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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Japan royal birth sparks succession debate
Japanese newspapers front pages

Many leading newspapers in Japan believe the birth of a baby boy to Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino should not serve as an excuse to postpone a public debate over female succession.

While editorials celebrate the birth of the first new prince in four decades, they call on parliament to consider female succession as a way of averting a future crisis should there be no male heir to the throne.


Imperial Birth Truly A Blessed Event... This is the happiest event for the Imperial family and we would like to congratulate them from the bottom of our hearts. Some may still believe that females of the Imperial family and descendants from its female line should be allowed to assume the throne, while others may think that the birth of the new prince has made any revision of the Imperial House Law unnecessary. It is no longer necessary to make a conclusion on the issue quickly, but discussions on the matter should be continued... The government and the Diet should study what system of Imperial succession is best and meets the approval of the public. The Imperial family is a symbol of Japanese culture and tradition, and loved and respected by many people in the country. The Imperial House system should not be allowed to become endangered.


Princess Kiko's birth of a baby boy is likely to discourage politicians from discussing revisions to the law that allows only male members of the Imperial Family to accede to the Chrysanthemum Throne... Even though numerous legislators are aware of the need to amend the law, observers believe the issue will not be on the political agenda because any revisions amid a split in public opinion on the issue involve political risk... Now that a boy has been born, the government will certainly provoke protests from conservative legislators if it presses forward with revisions to the law... Nevertheless, the Imperial Household Agency still regards amendments to the law as indispensable for ensuring a stable succession to the throne.


The first male birth for the royal family in 41 years has solved the succession crisis for the time being. But long-term concerns linger on...

The stability of the royal family remains in the hands of chance as long as the male-only succession law remains. Now that we have a certain outlook on the future royal successors for the next decades, we must discuss amending the Imperial Household Law. The debate on the royal succession is not just about successors. But it is also about revisiting what the emperor is and the relationship of the emperor and the public.


While celebrating the auspicious occasion, we must return to the debate.


In the long run, concerns persist over a possible succession crisis. The history of the Imperial family shows that maintaining the male line only through children born to emperors and their wives has often been difficult. This is why a government panel... submitted a report to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that proposed a two-point succession rule: (1) that females and their descendants be allowed to ascend the throne, and (2) that the emperor's firstborn child, regardless of gender, be first in line to the throne... In view of the constitutional stipulation that "the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State" and of the fact that equality of the sexes is a constitutional principle that should govern Japanese society, the panel's proposal should be revived in the near future.


There are still concerns that the number of imperial family members will later shrink, and that the succession issue is not over.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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