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A new princess for Japan's royals

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan's Crown Princess Masako has given birth to a baby girl.

The child is the first born to the princess and her husband Crown Prince Naruhito -- both mother and daughter are well the Imperial Household said.

The birth took place at 2:43pm local time.

However, unless Japan changes its rules of succession, the new princess will not ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.

Under the country's postwar constitution the throne is reserved only for males.

A male heir has not been born in more than three decades when Naruhito's younger brother, Prince Akishino, was born in 1965.

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The last seven births, including Akishino's own two daughters, have been girls.

As such Princess Masako, a former diplomat who speaks several languages and studied at Harvard University, had been under tremendous pressure to give birth to a boy and avert a succession crisis.

The birth of a girl is expected to intensify the long-running debate over whether to change the law to allow a female to ascend the throne.

Birth rituals

According to royal tradition the latest birth will be followed by a series of elaborate rituals.

Within hours of coming into the world the royal baby will be presented with a specially made sword inside a crimson and white silk case and embossed with the seal of the imperial family.

Later, when she is given her first bath, court officials will stand outside the bathhouse plucking the strings of wooden bows in a ceremony said to ward off evil spirits.

Excitement among Japanese royal watchers built to a frenzy Friday night when the princess was taken to the austere royal hospital in the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Outside the gates crowds quickly formed, some of them holding dogs which are traditionally associated with a safe and pain-free birth.

Two years ago Masako suffered a miscarriage that was blamed by some commentators on a media frenzy that followed news of her first pregnancy.

This time around coverage has been more subdued, but the media -- and the rest of nation -- is expected to explode in celebration as news of the birth spreads.

Some Japanese analysts have said the news could help will lift the country's economic gloom, at least temporarily, encouraging consumers to get out and spend.


• Japan awaits news of royal birth
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• Japan prepares for royal birth
November 25, 2001
• Japan's Princess Masako pregnant
May 15, 2001

• The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan
• Links to Japanese Government Offices
• Japan's Emperor System
• Imperial Palace

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