TV & Radio
Japan holds breath for male heir
by Shingo Ito
Sun Sep 3, 12:29 AM ET
Japan is holding its breath for this week's royal birth hoping Princess Kiko will bear the family's first male heir in four decades and ease a succession crisis in the widely revered monarchy.
The 39-year-old princess, the wife of Emperor Akihito's second son Prince Akishino, will give birth by Caesarean section on Wednesday morning, with tabloids reporting she will have a boy.
Newspapers plan to issue extra editions after she delivers -- and reportedly plan larger editions if she produces a male heir, who would be third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Her pregnancy has been a dream come true for conservatives who successfully fought moves to introduce female succession to the world's oldest monarchy, which has recently been showing a more human face.
A vast majority of Japanese show deep respect for the imperial system, which according to legend dates back more than 2,600 years and which historians agree can be traced to at least the sixth century AD.
"While society and politics are changing constantly, people may feel at ease by finding continuation and stability in the imperial family," said Isao Tokoro, a professor of law at Kyoto Sangyo University and specialist on royal affairs.
"A number of people regard the imperial family as a mental bastion," he said.
Emperor Hirohito, the father of the current monarch, renounced his divinity after surrendering in World War II. But it was only more recently that the royals have started to show their personalities to the general public.
Crown Prince Naruhito in 1993 married Masako Owada, a Harvard-educated career diplomat who represented a generational shift. But Crown Princess Masako has since fallen ill from stress in part due to pressure to bear a male heir.
The couple have one child, four-year-old Princess Aiko, and in August took an unusual private vacation to The Netherlands to help Masako recover at the trying time for the imperial household.
Naruhito in 2004 issued an unprecedented public rebuke to the royal minders who tightly guard the palace, accusing them of stifling Masako's personality. Akishino criticized his elder brother for openly airing his concerns, raising speculation of sibling rivalry.
Kouichi Yokota, a professor of law and royal expert at Ryutsu Keizai University in the Tokyo suburbs, said the new openness was a double-edged sword for the imperial family.
"Young generations are becoming more and more indifferent to the imperial family," Yokota said.
"In order to win people's interest, the imperial family as well as the Imperial Household Agency need to disclose information and expose themselves to the public," he said.
"But that will also lead to the loss of its dignity and at worse a media frenzy that brings vulgar gossip. This is the dilemma for them."
Previous opinion polls showed more than two-thirds of Japanese support female succession, which would put Aiko in line to the throne and ease pressure on Masako.
But reform-minded Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down later this month and his likely successor, conservative Shinzo Abe, is seen as less likely to support changes to imperial succession laws.
Koizumi had earlier championed amending succession laws but met strong opposition within his conservative Liberal Democratic Party. He suspended the plan after news of Kiko's pregnancy broke in February.
Traditionalists believe that Japan has the world's only royal family with an unbroken paternal line of succession.
"The delivery is expected in September, just when Mr Koizumi steps down," former justice minister Hiroshi Nakai told an anti-female succession rally this year. "I feel God really exists."
Japan awaits birth of possible imperial male heir
By Linda Sieg
Sat Sep 2, 10:17 PM ET
Conservatives keen to keep women from ascending the Chrysanthemum Throne are hoping this week will bring the answer to their prayers: the birth of Japan's first imperial male heir in more than four decades.
Princess Kiko, the 39-year-old wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, is scheduled to give birth by a Caesarean operation on Wednesday following pregnancy complications.
The birth of a boy would almost certainly derail debate on revising Japan's males-only imperial succession law to let women take the throne.
"Before Kiko's pregnancy there was momentum toward change, but if a boy is born, enthusiasm will diminish," said Miiko Kodama, a professor at Musashi University in Tokyo.
Japanese tabloid media, never reluctant to probe celebrity secrets, have already decided that the royal baby is a boy.
In an article titled "Countdown to Princess Kiko's Childbirth," the weekly Shukan Bunshun wrote last week that Kiko's husband, Prince Akishino, had told a friend their third child would be a boy. But the magazine added nothing was certain.
The Imperial Household Agency has declined to comment on baby's gender, saying Kiko and Akishino, 41, who have two daughters aged 14 and 11, did not want to be told ahead of time.
No boys have been born into Japan's imperial family since Akishino in 1965, and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had planned to enact legislation to give women equal rights to inherit the throne to avert a succession crisis.
The change would have put 4-year-old Princess Aiko, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and Crown Princess Masako, 42, next in line to the throne after Naruhito.
Kiko's pregnancy prompted the government to shelve the plan, which was opposed by conservatives eager to maintain a males-only tradition they say stretches back more than 2,000 years.
Among those is Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, widely tipped to succeed Koizumi later this month.
Public opinion polls conducted shortly after Kiko's pregnancy was announced in February showed a majority of Japanese favored letting women ascend the throne, but that slightly more than half were opposed to a quick revision of the succession law.
Some say they hope the royal baby will be a girl to give fresh momentum to reform. "I want a woman to take the throne, so it would be nice if it's a girl," said Shimpei Kodama, a young male employee at an insurance company.
Others like Tamio Honda, a 44-year-old IT company executive, prefer a boy. "I think it would make the Japanese people happy," Honda said.
Under existing law, a son born to Kiko would be third in line to the throne after Naruhito and Akishino.
Some sympathizers of Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat who has been suffering from a mental illness caused by the stress of adapting to rigid royal life -- including pressure to bear a male heir -- think she'd be happier if a boy is born.
"I think a boy would be better," said Machiko Kodaira, 58, who was baby sitting two children at a Tokyo playground. "I think that would take the burden off Masako," said Kodaira, adding she nonetheless favored changing the law to let women reign.
Experts on the monarchy agree reform would still be needed eventually even if a boy is born, since ensuring future male heirs is difficult without a royal concubine system.
The practice of royal concubines was ended by Emperor Akihito's father, Hirohito.
Traditionalists hope Abe's election as prime minister will open the way for the sort of revisions they favor, such as reviving princely houses abolished after World War Two to expand the pool of possible male heirs.
"There is no need to rush to revise the law, but this will still be an issue for the new government," said conservative commentator Hideaki Kase.
Japan has had eight reigning empresses, the last in the 18th century, but conservatives stress they were stop-gap rulers who did not pass on the throne to children who were not descended from the imperial patrilineal line.
(Additional reporting by Chikako Endo)
Posted on Mon, Sep. 04, 2006
Japan holding its breath to see if princess delivers a male heir
By Emi Doi
TOKYO - If all goes as scheduled, a baby will be born in Tokyo on Wednesday with the weight of the world's oldest hereditary institution on its little shoulders.
All of Japan is waiting to see if Princess Kiko, the 39-year-old wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, gives birth to a boy in Aiiku Hospital when she has a Caesarean section.
No males have been born into Japan's imperial family since 1965, jeopardizing the male-only imperial bloodline that stretches back more than 125 generations. A male heir would defuse a succession crisis and give Japanese royal watchers a respite.
Princess Kiko's pregnancy allowed conservatives to delay a proposal that would allow females to accede to the imperial throne. The princess was hospitalized on Aug. 15 with complications, leading to the decision to have a Caesarean. News of the delivery and the baby's gender is expected to break on Tuesday evening in the United States because of the time difference.
If the baby is a boy, he'd be third in line to the Imperial Throne, after Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and his brother Prince Akishino, 40.
Newspapers plan to issue extra editions after Princess Kiko delivers - four-page editions if she produces a male heir and two-page editions if the baby is a girl.
Japanese magazines that specialize in peering across the moat of Tokyo's imperial palace take it for granted that a boy heir is on the way. Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino already have two girls, aged 11 and 14.
The weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun reported last week that a close friend asked Prince Akishino if the "the next baby will be a boy?" Prince Akishino smiled and clearly said, `Yes, it seems that way,''' the magazine reported, saying it agreed not to print the friend's name.
Since Prince Akishino was born in 1965, members of the imperial family have given birth to eight consecutive girls, leaving the future of the imperial system in doubt.
For centuries, Japan's emperors kept concubines, increasing their likelihood of producing male offspring. But Emperor Hirohito, the father of the current monarch, ended the system and renounced his claim to divinity after Japan's defeat in World War II. He died in 1989.
The current succession crisis began with the marriage of Emperor Akihito's oldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, to a stylish Oxford-educated diplomat, who became Crown Princess Masako. She bore a daughter, Aiko, in 2001 amid widespread disappointment over a lack of a male heir.
Following the birth, Princess Masako sank into a depressed funk due to the public pressure for a male heir. With 4-year-old Princess Aiko in tow and a psychiatrist in their retinue, Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito have just returned from a two-week vacation to the Netherlands, the first time that members of the imperial family have ever gone abroad to rest.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who may succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi later this month, gave little indication in remarks last Thursday whether he'd continue to push for revisions in the Imperial Household Law. He said only that he'd tackle the matter "cautiously and calmly" after seeking a public consensus.
「皇子」の誕生でさえ、女性天皇への動きは止められない - London Times & Independent