The Crown Princess made her first public appearance Wednesday since the official announcement the day before of her long-awaited pregnancy, joining the Crown Prince on a morning visit to a shrine dedicated to his grandmother.

On her way to the shrine to the late Empress Dowager at Fukiage Palace, located within the Imperial Palace grounds in central Tokyo, the Crown Princess smiled and bowed slightly to a throng of reporters and photographers at the palace’s gate.

The outing marked her first trip out of the Togu Palace since April 18, when she attended a dinner at the Imperial Palace to celebrate the 32nd birthday of the Crown Prince’s sister, Princess Nori.

The couple returned home after staying at the shrine for about 10 minutes.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the couple visit the shrine on the 16th of every month to mourn the death of Empress Dowager, who passed away June 16. The Empress Dowager is posthumously called Empress Kojun.

The agency said its Web site received 21,000 hits between 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, shortly before the official announcement of the Crown Princess’s pregnancy, and 9 a.m. Wednesday. The agency also said it received 180 congratulatory e-mail messages.

According to the agency, the Crown Princess is three months pregnant with a possible heir to the Imperial Throne, nearly eight years after marrying the Crown Prince.

She is in good condition and expected to give birth between late November and early December, the agency said.

If the 37-year-old princess gives birth to a boy, the baby will be second in line to the Imperial Throne after the Crown Prince, 41.

Meanwhile, Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, proposed Wednesday that the government and the coalition parties discuss at their Friday meeting revising the Imperial House Law to allow a woman to ascend to the Imperial Throne.

He made the proposal at a meeting of the secretaries general and the chiefs of Diet affairs of the coalition parties — the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

However, participants from the two junior coalition partners remained cautious, saying that each party should first discuss the issue separately.

Despite the Emperor’s younger son, Prince Akishino, being next in line to the throne, the possibility that the child could be a girl has prompted talk of revising the Imperial House Law.

Prince to head forum

The Crown Prince was appointed Thursday to become honorary president of the Third World Water Forum to be held in March 2003 in Kyoto and surrounding areas, the Imperial Household Agency said.

Organized by the World Water Council, the triennial forum is held for about a week around March 22, which is World Water Day, the agency said. World leaders will discuss water-related issues at the meeting.

The 2003 forum is to be held March 16-23 along Biwa Lake in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures and the Yodogawa River in Osaka Prefecture, the agency said.

The prince’s tenure will last until March 23, 2003, the last day of the gathering.

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