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Saturday, 1 December, 2001, 12:09 GMT
No 'immediate' change to Japan succession
Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako
Females are barred from ruling
Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said that there will be no immediate change to the laws of succession to allow its new princess to ascend to the throne.

Crown Princess Masako gave birth to a girl on Saturday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.


We must carefully consider it, but it is too early now to reach a conclusion

Junichiro Koizumi
If the baby had been a boy it would have been second in line for the Chrysanthemum Throne, but under current Japanese laws females are barred from ruling.

The last royal boy to be born was Prince Akishino, Crown Prince Naruhito's younger brother, in 1965. He himself has two daughters.

If no boys are born in future to Princess Masako and Akishino's wife Princess Kiko, the world's oldest ruling monarchy, which claims an "unbroken" line of 125 emperors, would theoretically become extinct.

No rush

But on Saturday Mr Koizumi ruled out any rush to revise the Imperial Household Law.

"We must carefully consider it, but it is too early now to reach a conclusion," he said.

Junichiro Koizumi
Mr Koizumi previously said he would welcome change

But since Princess Masako could still have more children any suggestion that the princess' birth will plunge the country into an immediate constitutional crisis have been dismissed.

Mr Koizumi has previously said he would welcome a change in the law to allow a woman ruler.

Past female rulers

Last month the policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party rejected an early amendment to the law, while noting several of Japan's past rulers have been female.

The ban on female emperors only dates from the mid-19th century, when the emperor was restored to a central role in the country's political life.

Scholars say Japan had at least eight female emperors in its early history.

According to Japanese tradition, the current emperor, Akihito, is Japan's 125th imperial sovereign in an unbroken line from Emperor Jimmu, who ascended the throne in about 660BC.

Public support

A change to the law simply requires a majority vote in the Diet, a move which the public seems to support, a national survey released by Jiji Press news agency last month indicated.

Just over 55% of Japanese agreed with women taking the throne, while just 7.9% opposed the idea.

And most ordinary Japanese seem delighted at news of the baby's safe delivery, regardless of its sex.

"I do not care if the baby is a girl or a boy. This is great news for Japan and gives us hope as we struggle in the depths of a long recession," said 74-year-old housewife Imako Sudou.

See also:

09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's female emperors
10 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Ancient birth ritual for Japanese princess
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan considers female succession
15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan crown princess pregnant
31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese princess suffers miscarriage
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