Princess Kiko, the wife of Prince Akishino, the Emperor’s second son, gave birth to a boy Wednesday morning, a long-awaited male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The baby, delivered by Cesarean section, is the first male born to the Imperial family in 41 years and becomes the third in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and Prince Akishino, 40.

The birth will put off the succession crisis facing the Imperial family for a while. But because the dearth of successors in the 23-member Imperial family continues, experts warn that the nation will undoubtedly meet a similar crisis in the future.

The Imperial House Law allows only males with emperors on their father’s side to ascend the throne.

The Cesarean section began at Aiiku Hospital in Minato Ward, Tokyo, at 8:23 a.m. and the 39-year-old princess gave birth to her third child, who weighs 2,558 grams and is 48.8 cm tall, at 8:27 a.m. The operation ended at 9:07 a.m.

“Nothing unexpected happened” during the operation, Ichiro Kanazawa, the Imperial Household Agency’s medical supervisor, told a news conference. “The prince is doing very well, and so is the princess, after the operation.”

Aiiku Hospital head Masao Nakabayashi, who performed the operation and attended the news conference, quoted the princess as saying after the delivery, “Thank you very much. I feel well.”

Prince Akishino, who was waiting in a separate room, reacted to the birth calmly, saying “thank you,” Kanazawa said.

A surgical team of about 10 members attended the operation, with Nakabayashi, the princess’ chief physician, and Tomoko Adachi, his colleague at the hospital, performing the Cesarean section. The procedure ended about an hour after the princess entered the operating room.

Princess Kiko will be able to leave the hospital in a week to 10 days, Nakabayashi said.

The boy is the fourth grandchild of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko have two daughters, Princess Mako, 14 and Princess Kako, 11. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako have one daughter, Princess Aiko, 4.

Prince Akishino arrived at the hospital at around 7 a.m. to wait for the delivery. Princess Kiko entered the operating room a few minutes before 8 a.m.

Afterward, the Imperial family began a series of rites for the baby.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor’s chamberlain delivered a sword for the baby to Prince Akishino that was presented at the baby’s hospital crib Wednesday afternoon during a ceremony to ensure the baby’s health.

The messenger placed a box made of paulownia wood containing the 26-cm blade next to the baby’s pillow, the agency said. The sword was forged by Akitsugu Amada, a living national treasure in Niigata Prefecture.

A naming ceremony will be held in seven days. The name will be registered on the Imperial family member list later.

When he is around 50 days old, the child will visit three Shinto shrines in the Imperial Palace. After around 120 days, when his teeth begin to grow, a ritual will be held to wish him good health.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who are in Hokkaido performing official duties, said in a statement: “We are relieved at the news of a successful birth. We wish to convey our heartfelt congratulations” to Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.

“That is good news,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters after hearing about the birth at his official residence.

Princess Kiko was admitted to the hospital Aug. 16 to prepare for the Cesarean section following pregnancy complications. She had partial placenta previa, which is caused when the placenta forms low in the uterus and partially covers the cervix.

It was the first time anyone in the Imperial family had undergone a Caesarean.

The princess had previously given birth at the Imperial Household Hospital on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Aiiku was chosen this time because it has facilities that can provide emergency care.

Wednesday fell in the 37th week of her pregnancy and was chosen as the delivery date after taking into account the condition of her placenta and the fetus, according to the agency.

The princess met Prince Akishino in the 1980s when they were studying at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. They married in June 1990.

The Imperial Household Agency announced the pregnancy in February, when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was trying to revise the male-only Imperial inheritance law so that women could ascend the throne and ensure the Imperial family’s long-term continuation.

But after Princess Kiko’s pregnancy was made public, Koizumi decided to halt debate over the proposal.

The last male born to the Imperial family was Prince Akishino, in 1965.

Information from Kyodo added

See related links:
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Views on succession system remain split
Fans, patients, shop owners weigh in on Imperial birth
New prince becomes the third in line to assume Chrysanthemum Throne
Newborn prince to get 3 million yen stipend
Shares in baby goods take a dive after birth

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Many pairs fancy sex selection over nature’s course
Royal boy will put off succession crisis, not solve it

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