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Still crazy about boy
- Setback to woman taking Japan throne
Kiko: Future king’s mother

Tokyo, Sept. 6: A 40-year wait for a boy in Japan’s royal family ended today but the birth of the 2.44-kilo little prince may have scuttled a historic plan to allow women to ascend the country’s Chrysanthemum Throne.

Japan’s Princess Kiko, 39, gave birth to the boy to the great collective relief of conservatives keen to keep women off the throne to preserve a practice that they say stretches back 2,600 years.

Many Japanese would be disappointed if the planned reform of the succession law dies with the birth of the boy to Kiko and Prince Akishino, 40, who is second in line to the throne.

Most Japanese favour giving women equal rights to the throne but there was an eruption of celebration as TV programmes flashed the news that a male heir had been born, though tabloids had forecast weeks earlier that the baby was a boy.

Newspapers issued extra editions, eagerly snapped up on the street, to announce the arrival of Emperor Akihito’s first grandson.

Before the birth of the boy, the emperor’s two sons, Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, had had only girls.

Aiko: Who could have been queen

Naruhito has one, by Masako who has reportedly been suffering from depression under pressure of producing a boy, a situation many Indian women have known all too well.

Their daughter, the four-year-old Aiko, would have become third in line if the boy was not born and the government had changed the law to allow a reigning empress.

Royal fans waving Japanese flags and shouting “Congratulations” greeted Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, as the beaming grandparents left a hotel in Sapporo, northern Japan, where they are on an official visit.

“It’s a refreshing feeling that reminds us of a clear autumn sky,” chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe, a conservative expected to become Prime Minister this month, said. Asked about succession law reform, he added: “It is important for us to discuss it calmly, carefully and firmly.”

No imperial boys had been born since the baby’s father, Akishino, in 1965, raising the possibility of a succession crisis.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had planned to revise the law to let women ascend the throne but Kiko’s pregnancy stalled that proposal.

A minority of conservative politicians and Japan’s sometimes violent ultra-nationalists, who refuse to admit any possibility of changing tradition, had vociferously opposed the move.

“It’s good that a boy was born so that the royal family could keep its male lineage,” said Tadayuki Aman, a doctor.

A source close to the palace, however, said reform was inevitable. “Even if it is a boy, he would end up being the only male member of the imperial family, and that would be intolerable,” the source had said before the birth.

Experts agree that a change in the rules of succession will be needed eventually since ensuring male heirs is difficult without royal concubines. That practice ended when the previous emperor, Hirohito, refused to take one.

Koizumi, who steps down this month, said the problem remained, though revisions would not be enacted next year. “Males won’t necessarily be born, so unless women and their children are allowed to ascend the throne, the succession would be rather difficult.”

According to royal ritual, the baby prince was to be presented a sword of protection, a gift from the emperor, and a toy dog and a doll.

The sword is supposed to ward off demons. Masako’s fans were hoping that the birth of the prince would take the demonic weight of expectations off the princess to bear a male child.

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