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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 16:58 GMT
Japanese papers rejoice at royal birth
Japanese women read about the royal birth
People could not wait to read about the good news
Japanese newspapers rejoiced on Sunday at the birth of Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito's first baby, a girl, after eight years of marriage.

For some commentators, the birth also raises questions about changing the law of succession, while others cautioned against a hasty discussion of legal changes aimed at allowing an empress to reign.

"This auspicious event for the crown prince and the crown princess is the first invigorating message of hope and confidence that Japan has received in many years," the daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun says.

There are voices that welcome the birth of the first child to the crown prince and princess as good news for the economy.

Asahi Shimbun
It hailed the event as a long-awaited injection of confidence following Japan's prolonged recession, record unemployment rates and the 11 September attacks in the United States.

"There is no doubt that the people's mind will grow brighter and more forward-looking," the daily Sankei Shimbun says.

Economic hopes

Asahi Shimbun notes that "there are voices that welcome the birth of the first child to the crown prince and princess as good news for the economy".

Princess Masako
The princess suffered a miscarriage before
"People are saying, among other things, that it will be linked to recovery of the birth rate and to improvement in consumption and consumer spending."

Tokyo Shimbun makes a similar point.

"The industrial circles, particularly the distribution businesses, have growing expectations that the ripple effects from the happy news of the birth of a royal baby will stimulate the slump in individual consumption and become the trigger for economic recovery."

Succession debate

The royal birth has also opened up the debate on succession as Japan's Imperial House Law stipulates that heirs to the Chrysanthemum Throne must be "legitimate male descendants in the male line".

"Since a baby girl was born, it seems likely that the debate will escalate over the revision of the Imperial House Law," Asahi Shimbun says.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun points out that "there are more than a few cases in the UK and other European royal families in which queens play an active role."

The Japanese Imperial House is at a great turning point of the era to become a form suitable for the new century, including the possibility of having a 'reigning empress'.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun
"Discussion without taboo should be deepened not only from the viewpoint of the line of succession to the imperial throne but also in light of tradition, internationalization and movements in the society such as changes in views of gender and family," it says.

"The Japanese Imperial House is at a great turning point of the era to become a form suitable for the new century, including the possibility of having a 'reigning empress'."

But the daily Mainichi Shimbun sees no need for haste.

"We need, while taking into account the 'hereditary' tradition, more debate on whether or not the current system, which does not allow women to succeed to the throne, suits society, where male and female are treated equally. But there is no need to hurry."

"The crown prince and princess are young. So we can expect the birth of a second and third child. It is possible that a male member of the imperial family may be born," it adds.

And Yomiuri Shimbun points out: "The emperor was born after his father, Emperor Showa, had four daughters. So the gender problem should not cause too much concern yet."

Close to the people

Crown Prince Naruhito
The father is 41
Several papers speculated on the changes that the baby princess, born to a commoner mother, might bring about.

"Unlike other members of the imperial family, the new-born baby is closely related to the people," Mainichi Shimbun says.

"Nine out of her 12 grandparents and great-grandparents are not from the imperial family or former noble families."

"There was no such case in the past, and this gives us the impression that further progress has been made towards the formation of what the emperor calls an 'imperial family that is close to the people'," it concludes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

02 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands hail Japan's royal birth
01 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Joy and concern for royal baby
01 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
No 'immediate' change to Japan succession
30 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
The diplomatic princess
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