Heir or Spare?
Having a baby seemed challenge enough for Naruhito, 41, and Masako, 38, who have been under extreme pressure to procreate since they wed in 1993. (Masako, a Harvard grad, suffered a miscarriage in 1999.) "I was getting worried they wouldn't be able to do it," says Akiko Suzuki, who traveled five hours by train to join 25,000 revelers celebrating outside Tokyo's Imperial Palace on Dec. 2.
Only one cloud hung over the event: As a girl, the child does not qualify as an heir. An 1889 law bars females from ascending to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne. No male heir has been born into the family since Naruhito's brother Prince Akishino (who has two young daughters) arrived in 1965. Unless the law is changed or a son born, Akishino would succeed his brother and there the 1,500-year-old dynasty could end. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wants to review the issue, and so do 83 percent of voters, according to one poll. A change in the law "may be good for the image of Japan," says Akiko Ejima, a law professor at Tokyo's Meiji University. "It won't be a picture of the empress following two paces behind the emperor anymore. Finally the empress will be in front."