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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 03:37 GMT
Japan royals name new princess
Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako
The prince and princess are said to have chosen a name
In an elaborate ceremony in Japan, the newest member of the royal family has been ritually bathed and named Princess Aiko, which means "love child".

In a break with tradition, her name was chosen by her parents themselves, Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito.

In the past, Japanese emperors have always decided the names of their descendants without the parents being consulted.

The seven-day-old baby also got a second name, Toshinomiya, meaning "one who respects others".

Traditional ceremony

The birth of Princess Aiko - the couple's first child - has started a debate on whether the succession laws should be changed to allow her eventually to ascend to the Imperial throne.

The imperial family has not had a boy since the 1965 birth of Prince Akishino, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko's younger son.

In a traditional ceremony, a royal attendant poured water over the baby, as scholars in ancient court dress plucked at strings of wooden bows to ward off evil spirits and a court-appointed official read from an 8th century Japanese history text.

The baby's first rituals began only hours after her birth.

Sun goddess

As she slept, she was given a sword with a crimson case lined with white silk and embossed with the imperial seal.

The imperial household is the chief guardian of Japan's indigenous Shinto religion, and the rituals are supposed to evoke a sense of the nation's ancient history.

According to myth, the royal family is directly descended from the sun goddess.

Most historians agree it is at least 1,500 years old.

See also:

04 Dec 01 | Talking Point
Should Japan change its constitution?
02 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands hail Japan's royal birth
01 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan joy at royal birth
01 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Joy and concern for royal baby
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's female emperors
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