Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, February 11, 2006

An Orchid Blooms

Princess Kiko is in bloom.

Actually, that has two meanings.

The orchid named "Princess Kiko", planted two years ago by Prince Akishino (second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne) and named after his wife, bloomed on the night of February 7th. That is actually an interesting coincidence because, on the very same day, it was announced that Princess Kiko is pregnant.

This actually throws a very large wrench in the works. The Japanese government has been up to its ears in debate over whether or not to change the law to allow women to ascend the throne. The problem is that Crown Princess Masako has had only one child, Princess Aiko. Obviously, Aiko-chan, as she is affectionately known, is chronically female.

An awful lot of pressure has been put on poor Masako-sama to have another child (i.e. a boy), but the prospects are rapidly dimming. Part of the problem is that she is now in her forties. There is also the no small matter that she miscarried a number of times before finally having Aiko-chan. Add to that the stress-related illness that has kept her cooped up for the past few years, and you have some serious doubt as her maternal abilities. As for Princess Kiko, she has already had two children, but both of them are daughters, as well. That has left the imperial line with a serious dilemma which the government has been hard pressed to try to solve. Right-wingers and die-hard traditionalists simply haven't been willing to give ground on the males-only rule (even though it was written into law by the American Occupation), and the more progressive set has been trying like crazy (but without much success) to get them to yank their heads out of their aft-shafts.

Now, for a while at least, they don't have to bother. Until the gender of Kiko-sama's "bread in the royal oven" is determined, there is enough optimism to keep the discussion sidelined for the time being.

Actually, the fundamental issue here is clearly the conflict between tradition and realities of modern society, and it's not just the succession issue. It has more to do with the improving status of women in general. Naturally, any potential marriage partner of a member of the imperial family is going to be scrutinized to the point of pain, and only someone of "quality and status" is going to make the grade. The thing is that women of quality and status in this day and age are usually well educated and have career paths of their own. They aren't going to be content being housewifes, no matter what titles are attached or how many servants are in attendance. That is the dilemma facing poor Masako-sama, who (with MUCH reluctance) had to sacrifice her promising future as a career diplomat in order to be a good, little crown princess. (Rumor has it that that has been a serious point of contention between her and the Empress. At any rate, the two apparently don't get along.) When I first came to Japan in 1990, Kiko-sama had only just gotten married, and she and her famous smile were still media darlings. However, I was told by many people that she actually hadn't wanted to marry Prince Akishino at first because she hadn't wanted to give up her own chosen path in life. In the end she accepted her "duty", bit the bullet, went through with the marriage, and "just kept smiling". Because of that, she was seen as a heroine by many young women at the time.

Now perhaps Princess Kiko will be seen as a heroine again, especially if she does have a boy. I just hope Princess Masako will survive the inevitable fallout intact. At any rate, I hope both of them will find reasons to "just keep smiling". Besides, it really is a beautiful flower. A good omen? We'll see.


  • I'll second that. Here's to good omens.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 8:46 AM  

  • I thought under the constirution of Japan men and women have the equal rights, but not in the Imperial Household Law... Obsolete...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:13 PM  

  • "Equal rights" is definitely a relative term in this country. The constitution also guarantees "equal rights" to foreigners, but the courts have already determined that it is okay for businesses to be "Japanese only" if the owners think foreign customers will hurt business (although, for the sake of fairness, the government of Hokkaido is cracking down on the routine discrimination practiced by hot spring resorts and restaurants in the city of Otaru).

    It wasn't so long ago that a male pop celebrity appeared in a TV commercial in which he said that any father who doesn't help raise his children is no father at all. The government slammed him, saying that it only put unneeded pressure on the already overworked Japanese businessman. Now politicians are trying to blame such things as the rapidly-declining birthrate, the falling of educational standards, and the increase of crime on the fact that women are participating in society instead of being domestic servants. How ironic that PM Koizumi got control of the Diet by pitting popular female figures against parliament members that opposed his postal reform bill during the election!

    It will be interesting to see how this drama pans out. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the flower pics and Princess Kiko's smile. They are a lot happier, after all.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:08 PM  

  • She does look like one happy princess.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:34 PM  

  • Dendrodium hybrids... hmmm .. and human hybrids.

    Same Same.. I guess.

    By Blogger Robin, at 5:39 PM  

  • As your royal physicians we are most reluctant to give you this news, but it is our duty to inform you that the tests indicate it is not a girl.

    Then it's a boy!?

    No, not a boy either. It's that sample of whale blubber you ate a few weeks ago....

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 10:08 PM  

  • ba-LUBBER! ba-LUBBER!


    By Anonymous Some Vestibule, at 11:59 PM  

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