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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 10:59 GMT
Japan's royal baby visits Shinto shrine
Crown Prince Naruhito (L), Crown Princess Masako (R), Princess Aiko
Proud parents: Princess Aiko prepares for Shinto ritual
Japan's infant Princess Aiko has made her first visit to the Imperial Palace to attend a traditional Shinto ceremony for newborn children.

Crown Princess Masako smiled broadly as she carried her three-month-old daughter from their palace home, with beaming father, Crown Prince Naruhito, standing nearby

A rosy-cheeked Princess Aiko was then handed over to the chief lady-in-waiting who presented her at each of three shrines in the wooded palace grounds.

The ritual was similar to a traditional shrine ceremony for ordinary Japanese infants, called Omiyamairi.

Normally the child would be presented within 50 days of its birth but Princess Aiko's ceremony was delayed to avoid cold winter weather.

The baby girl was later taken to be formally presented for the first time as an official member of the imperial family to her grandparents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Succession troubles

As a girl, Princess Aiko cannot succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne - Japanese law says only men can rule as emperor.

But under current legislation, the royal family faces a crisis because the line of succession could theoretically run out unless the crown prince and princess - already married for more than eight years - have a son.

Correspondents say most people in Japan are in favour of a female ruler but the idea is an abomination to some traditionalists.

Japan has had eight female monarchs in the past, most recently in the 18th Century, but the law was changed after World War II.

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

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

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Princess backs Japan succession change
08 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's new princess meets the public
07 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan royals name new princess
04 Dec 01 | Talking Point
Should Japan change its constitution?
09 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's female emperors
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