Japan ex-empress undergoes breast cancer surgery

Japan's former empress Michiko (R) enters Tokyo University hospital on September 7, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Japan ex-empress undergoes breast cancer surgery

  • The first commoner to marry an imperial heir, Michiko was born in 1934 in Tokyo and attended the exclusive all-girls Christian Sacred Heart School before studying English literature at its university

TOKOY, JAPAN: Japan’s former empress Michiko “safely” underwent surgery on Sunday after the 84-year-old was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, the Imperial Household Agency said.
Michiko’s husband Akihito formally stepped down as emperor in April, the first abdication for 200 years in the world’s oldest monarchy.
Her operation began Sunday morning “as scheduled” at the University of Tokyo Hospital, an agency official said.
“It ended safely and (she) went back to her room,” the official told AFP, adding that further details would be announced later.
Doctors have concluded that there was no sign of a risk of the cancer spreading, public broadcaster NHK said, adding she may be discharged “in a few days.”
Akihito and daughter Sayako Kuroda, a former princess who left the royal household to marry a commoner, visited the hospital to see Michiko before the operation.
Emperor Naruhito, their first son, who was out of Tokyo to attend an event with Empress Masako in northern Japan, sent get-well-wishes to Michiko, NHK said.
Akihito and Michiko are known for dramatically modernizing the tradition-bound monarchy, bringing themselves closer to the public and boosting popular support for the household.
The first commoner to marry an imperial heir, Michiko was born in 1934 in Tokyo and attended the exclusive all-girls Christian Sacred Heart School before studying English literature at its university.
She gave birth to Naruhito in 1960 and her second son, Prince Akishino, was born in 1965.
Michiko and her husband also came to be known for their presence at the side of survivors of disasters, especially after the 2011 tsunami that wrecked large parts of eastern Japan.


Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

Updated 14 September 2019

Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

  • Toilet was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million
  • A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary at Blenheim Palace

LONDON: A gang of thieves on Saturday stole an 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, police said, causing flooding that damaged the world-famous stately home.
The fully-functioning toilet, dubbed “America,” was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million.
A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary, which took place before dawn at the 18th-century estate near Oxford, southern England.
The toilet was one of the star attractions in an exhibition of Cattelan’s works that opened on Thursday at the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors were able to book time slots to use it — but only for three minutes each, to limit the queues.
More than 100,000 people used the loo during the year it was on display at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
“The offenders broke into the palace overnight and left the scene at about 4.50am (0350 GMT). No-one was injured during the burglary,” police said in a statement.
Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police said she believed “a group of offenders used at least two vehicles” — and left a mess behind them.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace,” she said.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.”
Blenheim Palace said it was “saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.”
It closed on Saturday but said it would reopen on Sunday.

The palace is home to the 12th duke of Marlborough and his family, and was also the birthplace of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
The duke’s brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, who founded the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month he was relaxed about security around the gold toilet.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick,” he told The Times newspaper.
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
He added: “Despite being born with a silver spoon in my mouth I have never had a shit on a golden toilet, so I look forward to it.”
Cattelan, who is known for his provocative art, has previously described the golden toilet as “one-percent art for the 99 percent.”
The Guggenheim had offered the loo on loan to US President Donald Trump, but he declined.
The Italian artist’s exhibition at Blenheim runs until October 27 and includes a taxidermied horse hoisted onto the ceiling of an ornate reception room.
Blenheim has previously hosted exhibitions of work by Ai WeiWei, Yves Klein, Jenny Holzer, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lawrence Weiner.
Police said they were looking at CCTV footage to help them in the search for the gold toilet, adding that nothing else was believed to have been stolen.