Wow! I guess we still have a racist sexist government in Japan.

Japan royal family hopes for boy Kiko's pregnancy could bring an heir

Mari Yamaguchi Associated Press Feb. 8, 2006 12:00 AM

TOKYO - Princess Kiko is pregnant, the Imperial Household Agency said Tuesday, raising the possibility of the first male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 40 years.

The announcement came as the government considered a plan to allow a woman to assume the throne for the first time in two centuries in a bid to avert a succession crisis. Kiko's husband, Prince Akishino, is second in line to the throne.

Agency chief Shingo Haketa said Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were delighted at the news of Kiko's pregnancy.

The princess had an ultrasound Tuesday and felt the fetus move, Kyodo News agency said, adding that she is expected to give birth in September or October. Kyodo cited agency sources it did not identify.

The news prompted applause at a parliamentary committee meeting attended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi earlier in the day as Japanese media began reporting on the pregnancy hours before the imperial household agency announcement.

"We'd like to celebrate the news with the people," said Katsuya Okada, a member of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Kiko, 39, the wife of Prince Akishino, has two daughters, aged 14 and 11. Crown Prince Naruhito, first in line to the throne, has one daughter with his wife, Crown Princess Masako.

Enormous pressures to produce a male heir and adjust to palace life contributed to a stress-induced condition that caused Masako to withdraw from public activities in December 2003.

The lack of a male heir has prompted the government to consider changing a 1947 law so that Naruhito's 4-year-old daughter, Aiko, could one day take the throne. The law at present allows only males to reign.

Koizumi called for early consideration of the popular measure, despite criticism by conservatives and the new prospect of a male heir being born.

The proposal, however, has ignited a wide-ranging debate in Japan.

Conservative opponents argue that allowing a woman to reign and pass the throne to her offspring would corrupt a millennia-old Japanese tradition, which they say is based on the maintenance of the male lineage.

Under those restrictions, a son delivered by Kiko would provide a suitable male heir, since he would carry the "imperial" Y-chromosome from Akishino.

Some critics have called for bringing back imperial concubines as were used until the early 20th century to breed male heirs. Others say the wider aristocracy should be reinstated to widen the pool of candidates for the throne.

Okada urged a cautious approach to Koizumi's proposal, saying it would be "too hasty" to push it through parliament.

"I find it really awkward. For the future stability of the royal family, we should give enough time to allow more thorough discussion," he said.

In the 1,500 or so years that Japan's royal family has reigned, only eight empresses have ruled. The most recent was Gosakuramachi, who ascended the throne in 1763.

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