TV & Radio
PlanetOut cuts Q3 revenue outlook
Tue Sep 5, 2006 5:07pm ET
Sept 5 (Reuters) - PlanetOut Inc. (LGBT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) on Tuesday said it is lowering its revenue outlook for the third quarter due to a shortfall in revenue and unexpected increase in expenses.
The media and entertainment company said it now expects revenue of $15 million to $16 million, about 14 percent down from its previous outlook.
In a statement, the company also said it lowered its adjusted earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization outlook range for the quarter to between nil and $1.0 million.
For the latest third quarter, analysts on average expect the company to earn 4 cents a share, excluding exceptional items, on revenue of $17.3 million. (Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore)
SPIEGEL ONLINE - September 6, 2006, 03:31 PM
Koizumi's Patriotism Isolating Japan
Pilgrimages to the Shrine
By Wieland Wagner
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose term runs out this month, has been feted for his reform program which hauled the country's economy out of stagnation. But his patriotic stance has isolated Japan among its Asian neighbors and his successor is likely to adopt an equally nationalistic tone.
The attacker came shortly after dusk. First he set fire to the house and office of Koichi Kato, 67, a member of the shrinking liberal minority in the lower house of Japan's parliament. As the flames consumed the building, he plunged a long knife into his stomach, committing ritual suicide in the bloody tradition of the Samurai.
The politician and his family weren't home, so the house burned to the ground without harming the intended victims. The attacker, a member of an extreme right-wing organization in Tokyo, also survived his attempted hara-kiri.
Nonetheless, the incident caused uproar in Japan, largely because of the symbolism of a right-wing fanatic committing an especially brutal attack on a liberal political.
Even more astonishing was the reaction of the establishment. For days there was no outcry, no expression of outrage, no statement from the government. The political elite chose to remain silent on the matter, at least initially. It wasn't until two weeks later that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 64, condemned the attack on a man who is considered an outsider in Japanese politics.
Though a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for decades, Kato has been almost alone in resisting the trend toward nationalism. He has even dared to criticize the prime minister who has made regular visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan's war dead where war criminals from World War Two are revered as Shinto deities.
The rest of the world is also having trouble understanding this backward-oriented, nationalistic Japan and its odd penchant for keeping the past alive. This is the flipside of Koizumi's much-admired era of reforms. The prime minister rescued his faltering nation from its deepest recession since the war and forced the country, long resistant to reforms, to accept change. And yet at the same time his patriotic behavior helped the nationalists achieve an unexpected comeback.
Just how far Japan has drifted into nationalism in its five and half years under Koizumi will become evident on Sept. 20, when his term as president of the LDP and as prime minister comes to an end. His expected successor is just as popular as Koizumi and gives the impression that he is even more determined to promote Japan's claim to greatness, a claim it derives from the past. His name is Shinzo Abe, he is 51 and he is currently the chief cabinet secretary. Abe announced his candidacy last Friday.
Refusing to condemn Japan's wartime aggression
As prime minister, Abe plans to rewrite the constitution the United States forced on Japan in 1946 as a condition for peace, as well as upgrade Japan's military role as the US's ally in the region to enable the island nation to support the Americans militarily in the event of a war. Abe's plans are in keeping with Washington's aims to develop a new strategy to counter China as it grows into a world power, a strategy that includes a strengthened alliance with Japan and India as a counterbalance to Beijing's influence in the region.
Like Koizumi, Abe is also fond of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. But unlike Koizumi, Abe is unwilling to unmistakably brand the generals and admirals of the former Japanese Empire as war criminals, and he also refuses to condemn Japan's aggression against China and Korea before and during the war in the Pacific. When asked about the sentences handed down in the Tokyo war crimes trials after World War II, Abe says that the jury is still out among historians. In this respect, he resembles Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who says he wants to hire "experts" to investigate the Holocaust, as if there were a need to reexamine and clarify the issue.
Abe's stance is likely rooted in his own family's history. His grandfather was Nobusuke Kishi (1896 to 1987), a kind of Japanese version of Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect in Nazi Germany and later his minister for armaments. Kishi was one of the so-called reform bureaucrats who prepared China's subjugation in the 1930s and helped boost the defense industry during the war.
Kishi was arrested in 1945 but was not charged as a war criminal. He was elected prime minister in 1957 and pursued a foreign policy that in some ways anticipated Koizumi's -- blocking attempts at reconciliation with China and helping Japan assume the role of the US's principal anti-communist ally in Asia.
Koizumi has come to terms with his potential successor. The prime minister recently visited the town of Hagi in Abe's electoral district in southwestern Japan. It was in the shingle-roofed wooden huts of Hagi, in the mid-19th century, that Samurai ideologue Shoin Yoshida incited a generation of future statesmen to topple the unprogressive central government. Executed in 1859, this patriot and rebel taught his followers that the nation could only be saved from the West through radical reform, and that such reform would ultimately enable the country to "defeat America, Russia, England and France and expand the authority of the emperor over all nations."
Yoshida was the ideological ancestor of the reforms that allowed Japan to become Asia's dominant power in the late 19th century -- and that led to its decline as a hegemonic Empire in 1945.
Like a man returning to his ancestral home, Koizumi toured the town where Yoshida, whose bust he displays in his office, taught. The prime minister with the impetuous gray mane and shirt collar opened wide at the neck came to Hagi as an equal, as a reforming Samurai who managed to whip into shape the world's second-largest industrialized nation, a nation that had become stagnant in its complacency. This is the way Koizumi sees it, and so do the Japanese.
Koizumi's standing among post-war prime ministers is undisputed in his own country. He dominated his LDP party and pursued an autocratic style of government. Japan's economy is growing again, the banks have largely eliminated mountains of bad debt and Koizumi has banished deflation. He managed to push through his reforms against a phalanx of lobbyists. But amid all the applause for Koizumi the nation has overlooked the fact that the reformer has put off a number of painful decisions. He hasn't raised Japan's consumption tax which stands at just five percent. At about 841 trillion yen (€5.6 trillion), the national debt is more than one and a half times the gross domestic product. As an ageing nation, Japan will only be able to reduce its debt burden by taking the unpopular step of raising taxes, a thankless task Koizumi's successor will inherit.
In his rural electoral district, Abe can see how the losers of Koizumi's reforms are faring. Many shops are closed and young people are migrating to the big cities. In a pragmatic move to alleviate the harsher aspects of the reforms, Abe plans to introduce a government program to help bankrupt companies get a fresh start.
Abe's foreign policy is unlikely to be successful if he derives too much inspiration from his grandfather's legacy. Japan lost a great deal of its influence in Asia under Koizumi. As a result of his pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, China and South Korea now refuse to attend summit meetings with the prime minister.
If Abe intends to lead his country out of its isolation, he'll have to make symbolic overtures to its neighbors, which are of considerable economic importance to Japan. The Chinese and the Koreans will be paying close attention to the frequency of the new prime minister's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine -- and to how he behaves when he's there.
Translated from German by Christopher Sultan
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.
Times Online September 06, 2006
Birth of little prince will only postpone the crisis
From Richard Lloyd Parry, of The Times, in Tokyo
The mother and child are reported to be healthy and in good spirits. The happiness of the well-wishers outside the Imperial Palace was unfeigned, and the pregnancy even brought about a huge spike in the share price of manufacturers of baby-related goods.
But for one reason, and one reason only, the birth of a baby boy to Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko today was a disappointment — the fact that the 2.6kg, 49cm baby boy turned out to be a boy in the first place.
Japan was on the verge of a huge symbolic change — the change, after centuries of male succession, to a system in which a female member of the imperial family could reign as an empress.
The country’s outgoing Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was in favour of it. A government-appointed panel of eminent persons had presented in detail their reasons for supporting the reform. Public support for the move was as high as 80 per cent, and opposition was limited to a minority of — admittedly vocal — traditionalists and right-wingers. But today, thanks to an accident of chromosomes, the noisy minority won.
The question of revising Japan’s succession law will be shelved, perhaps for as long as a generation. Japanese men will continue to be the only permitted occupants of the throne.
In traditional fashion, female members of the imperial family will continue to walk, bow, stand and sit a beat behind their husbands, brothers and fathers. And the silent example which this sets at the apex of the Japanese state will continue to impair the equal treatment of women in the world’s second richest country.
Japan is a country where change comes gradually, often reluctantly and often when there is simply no other choice. By the mid-19th century it had become obvious that closed, feudal Japan was going to have to open itself to the outside world — but it took the gun ships of the American Commodore Perry to force it to happen.
Late in 1944 it was inevitable that Japan’s incompetent militarist Government was heading for defeat — but surrender only came in August 1945, after the atomic bombings and the entry into the Second World War of the Soviet Union. And so it is that a change in the succession laws, which most Japanese and their leaders wanted, was only going to happen as the result of a crisis.
By the beginning of this year, the crisis was in full spate. Since Prince Akishino was born almost 40 years ago, nine babies have been born into the Imperial Family. All of them have been girls.
The last was Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, who was conceived with difficulty after fertility treatment. Masako suffered a nervous breakdown three years ago — a situation which cannot have been made any easier by the intense silent pressure she faced to deliver a boy, rather than a mere girl.
Prince Akishino’s two children were both girls and, at the age of 39, his wife, Kiko, gave no sign of planning another child. Unless something changed the Imperial line was facing extinction, 2,700 years after its legendary beginnings in descendants of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami.
Hence the panel of distinguished persons who spent a year considering the pros and cons and delivered their report and recommendations in November 2005.
The law, they said, should be changed so that the line of succession was determined by order of birth, not privilege of gender. On top of this, princesses should no longer lose their imperial status when they marry commoners — by remaining princesses they would thus be able to enlarge the reservoir of potential heirs.
The proposals were to be put before Japan’s parliament, the Diet, where they would have passed into law — and then, in February, news of Kiko’s pregnancy leaked out.
Courtiers insist that the couple had always wanted another child, and that right up until this morning they had no idea if it was a girl or boy. There is no proof that they were fibbing, but many Japanese assume the timing of the conception, and the gender of the baby, are too convenient to be a coincidence.
The irony is that today’s birth will only postpone the crisis. Unless the still-unnamed baby prince has a litter of sons of his own early in life, the imperial family will remain chronically short of heirs — imperial courtiers are working on the assumption that the succession law will have to be changed eventually.
There is no doubt that Kiko’s little boy will be the pride of his family, and an object of affection and interest for many Japanese. Too bad that his birth should also represent such a wasted opportunity.
Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Japan succession debate to go on
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo
So the rumours were right. Princess Kiko was carrying a boy after all.
She has produced the first male heir to the Japanese throne in 41 years. The succession is assured.
Controversial plans to revise the Imperial Household Law to allow female members of the imperial family to accede to the Chrysanthemum Throne can now be sealed up and stuffed in the drawer for another few years, can't they?
That is what some of the more conservative members of the Imperial Household agency will be hoping.
When Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi proposed the change to the law last year, he was opposed by conservative elements in his own party as well as in the opposition.
While opinion polls suggested that more than two-thirds of the country saw little problem with women ruling as empresses in their own right, a vocal minority, including quite a few politicians from his own party, made clear that they were very unhappy with the plans.
So it is little wonder that within hours of the birth, the politician widely expected to become Japan's next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, seemed more at ease exclaiming in unusually florid language his reaction.
"It feels refreshing like the clear skies of autumn," he said.
He talked about the need for a calm and cautious debate, which some commentators interpreted as a resounding "no".
But the arrival of a baby boy has not "solved" the succession crisis. What it has really done has bought the imperial family some time.
The argument over whether or not women were suitable candidates to head the imperial family was distasteful to some because judgements were being made about whether individuals - the young princesses - who were already in the public eye were suitable candidates to rule as empress.
So now some experts say there is an opportunity to make it less personal.
It is better to have the argument now about how the rules could be changed in the future, perhaps for the children of the little boy born on Wednesday, rather than discussing whether this princess or that prince would make a better head of the imperial family.
Some argue that in fact the biggest problem facing Emperor Akihito and his offspring is not the succession crisis, but an increasing detachment between the monarch and his people.
Young people in Tokyo were pleased for the princess and her husband on their auspicious day, but they did not seem to have strong opinions about whether or not men or women should accede to the throne.
"I'm very happy," said Takashi Suzuki, who was shopping in the Marunochi district of Tokyo, "but I don't care about the succession."
"If it had been a girl," said Steve One, "it might have strengthened the debate, but now it's a boy, they may as well forget about it".
Only Mamiku Shomitsu had more to say on the succession issue.
"It's a very delicate situation. Many people would like Crown Princess Masako's daughter to be empress. Women should be able to accede to the throne like in Britain."
Of course on days like this, there is intense media interest in the imperial throne. But many Japanese have more prosaic concerns - growing inequality in society or a perceived lack of job security.
The trials and tribulations of those "trapped in the gilded cage", as the imperial family is sometimes styled, may not be so important to them as it might have been to their parents.
"Why not give them the same options as any other family?" asks Mariko Fujirawa, a social commentator.
"Other families can adopt, or their daughter's husbands can take their new wife's family name, or they simply abandon the aspiration for an unbroken male blood line. To ask them to go on producing male heirs is unrealistic."
Status quo likely
The current emperor's great-grandfather produced five sons. But he managed it because he had five concubines.
For generations that was how the imperial family made sure they produced enough males to keep the lineage unbroken.
But this is not really a realistic option for the 21st Century, and the emperor's father, Hirohito, refused to take a concubine.
So will the other option, allowing women to accede to the throne eventually be forced through instead?
Not in the near future.
The decision will be down to politicians and it is the kind of issue that has the potential to lose more votes from die-hard traditionalists than win support from modernisers.
With a difficult election ahead of them next year, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is unlikely to want to take on the forces of conservatism - as good an argument as any for preserving the status quo.
Published: 09/02/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)
A sex change operation
By Mariam Al Hakeem, Gulf News Correspondent
Makkah: Riyadh Reem never felt much like a girl when she was growing up. In fact, from the beginning Reem said she felt more like a boy.
"This feeling started growing with me, making me reject any gift that reminded me of being a girl. Throughout my 29 years, I never played with dolls. Instead I used to play football with my brothers and boys in the narrow lanes of our congested district," Reem told Gulf News.
After medical tests confirmed that she had more male hormones than female ones, Reem began the long and arduous process of becoming a man and taking the name Khalid.
Born in Makkah, Reem studied at Saudi girl's schools from kindergarten through high school, travelling south to Yemen for college.
"I didn't want to be a girl, to do girls things and wear girl's dresses, and this caused a lot of psychological trauma. I wanted to erase all my girlish qualities from my mind and memory," she said.
"I used to show great resistance to wearing the abaya, especially when I was promoted to first year intermediate, a stage where all girls should wear the abaya to cover their bodies from head to toe."
Reem said other children noticed she was different early on as well.
"My classmates used to make fun of me and tease me by calling me 'girl-boy' because I displayed masculine manners and qualities.
"All these years I had been living with a terrible psychological conflict because of my inclination towards the world of men. I had never thought any day that I was a girl," she said.
In fact, Reem said she kept aloof from girls and women and never liked socialising with women because of her masculine voice and structure of her body.
As a teenager, her body began developing a "woman's features". Reem also had to shave her face when she went to college, in part to hide her masculine features.
All this made Reem conclude that she really should have been a man.
Upon completing her university education in Yemen, Reem returned to the Kingdom and visited several doctors, all of whom confirmed she has more male hormones.
They recommended that her breasts be surgically removed. However, the doctors also said that there was a problem performing a complete sex change operation in Saudi Arabia.
However, fate intervened to help Reem to become Khalid right here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"One day, I got sick and accidentally visited a doctor at Baksh Hospital in Jeddah who assured me it was possible to conduct a sex change operation here. He referred me to a plastic surgeon who successfully operated on me.
"I could not believe my eyes that I was able to leave the hospital wearing thobe and shemakh and carrying my new name Khalid," the 29-year-old new man said.
The Times September 07, 2006
Oh boy, what a wasted opportunity
MOTHER and child are reported to be healthy and in good spirits. The happiness of the wellwishers outside the Imperial Palace was unfeigned and the pregnancy even brought about a huge rise in the share price of manufacturers of baby- related goods.
But for one reason, and one reason only, the birth of a baby boy to Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko yesterday was a disappointment — the fact that the 2.6kg (5lb 7oz) baby boy turned out to be a boy in the first place.
Japan was on the verge of a huge symbolic change — swapping, after centuries of male succession, to a system in which a female member of the Imperial Family could reign as an empress. Junichiro Koizumi, the country’s outgoing Prime Minister, was in favour of it. A governmentappointed panel of eminent persons had presented in detail their reasons for supporting the reform.
Public support for the move was as high as 80 per cent, and opposition was limited to a minority of — admittedly vocal — traditionalists and rightwingers. But yesterday, thanks to a random act of chromosomes, the noisy minority won.
The question of revising the succession law will be shelved, perhaps for as long as a generation. Japanese men will continue to be the only permitted occupants of the throne. In traditional fashion, women members of the Imperial Family will continue to walk, bow, stand and sit a beat behind their husbands, brothers and fathers. And the silent example which this sets at the apex of the Japanese State will continue to impair the equal treatment of women in the world’s second richest country.
Japan is a country where change comes gradually, often reluctantly and often when there is simply no other choice. By the mid-19th century it had become obvious that closed, feudal Japan was going to have to open itself to the outside world — but it took the gun ships of the American Commodore Perry to force it to happen. Late in 1944 it was inevitable that Japan’s incompetent militarist Government was heading for defeat — but surrender only came in August 1945 after the atomic bombings and the entry into the Second World War of the Soviet Union. And so it is that a change in the succession laws, which most Japanese and their leaders wanted, was only going to happen as the result of a crisis.
By the beginning of this year, the crisis was in full spate. Since Prince Akishino was born almost 40 years ago, nine babies have been born into the Imperial Family. All have been girls. The last was Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, who was conceived after fertility treatment.
Masako suffered a nervous breakdown three years ago — a situation that cannot have been made any easier by the intense silent pressure she faced to deliver a boy, rather than a girl.
Prince Akishino’s two children were both girls and, at the age of 39, his wife, Kiko, gave no sign of planning another child. Unless something changed, the imperial line was facing extinction 2,700 years after its legendary beginnings in descendants of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami.
Hence the panel of distinguished people who spent a year considering the pros and cons and delivered their report and recommendations last November. The law, they said, should be changed so that the line of succession was determined by order of birth, not privilege of gender. On top of this, princesses should no longer lose their imperial status when they married commoners — by remaining princesses they would thus be able to enlarge the reservoir of potential heirs.
The proposals were to be put before Japan’s parliament, the Diet, where they would have passed into law — and then, in February, news of Princess Kiko’s pregnancy leaked out. Courtiers insist that the couple had always wanted another child, and that right up until yesterday morning they had no idea if it was a girl or boy. However, many Japanese assume the timing of the conception, and the baby’s gender, are too convenient to be a coincidence.
The irony is that yesterday’s birth will only postpone the crisis. Unless the still- unnamed prince has a litter of sons early in life, the Imperial Family will remain chronically short of heirs. Imperial courtiers are working on the assumption that the succession law will have to be changed eventually.
There is no doubt that the young prince will be the pride of his family, and an object of affection and interest for many Japanese. Too bad that his birth should also represent such a wasted opportunity.
Hope flowers for the Chrysanthemum Throne after birth of a Japanese prince
By David McNeill in Tokyo
Published: 07 September 2006
One of the more colourful comments uttered after the birth of Japan's first male heir to the imperial throne in four decades came yesterday from the chief cabinet spokesman, Shinzo Abe, who described the news as "a refreshing feeling that reminds us of a clear autumn sky".
Mr Abe, who is widely expected to become Prime Minister later this month, had every reason to wax poetic. The baby boy saves imperial traditionalists like him from their worst fear: a female emperor.
The 5lb 6oz bundle delivered by Princess Kiko yesterday not only miraculously rescues the Imperial Family from a looming succession crisis, it effectively terminates a fractious debate on whether to allow women to warm the Chrysanthemum Throne.
That debate threatened "to split the government in two" if handled badly, said one minister this year.
Mr Abe gave a hint of the depth of feeling that talk of a female emperor inspires recently when he said that any discussion on revising the male-only law should proceed "in a careful and level-headed manner," because the family is related to the "basis of our nation".
Many believe the boy, who is third in line to the throne, will one day inherit a family crest that can trace its roots back more than 2,000 years. Even those who don't buy into the official line that the family has reigned "since time immemorial" believe it provides stability, continuity and tradition in a country that has been transformed beyond all recognition. A girl, so traditionalist thinking goes, might one day do the unthinkable: marry the wrong kind of man or, even worse, a foreigner.
The guardians of this tradition are the 1,100 bureaucrats of the Imperial Household Agency, the secretive government body that manages the life of the royals, along with the Shinto priests who oversee religious rites. It is these guardians - all men - who will guide the young heir through a life of elaborate ritual, which began yesterday with the presentation of a sword symbolising the protection of his grandfather, Emperor Akihito.
Next week, his father will choose his name and his mother his imperial symbol. Thereafter, his life will be ruled by an imperial template laid down hundreds of years ago, starting with his first official meeting with the Emperor in 50 days and his first feeding with chopsticks in 120.
Japan's royals endure most of the duties but few of the perks of monarchial life. The young boy will have virtually no independent wealth and no control over his life until he reaches maturity, and even then his schedule will be controlled by others. Eventually, like his father and uncle, he will face the excruciating search for a wife, and the intense media scrutiny that comes with it. Then his problems really start: producing a royal brood that will ensure the survival of the institution into the next century.
At least he will have a childhood: many of his ancestors ascended the throne when barely out of nappies and abdicated in their teens. And he will be raised mostly by his mother and father -- the first generation not to have been separated as a baby.
All eyes will now be on his aunt, Princess Masako, who struggled to produce a male heir for seven years before delivering Princess Aiko in 2001, sparking the succession crisis. She largely disappeared from official duties two years later, allegedly suffering from depression.
Will the new addition to the family ease the pressure, now that her daughter is removed from the spotlight?
"I think the question is this: does she dislike the whole environment of the Imperial Household now so much that she is relieved that her daughter might not have to live in that stifling environment?" said Ken Ruoff, author of The People's Emperor.
Or, will she decide that the 13 years she has carried the bane of two millenniums of imperial tradition has been for nothing? The most serious issue raised by yesterday's events, however, resonates far outside the Imperial Palace. With the new arrival, Japan has in all likelihood postponed any attempt to change the succession, making it unique among the dwindling band of constitutional monarchies. "For a country concerned about its image, you wonder what sort of message people are getting abroad - that there is this faction that is completely against change and that they're going to get away with this," Mr Ruoff said.
Ultimately, that decision means the task of reproducing this most venerable of institutions falls on the infant that wailed into life in a Tokyo hospital yesterday. Can he bear the load? It would be ironic indeed if, in trying to save the Imperial Family, they have ensured its extinction.
SEPTEMBER 6, 2006
By Kenji Hall
It's a Boy! And Japan Misses an Opportunity
The much-welcomed birth of a male heir to the imperial throne sidetracks a fruitful debate over female succession—and women's role in society
It's a boy! One could easily imagine Japan's archconservative cultural set rejoicing with a rousing "banzai" cheer at the news. On Sept. 6, Princess Kiko, wife of the Japanese emperor's younger son, gave birth to a boy, breaking a more than four-decade run in which the Japanese royal family had failed to produce a male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The royal line looks like it will continue for another generation. Crisis averted.
And make no mistake: This was a cultural crisis for traditionally minded Japanese who had worried that—horror of horrors—the country might have to break tradition and pass legislation in the Diet to let a woman succeed to the top rung of Japanese royalty. That debate has been put aside for now with the arrival of a healthy, still-unnamed tot who measured 48.8 cm (19.2 in.) and weighed 2.5 kg (5 lbs., 10 oz.). The little one is now third in line to the throne behind his father, Prince Akishino, and the heir apparent Crown Prince Naruhito, the elder son of Emperor Akihito.
But while the population at large seemed in a celebratory mood, there was one reason to be less optimistic. The whole debate earlier this year over whether little Princess Aiko, the four-year-old daughter of Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, could be eligible to sit atop the throne really touched a larger and emotionally charged issue about the role of Japanese women in this relatively conservative society.
Outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi learned that the hard way earlier this year when he proposed revisions to the postwar Imperial House Law, which bans women from ascending to the throne. The legislation—which had the backing of many Japanese voters in opinion polls—would have given women equal rights to the title. Conservative elements in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), academia, and the press basically went ballistic at the very idea of the change.
DEFAULT TO "TRADITION." While women have sat on the throne in the past, it's been centuries since that happened. The last one to do so was Go-Sakuramachi, who reigned from 1762 to 1770. The reason why Japan was even considering change was that Naruhito, 46, and Masako, 42, have only one child and didn't seem likely to produce another. Naruhito's younger brother, Akishino, has two daughters—and now, of course, a son.
Koizumi ultimately beat a fast retreat and dropped the idea when he sized up the opposition. He is set to depart from the premier's seat later this month. His likely successor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, isn't likely to touch a radioactive issue like this one early in his tenure, given the need to secure his base in the LDP. After the announcement of the birth, Abe told reporters, "It's important for us to discuss the issue calmly and carefully."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of any legislative changes, which, in any case would be very tough to push through the Japanese Diet. "The legislation can't survive in its current form," says Koichi Yokota, professor of constitutional law at Ryutsu Keizai University. "The next prime minister will have to start from scratch."
All this is a setback for liberals who had hoped that a change in the most traditional of Japan's institutions would symbolize a shift toward equal opportunities for women. Though there's been some progress, Japanese women still seldom make it to top government posts or corporate boards of directors. And, overall, only 55% of women work in Japan, vs. about 62% in the U.S.
BABY BOOM? The scarcity of working women is one reason Japanese policymakers have failed to combat a shrinking workforce in the world's second-largest economy. Labor shortages are a familiar topic in a country where the birth rate has been hovering at levels too low to prevent the population, at around 127 million, from declining. In 2005, Japan recorded its lowest birth rate ever—a mere 1.25 babies per woman over her lifetime. Meanwhile, the number of elderly is soaring and the rickety public pension system is in trouble.
In the past, the arrival of a new royal has triggered boomlets in the birth rate. Many in Japan still consider it auspicious to have a child born in the same year as a member of the imperial family. Anticipating more births, investors caused shares of baby-food maker Pigeon Corp. and stroller maker Combi Corp. to shoot up in recent weeks. But any long-term positive impact is likely to be fleeting. "I doubt a temporary rise in the birth rate could reverse the downtrend in Japan's population," says Akihiko Matsutani, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.
All this talk of winners and losers overlooks the one person who may be happy to be out of the spotlight: Crown Princess Masako. The Harvard-educated former diplomat had been under intense pressure from her imperial handlers to give birth to a male heir, and had suffered from bouts of stress-induced depression in recent years. She's now finally off the hook.
Hall is BusinessWeek's technology correspondent in Tokyo
The following text is an ACTION ALERT letter from Ken Takeuchi, a member of NY base organization GAPIMNY.
I want you all to pass it on.
Hello friends and family,
I've translated the open letter from Otsuji Kanako, the first openly lesbian politician ever in Japan. My apologies for a hasty translation, but the urgency and importance of taking immediate action is very much apparent I hope.
We cannot let this ordinance pass. No matter how advanced country like Japan has become, its records in LGBT rights have been non-existent. Being an ex-pat Japanese activist in NY, I cannot sit idly while this ordinance may set precedence in Japanese legal history. IF it comes to pass, it will bring dire consequences in the future LGBT rights in Japan.
PLEASE RE-POST, AND RESEND TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS YOU ARE PART OF NOW!!!
I feel that email petitions in Japanese would be most effective, but send them in English anyway if there's not enough time or resources to translate. We only have a week left, I desperately implore you to join in this petition.
You can visit following websites to learn more;
Otsuji Kanako's website;
The proposed changes in the ordinance by Miyakonojo City
English (There don't have the translated page, but you can get a sense of the city here)
My appreciation goes beyond description for your help in this matter. Please feel free to send me questions, and I will do as much as I can to follow up.
Best regards and with utmost respect,
Steering Committee member at large, Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of NY (GAPIMNY)
Member, Japanese Speaking LesBiGays in NY (JSLNY)
By Otsuji Kanako
Assembly Member of Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Party: Independent (first elected in 2003)
Member of "Rainbow and Greens (Japan)"
Book: Coming Out (2005, Kodansya, Japanese only)
The first openly homosexual politician in Japan
I am sending a letter of protest and petition to city counsel members of Miyakonojo City in Miyazaki Prefecture. Please join my petition by sending emails in protest.
Petition emails should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline is September 12th (11th in the U.S.) - Please take action now, since the committee meeting begins on the 15th.
In addition, individuals should send a message to the city assembly. It is important to send in numbers.
For the mayor of Miyakonojo City, Nagamine Makoto
Tel: +81 986-23-2111, Fax +81 986-25-7973
For office of Miyakonojo city assembly
TEL +81 986-23-7869, Fax +81 986-25-7879
===========An open letter of protest and petition===========
For the members of Miyakonojo City assembly,
An open letter of protest and petition against the deletion of "gender and sexual orientation" from the proposed ordinance, "Miyakonojo City Equal Rights Measure in Creating Better Society"
I sincerely respect your diligence in all of your endeavors. Currently the city assembly's new ordinance, "Miyakonojo City Equal Rights Measure in Creating Better Society" is being presented. In this new proposal, the wording of (applying to) "all people including gender and sexual orientation" which was originally present prior to consolidation of Miyakonojo City, was deleted. And instead, revised to be simply, "all people". What was the reason for deleting "gender and sexual orientation" from the original proposal? While many people are being discriminated based on "gender and sexual orientation" in current Japanese society, such act of deletion ignores the reality of discrimination, and may be taken as an approval of such activities. I simply cannot sit by and watch it pass.
In addition, I have been informed that the names of council members who created the ordinance have not been released. Furthermore no hearing was held by the city's community groups or party involved. Without the lack of opinions from them, the ordinance does not reflect the needs of Miyakonojo community.
The policy introduced in January 2005, "Miyazaki Prefecture Human Rights Education-Policies for Basic Development" clearly states the following fact. In chapter 4, section 2 titled, "Promoting the Policies of Various Fields" includes the topic, "Problems faced by minorities of gender and sexual orientation". It recognizes the existence of prejudice and discrimination, and the importance of accepting sexual and gender diversity. The policy encourages the city residents to take initiatives to put more effort in this matter. The current ordinance on the table completely contradicts Miyazaki prefecture's policy.
Please reconsider this proposal one last time. I implore you to reinstate the wording, "gender and sexual orientation".
Petition organizer, Osaka Prefecture Assembly Member
Mainichi Daily News May 6, 2006
Dispatches from the gender battlefield
In 2003, Miyakonojo City in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, became the first municipality to recognize marriage between individuals of the same sex (or people of bisexual orientation). Citizens, businesses and educators were also obliged to end discriminatory treatment based on "sexual preferences." But after the defeat of Tatsuya Iwahashi in the city's mayoral election the following year, people began raising their voices in opposition. The controversy became moot when, in 2006, Miyakonojo merged with four surrounding towns and the law was dropped from the books.
Kuwana City in Mie Prefecture, meanwhile, might be home to the most extreme ordinance of all. Passed by the city assembly in 2002, it obliged businesses "at the earliest opportunity" to adopt a gender balance of employees; pay them equal wages; maintain an equal ratio of male-to-female managers; and apply the principle of "gender free" to all aspects of education and learning in the city's schools. It also prohibited "sexist" language. Like Miyakonojo, it was repealed earlier this year due to a merger between several municipalities.
The above instances, appearing in a series of articles in Sapio (5/10) under the headline "Gender free on the rampage," underscores a seldom-reported aspect of contemporary Japan: efforts by feminists and others to re-orient people's perceptions toward gender equality, and the backlash it generates among those who say it is impractical, a horrendous waste of money -- 10 trillion yen by one reckoning -- and an absurd affront to millennia of Japanese tradition.
Kenzo Yoneda, 58, a former cabinet vice-minister and currently professor at Teikyo Heisei University, denounces the "Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society," which was passed by the National Diet in 1999, during the tenure of the late prime minister Keizo Obuchi.
The looming "White Cultural Revolution" -- a euphemism for feminist-inspired rules and regulations -- is a threat to Japan's established order, warns Yoneda. Indeed, the social anarchy the new law is threatening to unleash, he suggests, evokes memories of post-revolutionary Russia under the Bolsheviks; Cambodia under Pol Pot's homicidal Khmer Rouge; or perhaps China, when the Red Guards ran rampant during its "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution."
Yoneda raises this example: The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare had arranged, via an affiliated organization, to distribute a sex education pamphlet, "The Love & Body Book," to middle schools around the country.
The book contained the following passage: "To give birth or not give birth. To make a baby or not make one... the decision is entirely mine."
This "freedom to give birth," mutters Yoneda, "reflects blind compliance with the tenets of feminism, in accordance with the abovementioned Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society."
Yoneda issued an instruction to an official for the books to be withdrawn from the schools, but his order was initially refused. He finally got his way by going over the official's head to vice-minister Kamoshita of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Citing another example, Yoneda writes that Chiba Prefecture, in an awkward attempt to comply with the Basic Law, passed an ordinance that obliges companies to make sure a requisite ratio of males to females are hired. But for construction firms in the prefecture, whose work forces are overwhelmingly male, such a law is impractical. Their solution was simple: they placed "phantom women" on the employee rolls.
Wacky examples of the law's application are everywhere, even in unisex posters at rail stations warning against groping on trains. "It's strange to always portray women as victims of gropers," was its stated rationale.
Well, counters Yoneda, it's certainly possible that a gent might be on the receiving end of a friendly fondle from a fellow commuter. But only in the rarest of cases. Applying the gender equality law in such an extreme case, he argues, is "totally detached from reality."
"This is a horrible law," Yoneda tells Sapio. "Unless it is repealed outright, or revised, its continued existence portends the imminent demise of Japan as a nation."
(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor)
May 6, 2006
宮崎・都城市「性的指向」条例が改悪の危機 ～ 尾辻かな子活動日記ブログ