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Sick Japan empress attends flower show

Japanese Empress Michiko, right, listens to flower arrangement master Akane Teshigahara explain about her work at a flower arrangement exhibition in Tokyo Thursday, March 8, 2007. The empress is being treated for intestinal bleeding and other ailments apparently caused by stress and plans to take breaks from her official duties to recuperate, first for five days in Tokyo later this month. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)

TOKYO --Japan's Empress Michiko attended a flower arrangement exhibition Thursday, her first official duty outside the moat since the palace said earlier this week she is being treated for stress-related ailments.

The 72-year-old Michiko ventured to a Tokyo department store to view the flower show before taking a scheduled 10-day break later this month to recuperate, said Yasuo Moriyama, an Imperial Household Agency spokesman.

The popular wife of Emperor Akihito, Michiko was the first commoner to marry into the world's oldest hereditary monarchy. The palace announced earlier this week she is undergoing treatment for intestinal bleeding and other stress-related ailments.

Michiko has not been feeling well since she caught a cold and high fever in mid-February, according to the palace.

Michiko has previously suffered from stress. In the early 1990s, she was unable to speak for months after suffering a nervous breakdown over unflattering stories in gossip-oriented magazines.

In September, she looked elated at the arrival of her first grandson, Prince Hisahito. The prince's birth to Michiko's second son, Prince Akishino, defused a looming succession crisis for the royal family, which had produced no male heir in four decades.

Michiko's daughter-in-law, Crown Princess Masako, is also recuperating from stress-induced health problems brought on by the pressures of palace life.