Japan's prince Tomohito undergoing alcoholism treatment

Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Japan's Emperor Akihito and fifth in line for the throne, has begun treatment for alcohol dependency at a palace hospital, the Imperial Household Agency announced Friday.

Specialists decided that Tomohito, 61, should be hospitalized for at least a month rather than treated at his palace residence because he is suffering from severe insomnia and swallowing difficulties, a statement from the agency said.

Staff from a nationally operated alcoholism treatment center will head the medical team overseeing Tomohito's care, the statement said.

Tomohito - the eldest son of Prince Mikasa and Princess Yuriko and the fifth in line to the throne - entered the hospital Tuesday, said agency spokesman Yasuo Moriyama.

The prince has been hospitalized for numerous ailments in recent years.

Last year, he had a successful operation to treat throat cancer.

Earlier this year, Empress Michiko needed two months to recover from stress-induced ailments that included intestinal bleeding and other problems.

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

Tomohito caused a stir in 2005 when he wrote an essay saying Japan should exhaust all other options, including bringing back concubines, before allowing a woman to ascend its imperial throne.