- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

TOKYO To the delight of Japanese but the dismay of constitutional scholars, Crown Princess Masako gave birth to a girl yesterday, leaving the country without an heir to its 2,000-year-old throne under its male-only succession law.
Both mother and baby the first born to the 37-year-old princess and Crown Prince Naruhito in more than eight years of marriage were doing well, court officials said. The girl, who will be named this week, weighed in at 6 lb, 13 oz.
The birth is expected to boost Japan's flagging economy hit by rising unemployment and deflation by persuading wary consumers to spend. It will also intensify the debate over a law that says only males can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne of the world's oldest hereditary monarchy, into which no boys have been born since 1965.
A small crowd kept vigil outside the Tokyo hospital which the princess entered on Friday.
Television programs were interrupted to announce the birth, and newspaper extras were rushed onto the streets, where people clamored for information. Many wanted to know only one thing: Was it a boy or a girl? Across Japan, people celebrated with impromptu parties, toasts and displays of fireworks and traditional paper lanterns.
Stores along Princess Street, as Tokyo's main shopping area is called, began selling commemorative goods.
"I was curious to know if it was a boy or girl, of course, but not because I'm worried about the succession," said one housewife, Eriko Mineshima, 35. "It's just a question everyone's been asking. Only people in high places are going to have to worry about the succession issue. The important thing for me is that she's finally had a baby and that it's healthy."
Emperor Akihito now has three granddaughters and no grandsons. Princess Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, suffered a miscarriage in 1999, amid the media frenzy of her first pregnancy. Unless she can produce a male heir, which is thought unlikely at her age, Japan faces a succession crisis. Scholars say the law may have to be amended to allow for a future empress.
Junichiro Koizumi, the prime minister, sought to rally the nation, calling the new princess "a symbol of the imperial family's further prosperity."
While he has said he would not be against changing the succession law, he said that doing so would require a cautious approach. An Internet opinion poll published yesterday said that 83 percent of those surveyed supported the idea of having a reigning empress.
Japan's last reigning empress was Gosakuramachi, who ascended the throne in 1762. A law was passed after the World War II to codify the men-only tradition.
The Japanese imperial household faced a succession crisis in the late 1920s and early 1930s when Empress Nagako gave birth to four girls in a row. Worried palace officials urged Emperor Hirohito to take a concubine, as tradition dictated, but he refused. Finally, Empress Nagako gave birth to Akihito.
Governments from around the world sent messages of congratulations.
One economist, Keiichi Matsumura, the deputy chief researcher at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, calculated that the birth would spur grandparents to spend about 1 percent of their savings on their grandchildren, and encourage young Japanese to spurge on lavish weddings. The boost to the economy, Mr. Matsumura said, would be worth about $116 billion a welcome relief for a country suffering its deepest post-war recession.

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