourage of court officials.

Japan's Crown Princess Masako smiles as she waves to well-wishers from the bullet-proof glass-covered balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Friday, Dec. 23, 2005.
The princess now only makes limited appearances in public

This clash between her cosmopolitan background and the conservative atmosphere at the Imperial Household became evident quite quickly.

After just over three years of marriage, Princess Masako was admitting: "At times I experience hardship in trying to find the proper point of balance between traditional things and my own personality".

It took five years for the princess to conceive, and just as a media frenzy erupted following rumours she was pregnant, the Imperial Agency grimly announced a miscarriage.

Following fertility treatment, she finally gave birth to a girl, Aiko, four years ago.

But that was not enough for the imperial courtiers. A boy is required to inherit the throne. The Imperial Agency's chief, Toshio Yuasa, publicly called on the couple to have a second child.

It appears that Princess Masako may not be able to draw solace from the imperial family, either.

She is rumoured to have a poor relationship with her in-laws, despite the fact she shares a similar background with Empress Michiko.

The empress, too, is a commoner, and is reported to have suffered a similar bout of depression in the 1960s.
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One cup of coffee a day 'risky' Cup of coffee Men and women in the UK both drink more than a cup a day on average Drinking more than one cup of coffee a day increases the risk of heart disease, a Greek study shows. University of Athens and Harokopio University researchers found drinking more than one cup increased the chances of cardiovascular inflammation. They studied 3,000 people and found those who drank more than 200ml tested higher for a variety of indicators of inflammation. Britons on average drink more than a cup of coffee a day. Men drink 1.7 cups while women drink 1.5 cups and in total £630m is spent on coffee in the UK each year. These figures are based on a cup containing 150ml - but the quantities still add to more than 200ml. Report co-author Professor Antonis Zampelas, of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Harokopio University, said he was surprised by the findings. Trials "We did not expect the results for such low amounts of coffee but they are intriguing. "Our results show that coffee drinkers are at higher risk of cardiovascular inflammation and what we need now is clinical trials into this. "I would not go as far to say people should stop drinking coffee but I personally have cut down the amount I drink." Cutting down on coffee is less likely to help people protect their heart health than other measures, such as taking regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet Dr Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, took blood samples from 3,000 people, about half men and half women, while they were fasting. The participants were also asked about their coffee drinking habits.

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