TV & Radio
Japan holds its breath ahead of royal birth
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Tuesday September 5, 2006
Japan is gripped by expectation that the looming crisis over succession to the Chrysanthemum throne could end today if the baby to be delivered by caesarean section to Princess Kiko turns out to be a boy.
The wife of the second in line to the throne is due to give birth at a private hospital in Tokyo after doctors decided several weeks ago to plan a caesarean after spotting a minor complication.
A boy would be the first male born into the imperial family since Kiko's husband, Prince Akishino, in 1965. The dearth of male heirs in a royal lineage that some claim stretches back 2,600 years has taken Japan to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Under the 1947 succession law, only males descended from an emperor can inherit the throne.
If the tabloid media are to be believed, Kiko, who has two daughters aged 14 and 11, will give the nation what it craves, although the Imperial Household Agency and Kiko's doctors have refused to comment, claiming that even the parents do not know the baby's sex.
Newspapers were preparing to roll off special editions - the number of pages will increase if the baby is a boy - while broadcasters have already launched hours of breathless coverage. In Counting Down the Seconds, Asahi TV took viewers through the finer points of a caesarean section and explained the contents of the ancient rites that will follow the birth, including the presentation of a sword by the baby's grandfather, Emperor Akihito.
Academics, meanwhile, speculated over which combination of Chinese kanji characters Prince Akishino would select for the baby's name. Most believed the child would be given a simple name, regardless of its sex, in keeping with those given to their daughters, Mako and Kako.
Yasuo Ohara, a classics professor at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, told Reuters: "He probably won't choose anything complicated, or that would be difficult for the public to feel familiar with."
Whatever the child's sex, many are predicting that Kiko will spark a mini-baby boom in Japan, which has seen its birthrate drop to a record low this year.
The stock market, meanwhile, has already responded to baby fever. Manufacturers of baby goods have seen their shares jump in recent days, with those in Combi, which specialises in prams, hitting an all-time high on the Tokyo stock exchange on Monday.
Kiko's pregnancy has given the country's conservatives hope that they can resolve the succession crisis - at least for the time being - without resorting to legal changes that would allow females to become sovereigns.
Crown Prince Naruhito, the heir apparent, and his wife, Princess Masako, were expected to have a son following their marriage in 1993 but have produced only a daughter, four-year-old Princess Aiko.
Masako, a former diplomat who has struggled to adapt to life in one of the world's most conservative monarchies, has been battling depression since late 2003 and is considered unlikely to have another child.
The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was preparing to submit a reform bill earlier this year that would have made Aiko eligible to ascend the throne but put his plans on hold after news emerged of Kiko's pregnancy. If the baby is a girl, pressure for reform is expected to return.
Japan focuses on gender of baby as princess gives birth
The Associated Press
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2006
TOKYO When Japan's Princess Kiko announced she was pregnant earlier this year, the government quickly shelved a much-debated proposal to avoid a succession crisis and allow a female to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Now Japan will find out when Kiko gives birth on Wednesday whether the throne will have its first male heir in four decades — or if the nation will have to resume the highly emotional debate over the royal family's future.
The 39-year-old princess, wife of Prince Akishino, the emperor's second-eldest son, was scheduled to undergo Caesarean section on Wednesday morning in Tokyo. The couple has two daughters but no sons.
The gender of the baby has been a closely guarded palace secret, though Japanese tabloids have speculated the child will be a boy, giving the country's male-only succession system a respite from a looming succession crunch.
"The imperial family has more than 1,000 and several hundred years of history," said Isao Tokoro, an imperial system expert at Kyoto Sangyo University. "If a boy is born ... it means a male emperor can assume the role of past emperors."
Japan's royals have a severe shortage of such candidates.
Neither Akishino nor his elder brother and first in line to the throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, have produced a boy. Naruhito and his Harvard-educated wife, Masako, have a 4-year-old daughter, Aiko.
Amid fears of succession troubles down the road, a high-profile panel last year recommended changing Japan's 1947 imperial law to allow a woman to take the throne. Currently, only men in a direct male line to the emperor can take the crown, so even the son of the emperor's daughter would not be eligible.
The revision proposal was extremely popular with the public, in part because of general adoration of Aiko and sympathy for her mother Masako, who came under intense court pressure to produce a male heir and has suffered in recent years from stress-induced depression.
Many also feel that it's time for Japan to change a law that some consider sexist.
"I'd rather it were a girl. I think the rule that only males can ascend the throne is a bit outdated," said Ichiko Nakagawa, 43, saleswoman on her way home in Tokyo on Tuesday evening. "The law should be revised whether it's a girl or a boy."
Highly vocal and well-connected conservatives, however, lobbied hard against law revision last year, despite Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's outspoken support for the reform.
Traditionalists argued that allowing women to carry the imperial line would destroy more than 1,000 years of Japanese culture, saying an emperor's Y-chromosome contained the essence of the royal family and should be preserved.
Instead of putting women on the throne, some opponents suggested reinstating the abolished prewar aristocracy to widen the pool of heirs. Others proposed bringing back the tradition of imperial concubines to breed potential emperors.
If Kiko has a boy, the child would be third in line to the throne after Naruhito and Akishino.
Conservatives were unabashed about their preference Tuesday.
"I am hoping for the birth of a boy," Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura stated to reporters Tuesday morning. "I am praying for a safe delivery."
The debate early this year became so fractious that support for revising the succession law began to wane among the conflict-averse public. When Kiko announced her pregnancy, raising the possibility that a boy could be born, Koizumi's government put the reform aside.
Many expected the birth of a boy on Wednesday to further quell talk about reform by forestalling a succession crisis for some years. The respite, however, would be temporary, since it would only be a matter of time before the family would have to produce more males.
The birth of a girl, however, was likely to renew the succession debate.
"If it's a girl, we'll need an immediate revision (of the law) or the imperial household will not be passed on," said Tokoro.
Still, it was uncertain whether Koizumi's presumed successor, conservative Shinzo Abe, would show the same enthusiasm for reform if he takes office later this month.
Some proponents of a change in the law, which could lead to the first woman on the throne since Gosakuramachi took the crown in 1763, say the debate should go ahead no matter what the gender of Kiko's baby.
"I think we will start discussing the issue again," said Eiko Shinotsuka, professor of gender studies at Ochanomizu University. "The proposal was something that was delivered by a bona fide conference that cannot be ignored."
Japan holding its breath to see if princess delivers a male heir
「一律男女共学化に反対」 仙台の高校生 立ち上がる
Schwarzenegger Keeps Wide Lead
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 4, 2006; A04
SAN LUIS OBISBO, Calif. -- Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Democratic leaders just concluded the legislative session with something that has been in short supply in California politics lately: cooperation and bipartisan harmony.
In the process, Schwarzenegger found himself looking a bit like a Democrat. He backed a plan from the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles for a takeover of the city's underperforming schools and signed on to an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. After a series of political missteps by Schwarzenegger, even his critics say his new stances and alliances have helped him regain his footing.
The result has been a difficult time for state Treasurer Phil Angelides, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger in November.
Democratic Party bigwigs and Hollywood moguls appear to be wavering in their support. Some of the entertainment industry's most generous party donors -- including Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban -- have endorsed Schwarzenegger.
Leading California Democrats -- including Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, the co-chairman of Angelides's reelection campaign -- have crisscrossed the state with Schwarzenegger campaigning for a multibillion-dollar bond package to rebuild California's sagging roads, schools and water systems that will also be on the November ballot.
"California is once again, my friends, on the move, thanks largely to this man, the governor of our great state and a good friend of mine, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger," Nuñez gushed during an appearance with the governor in May.
In an interview, Nuñez insisted that he would work for Angelides's victory but acknowledged that he would not stop campaigning for the bond package with the governor.
"Whenever a Republican governor embraces a Democratic agenda, you have to welcome him into your tent," he said, pointing to the governor's support for legislation to increase the minimum wage to $8 an hour and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Besides, Nuñez continued, "we have an obligation to serve the people of California. We don't get elected to stop everything we're doing and try to elect a Democratic governor every four years."
Among the Democratic faithful, Angelides is having a hard time gaining traction. A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday put Schwarzenegger 13 percentage points ahead of his challenger among likely voters -- 45 to 32 percent -- the same as a month ago.
And Angelides's performance in key Democratic enclaves is weak: In the Bay Area, he leads by 10 points, prompting former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown to suggest on his radio show that Angelides should "stay in Dinuba, Chico, San Luis Obispo, wherever there are no known systems of technology and communications."
In Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger leads 41 to 36 percent. There, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has yet to declare his support for Angelides.
Some analysts say Nuñez's and Villaraigosa's less-than-fervent support of Angelides is politically motivated. If Schwarzenegger wins in November, the way would be open for Villaraigosa -- who remains widely popular after one year at the helm in Los Angeles -- to run for governor in 2010. Nuñez could then run for mayor of Los Angeles.
But others say it is convenient for the Democratic-dominated legislature to have a governor with Schwarzenegger's star power. If anyone can sell something to voters, they reason, Schwarzenegger can. "The legislators understand they can get more out of Arnold than Angelides because Arnold has to bargain," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California.
Angelides appears to be outgunned by Schwarzenegger's ad campaign. One ad, highlighting Angelides's pledge to raise taxes, portrays Angelides doing the moon walk, taking the state back in time.
Angelides's troubles were summed up last week during a day of appearances in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Angelides held "front porch" forums. His strategy was to compare Schwarzenegger to Bush and himself to former president Bill Clinton. At a rally in Los Angeles, critics tried to tie Schwarzenegger to public unhappiness with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina as members of the California Nurses Association accused him of "never lifting a finger" to help the people of New Orleans.
But the rallies were poorly attended, media coverage was light, and some attendees were unconvinced. Voters seemed to understand the pains Schwarzenegger has taken to distance himself from Bush, who remains unpopular in California. And they were unmoved by Angelides's portraying himself as another Clinton. "My big question is whether he has the charisma to win," said Sandy Grasso-Boyd, a Democratic voter who attended a Santa Barbara session with the candidate. "I just don't know."
In an interview, Angelides, who made millions as a real estate developer, labeled as "ridiculous" talk that his party was not behind him: "This is a myth propagated by the other side. Democrats in this country have never been more aligned. You are always going to have a few weak-kneed who get picked off, people whose position and power are more important to them."
Angelides said he had no problem running a race against a media sensation such as Schwarzenegger.
"Everybody knows who he is and [his approval rating] is still stuck in the 40s," he said. "What California voters are saying is, 'Who's the other guy?' "
共和党内にもねじれ 米中間選挙、地元は中央と別候補擁立 (産経 2006/08/28)
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