Helped by mum and dad, Aiko does a little mandarin picking. The idea of celebrating her birthday was obviously an exciting one for the youngster who recently asked her parents: "How many more times do I need to sleep before I turn four?"
Photo: Reuters
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The birthday girl apparently has green fingers, too
Photo: Getty Images

1 DECEMBER 2005

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Japan's Princess Aiko has celebrated her fourth birthday by spending some quality time with her proud parents. Newly-released photographs of the youngster show her playing with Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Masako in the grounds of Togu Palace in Tokyo.

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In the pictures she is seen collecting mandarins with her mother and indulging in many a little girl's favourite pastime making a mess. In one image the princess shows off her artistic talents by trying her hand at finger-painting, but she managed to get her hands and wrists covered in the red liquid too.

It was no surprise to see the youngster enjoying herself, as she has been looking forward to her big day for a while now. "How many more times do I need to sleep before I turn four?" she asked her parents recently. Aides at the Imperial Household say the couple's only child is equally excited about entering Gakushuin Kindergarten, where she will begin her education next spring.

Aiko seems largely unaware of the intensity with which the people of Japan are discussing her future. Just last week a specially appointed panel recommended the country's constitution should be changed to allow the emperor's first-born child to accede to the throne, regardless of whether they are male or female. And the government's chief cabinet secretary has now revealed that a bill clearing the way for Aiko to become head of state will be submitted in January.

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