- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

TOKYO (AP) — With shouts of “Banzai,” Japanese celebrated the birth yesterday of the imperial family’s first male heir since the 1960s, a development that squelched hopes of reform to allow women on the throne.

Princess Kiko, wife of Prince Akishino, gave birth to a boy by Caesarean section at a Tokyo hospital. The boy, who will be named on Tuesday, is Emperor Akihito’s first grandson and is third in the line to the throne, behind brothers Crown Prince Naruhito and Akishino.

The news was cheered by many Japanese, who maintain an enduring respect for the imperial family more than 60 years after Emperor Hirohito renounced his status as a divinity at the end of World War II.

Newspapers published extra editions, supporters gathered outside the hospital where the 39-year-old Kiko gave birth, and TV networks ran continuous coverage on the delivery. Fans shouted “Banzai” — “Ten Thousand Years” — outside the imperial palace.

“Not only the members of the imperial family, but all the people of Japan must have felt happy,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said. “We’re hoping for the boy’s healthy growth.”

The boy was born at 8:27 a.m. and weighed 5 pounds, 10 ounces, the Imperial Household Agency said. Both the infant and his mother were in good condition.

The arrival of a prince — the first since Akishino’s birth in 1965 — ended for now a succession crunch in the coming generation of the royal family, which traces its roots back more than 2,600 years. Until yesterday, Akishino and Naruhito had three daughters between them, but no sons.

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