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hThe BBC's Clive Myrie
"It is news the Japanese have been waiting eight years to hear"
 real 56k

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The reaction was anythng but restrained"
 real 28k

Monday, 16 April, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Japanese princess 'may be pregnant'
Japan's Crown Prince and Princess
The crown prince and princess married eight years ago

Japan's imperial household has announced that Crown Princess Masako may be pregnant with an heir to the world's longest-reigning monarchy.


A possibility has emerged that Crown Princess Masako has become pregnant

Head of the Crown Prince's household Kiyoshi Furukawa
But the highly secretive imperial household is being careful in its statements.

The spokesman said only that Princess Masako was showing signs of pregnancy.

The caution can be explained by the media frenzy that broke out when the princess last became pregnant a year and a half ago.

Media blamed

The over-excited media coverage was blamed for contributing to her miscarriage.

Japanese newspaper
A previous pregnancy sparked a media frenzy
The spokesman this time called for restraint and urged the nation to watch in peace.

However, TV stations broke away from normal programming to broadcast gushing portraits of the princess.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told journalists: "It's a happy event. It is a really happy event."

And some business leaders and politicians have said it could have a positive impact on the country's stagnant economy.

Reports said the baby could be born in November or December.

In the eight years since Princess Masako married Crown Prince Narahito, there has been endless speculation about a possible heir.

No direct successor

The Oxford-educated former diplomat is now 37 and fears had been expressed that time was running out.

No direct successor has been born since the crown prince's brother in 1965 and his two daughters are banned by law from succeeding to the throne.

There is talk that if Princess Masako gives birth to a daughter, then the law could be changed to pave the way for Japan to have its first female monarch since ancient times.

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31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess suffers miscarriage
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