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Princess Kiko put on a protective red and white obi Tuesday in an Imperial ceremony to pray for the safe delivery of her baby, who could possibly become an heir to the throne, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The Chakutai no Gi ceremony is conducted on the Day of the Dog during a mother’s ninth month of pregnancy because dogs are believed to have relatively easy deliveries. The day, based on the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, comes every 12 days.

On Tuesday morning, a messenger sent from Prince Mikasa, an uncle of Emperor Akihito, carried the obi, which had been presented by the Emperor and Empress Michiko, to the Tokyo residence of Prince Akishino, their second son, and Princess Kiko, the agency said.

Princess Kiko wrapped the obi around her stomach with the help of her chief maid. Clad in a morning coat, Prince Akishino looked on, the agency said.

Diagnosed with partial placenta previa, a complication in which the placenta drops abnormally low in the uterus and covers part of the cervix, Princess Kiko, 39, will probably give birth around early September.

The original due date was in late September, but the complication has made an earlier delivery by Caesarean section necessary to minimize risks to the health of mother and baby.

No male heir has been born to the Imperial family for more than 40 years.

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