Princess Aiko, the first child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, will celebrate her first birthday Sunday.

The baby is the only child of the 42-year-old Crown Prince and his 38-year-old wife, who married in June 1993.

The “ai” in Aiko comes from the kanji meaning love, reflecting her parents hope that she will grow to love and be loved.

When in public, the baby has recently begun waving in response to hearing her name called. Princess Aiko’s first outing was in April, when she accompanied her parents to the Imperial villa in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Since then, the baby has been taken to family villas in Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture and Suzaki in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Observers believe that since the birth of their child, the Crown Prince and Princess have become more relaxed and spend more time talking to local people.

Crown Prince Naruhito takes turns bathing and feeding the child. In February, he said he would “like to participate in child-rearing as much as possible.”

The couple began reading to their daughter in April.

The baby is the third grandchild of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko have two daughters, Mako and Kako.

The princess is sometimes taken out twice a day for fresh air in the grounds of the Crown Prince’s palace. She is occasionally joined by pet dogs Pippi and Mari.

She weighed 3.1 kg and was 49.6 cm tall at birth. In September, she was 8.49 kg and had grown to 72.8 cm.

Under the Imperial House Law, only a male member of the Imperial family can accede to the throne.

Princess Aiko’s birth, into what is believed to be the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, has led to debate on the possibility of a reigning empress. There is no direct male heir to the throne after the Crown Prince and his younger brother, Prince Akishino, who turns 37 Saturday.

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