Akihito was the first crown prince to marry a commoner, now-Empress Michiko
|Page 2 of 2
""Some of the media think that this is a very traditional, strange tribe who hide behind a chrysanthemum curtain just praying to God," says the emperor's grand chamberlain. "And some think it's a very modern existence. Actually, it's a combination of the two."
Signs of change do emerge – for example, Emperor Akihito broke precedent in acknowledging his recent bout with cancer, and not so long ago Empress Michiko made her first overseas solo trip in 43 years of marriage. But with the birth of the crown prince's only child, daughter Aiko – a male has not been born to the current Imperial family in 38 years – it now looks like the Imperial Palace may be facing a more dramatic change.
Though eight empresses have ruled Japan in its 2,700-year history, in the late 19th century females were barred from the throne. Aiko's birth has sparked talk of overturning the law, with 90-year-old Princess Takamatsu making an unprecedented statement in support of change in 2002. "In view of Japan's long history," she said, "I do not think it is unnatural to assume a female member of the imperial family will become the 127th monarch."