|Japan princess likely to bear male heir
[ 2006-07-28 10:00 ]
|Japanese Princess Kiko, wife of Emperor
Akihito's second son Prince Akishino, smiles as she leaves a general
meeting of the Japanese Red Cross Society in Tokyo in this May 25,
2006 file photo.[Reuters]|
Japan's royal baby isn't due for weeks, but popular magazines, never
shy about probing the secrets of the great and famous, have already
decided that the imperial family is about to welcome its first male heir
in over 40 years.
Speculation over whether Princess Kiko, 39, the wife of the emperor's
younger son, will give birth to a boy has simmered since an announcement
in February that she was pregnant with her third child.
But news last week that Kiko would probably give birth ahead of her
late September due date through a Caesarean
operation has prompted a spate of confident predictions by
the tabloid media.
"The birth of a boy!" trumpeted one headline in the weekly Shukan Post.
Other magazines have run similar articles.
No males have been born into the imperial family since Kiko's husband,
Prince Akishino, in 1965 and the government had planned to introduce a
bill to avert a succession
crisis by revising a 1947 law to give women equal rights to inherit the
Kiko's pregnancy, however, prompted the government to put off the plan,
which was bitterly opposed by conservatives keen to preserve a males-only
tradition they say stretches back more than 2,000 years.
The Imperial Household Agency, which handles royal affairs, is
maintaining a frosty silence on the question of gender.
"We don't know, and we would not comment about it if we did," a
spokesman for the agency said. "The parents themselves say they don't want
to know until the baby is born."
But the mention of a Caesarean
has many magazines speculating that special care is being taken to ensure
the safe birth of a male heir, and royal watchers agree that the baby's
gender may already be known.