TV & Radio
Japan celebrates prince, but female monarch debate rumbles on
by Hiroshi Hiyama
Thursday, September 7, 2006
Japanese newspapers have celebrated the birth of the first new prince in four decades but said the nation still must consider female succession to avert a future crisis.
Princess Kiko was doing well a day after giving birth and the new-born baby, who has yet to be named, was moved into her hospital room, television networks said.
Workers remodeled the house of Kiko and her husband Prince Akishino for the baby, installing a fresh carpet and putting a small kitchen near the newborn prince's room, media said.
Kiko and Akishino, the emperor's second son, have two daughters, the last of whom was born in 1994.
"This is the happiest event for the Imperial family and we would like to congratulate them from the bottom of our hearts," the top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial.
The boy becomes third in the line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, preserving male succession for another generation. Just a year ago, the government looked set to introduce female succession to alleviate a looming crisis.
"It is no longer necessary to make a conclusion on the issue quickly, but discussions on the matter should be continued," the conservative Yomiuri said.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi backed down on female succession amid strong conservative opposition after news of Kiko's pregnancy broke in February.
The reform-minded Koizumi said Wednesday he still supported female succession but would not push the issue before leaving office this month. His likely successor, Shinzo Abe, has opposed letting a woman sit on the throne.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso, a conservative also vying to replace Koizumi, said the royal birth meant the sensitive succession debate "will not have to take place at least for another 40 years."
But the Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial that even though the birth ended the crisis for now, "long-term concerns linger on."
"The stability of the royal family remains in the hands of chance as long as the male-only succession law remains," the newspaper said. "Now that we have a certain outlook on the future royal successors for the next decades, we must discuss amending the Imperial Household Law."
"The debate on the royal succession is not just about successors. But it is also about revisiting what the emperor is and the relationship of the emperor and the public," the Mainichi said.
Before his first grandson, Emperor Akihito had three granddaughters, including Princess Aiko, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako.
The crown princess, a former career woman, has suffered intense stress struggling to adapt to the world's oldest monarchy.
If no more boys were born, the Japanese imperial family would theoretically become extinct.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily agreed that the current system did not secure stable imperial succession.
"While celebrating the auspicious occasion, we must return to the debate," it said in an editorial.
The male birth was a dream come true for conservatives, who believe the monarchy has passed along a paternal line for more than 2,600 years.
The conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper said it hoped the birth of the prince would bring hope to Japan and help it overcome the "decaying morals of modern life" such as crime and a low birthrate.
It said the previous proposal to introduce royal succession was "premature" and that discussion should begin "from a clean slate" by listening to the wishes of the royal family.