September 07, 2006

Boys over Flowers

Given all the brouhaha concerning the sex of Princess Kiko's child—namely, that the "first male born to the Imperial family in 41 years . . . will put off the succession crisis facing the Imperial family for a while, [as] the Imperial House Law allows only males with emperors on their father's side to ascend the throne"--as ironies go, this one's hard to beat:

According to Rikikazu Sugiyama, director of Sugiyama Ladies Clinic in Tokyo and an expert in obstetrics and gynecology, sex selection is a serious matter for many couples, not just royalty. The fertility expert noted that, unlike the Imperial family, eight out of 10 patients at his clinic desire a baby girl, believing they are easier to raise.

I am in no position to comment on the accuracy of that last assertion, but I am very happy for Princess Aiko, as the travails of her mother must provide convincing evidence that being Empress of Japan would have to be the worst job in the world. No doubt about it, when it comes to constitutional monarchies, much better to be the "spare" than the heir.

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# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
9/17/2006 8:34 PM   
Is it Princess Kiko or Princess Aiko?

Sorry. I don't know much about the imperial family. @_@'
# posted by Blogger Eugene
9/18/2006 7:58 AM   
They're all princesses, except for Hisahito, who is a prince. Hisahito is Princess Kiko's child. Aiko is Crown Princess Masako's child. Kiko is Masako's sister-in-law. Aiko was formally third in line (behind her father and grandfather), contingent upon the Diet amending the constitution. But now Hisahito is third, a turn of events--if I were her--for which I would be grateful.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
9/22/2006 7:31 AM   
Okay - I have to comment. This is upsetting to say the least. They are so over-dependent on boys that the ability of girls is ignored. To assume that Aiko's life is now free from worry is wrong. She will now be expected, when she grows up, to marry, be a good wife and pour her husbands tea, and produce many male offspring. Kiko was under a lot of stress to produce a boy and if it wasn't a boy the headlines would have the word "disappointed" instead of "happy" when describing the baby's birth. The Diet needs to recognize a female ruler and join the 21st century (before it turns into the 22nd century).
Perhaps we should all send them copied of the "Twelve Kingdoms" series - I think there is a lesson in there somewhere the Diet missed.
# posted by Blogger Eugene
9/22/2006 11:21 AM   
As the law currently stands, Princess Aiko is completely out of the running: "[O]nly men in a direct male line to the Emperor can take the crown, so even the son of the Emperor's daughter would not be eligible." Unlike the House of Windsor, which now descends through Queen Elizabeth II (who tweaked the royal ground rules a bit to keep the Windsor name), none of the previous Japanese empresses were themselves progenitors.

This wasn't a problem because emperors produced scads of offspring through the empress and "official" consorts. Succession did not follow primogeniture, so coming up with an heir with a legitimate genealogy was not hard. And while succession was often contested within the court, emperors "ruled" only in name under the thumb of the shogun (except for the War of the Roses-type conflict between the Southern and Northern Courts during the 14th century).

Examining the imperial line, you often find the royal "spares" becoming priests and scholars. The shogun commonly married offspring into the royal line in order to secure his own legitimacy. Emperors themselves regularly abdicated and became regents to their own children (better to be the power behind the throne than sit in it).

Frankly, I was hoping for a girl as well, if only to force the Diet to liberalize the rules in this regard. Doing so would have made life easier for everybody. But from what I've read, the less one has to do with the antediluvian Imperial Household Agency (which makes Buckingham Palace look like a bastion of liberality in comparison) the better.