Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Taking one for the team, part II-dodging the bullet........

Back in February, I posted about Princess Kiko. Kiko-sama had patriotically become pregnant and so gave the royal family one more chance to get a male heir to the throne. Today she helped a whole host of people in the Imperial household breathe easier......she gave birth to a boy.

Bottom of the 9th, 2 out, nobody on; she hits a game winning home run in the eyes of Japanese politicians, sparing them a heated debate about the succession for at least a few more years.

However talk about some pressure on one person:

This is no ordinary baby, but one born into controversy and with the weight of the world's oldest hereditary institution on its shoulders. If it is a boy, he will one day head a dynasty that claims to trace its roots back to before the Romans stepped on British soil. If it is a girl, she will come into the world to the sound of a collective sigh of disappointment. Not an easy start in life.

Not the least for what it does to some other folks in the Royal Family:

Although all eyes are on Kiko, it is her enigmatic sister-in-law Masako who has sparked this crisis. Drawn across the imperial moat by a mixture of love and duty, the multilingual career diplomat symbolised the growing freedoms of Japanese women, and many hoped she might help modernise one of Japan's most conservative institutions. Instead, she became, in the words of one commentator, a "prisoner of her womb", expected to produce a male heir and abandon her ambitions for imperial diplomacy.

In 2001, after more than seven years of marriage she finally had a girl, Aiko, which bitterly disappointed conservatives. The birth, after IVF treatment, was traumatic as was adjustment to life with the bureaucrats who run the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), the government agency in charge of state matters concerning Japan's royal family. But worse was to follow.

In 2003, the IHA's grand steward, Yuasa Toshio, said he "strongly wanted" the couple to have another child. The princess withdrew from official duties that December and has never returned to a full roster. She is currently on holiday in the Netherlands with her husband, daughter - and the family psychiatrist.......

{Kiko having a boy} That might take the pressure off Masako, or it could be the final straw for the beleaguered princess:

"It looked as though Masako's daughter would be the first reigning empress in modern Japanese history and Masako would have been the one who shaped her. And now she doesn't even get to do that," says Ken Ruoff, the author of The People's Emperor. "So she may well ask herself: what is the purpose of all this? Why have I made all these sacrifices? People who know say this is a really dicey situation and that she is really unhappy."

The babies name will be given in about 7 days. Whoever he is, he certainly does not know what is going to be expected of him.

For those of you keeping score at home, here's a pocket guide to the royal family:

For now though, it is all Kiko-sama all the time on Japanese TV.


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