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Japanese Royal Family Escapes from Habitat, Search Continues
July 4, 2058
TOKYO--Officials from the Walt Disney Company confirmed early this morning that several members of the Japanese Royal family, including the reigning Empress, have fled the specially-maintained habitat in which they live. Though their current whereabouts are unknown, they are believed to still be in the Tokyo area. "We are very concerned for their health and safety," noted a solemn Disney representative. "[Disney] enjoy[s] a very close relationship to the family, and we've taken on a commitment to preserving Imperial culture and practices. We feel responsible and are doing everything within our power to bring them home."
The Imperial habitat, a multi-billion dollar park, including a replica of the Imperial Palace and the surrounding, attraction-filled grounds, has served as the Imperial residence since construction was completed twelve years ago. "No expense was spared in replication of detail," notes Tokyo University Professor of Architecture Watanabe Jiro. "The chief alterations were in scale. The replica, I believe, is almost three times larger than the original. This was in order to accommodate walkways and observation posts for park visitors, and to allow space for tunnels for park staff."
The park, known as 'Imperial World,' has become a key local attraction, drawing millions of visitors each year. Designed to offer visitors a glimpse into the sheltered and venerable life of the royal family, the park includes more than 800 discrete vantage points, or 'blinds.' "The goal was to permit people to view the royal family with as little disruption as possible," explains Professor Watanabe. "And so it was key that the vantage points be as hidden as possible from the point of view of the family. Drawing on a number of traditions, including the English ha-ha, and through judicious placement of one-way glass and oblique transoms, they've put together a remarkably seamless habitat that still gives visitors a chance to really experience the royals up close."
There had been few signs of trouble at the Disney-managed park, say officials, though a long-term project to encourage reproduction among the royals has recently stalled. "It's a difficult situation for them as you can imagine," explains park genealogist Herbert Shimbun. "They were shy and retiring in their old environment, but the move has just made them even less outgoing. We've made a number of efforts to introduce potential matches into the environment, but without any luck."
The escaped members of the family, including the Empress, two of her children and three of their cousins, apparently slipped through a concealed door used by park staff when it was inadvertently left ajar after the park closed for the night. "We can confirm that they left through a maintenance door in the kyudo hall," reports a park security official. "Doors are typically secured to keep visitors from encroaching on the habitat, but, after closing, we tend to let our guards down a bit. You can be sure a lapse like this won't happen again."
Though heated discussion about the controversial assignment of the Imperial World concession to Disney, a foreign company, had only recently died down, members of the Japanese public are hesitant to blame the company. "We're not worried about who to blame," explains a man waiting in a ticket line outside the Imperial World gates. "We just want them back safe."
Disney officials expressed similar sentiments. "There's nothing like being able to bring a people this close to their heritage," notes a Disney spokesman. "I've seen the look on children's faces when the Crown Prince is just on the other side of some glass, just inches away. It's priceless."
Members of the public are advised to report sightings of any members of the family to their local police substation. The public is also cautioned not to feed the royals, as they require a traditionally prepared diet, and not to allow them to watch TV or come in contact with synthetic fabrics.
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