The seventh birthday celebrations for Japan's Princess Aiko had to be cancelled this week after the youngster came down with a cold and fever. Palace officials said the little girl, who was due to mark her special day at the imperial palace with her grandparents Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will need several days to recover.

Although the family birthday party didn't go ahead, Aiko's December 1 birthday was marked with the release of a family photo featuring the youngster and her parents Crown Princess Masako and Crown Prince Naruhito. The shot shows Aiko, dressed in an identical outfit to that worn by her mum, helping take the family dogs for a walk in the grounds of the imperial palace in Tokyo.

Aiko's birth seven years ago to the Emperor's elder son led to debate over whether there should be changes made to the male-only law of succession to the Chrysanthemum throne. After the arrival of Aiko's cousin Prince Hisahito - now two years old – such discussions were abandoned, however.

Royal watchers got a glimpse of the little boy who will one day be their emperor, too, when he featured in an annual photoshoot to mark the 43rd birthday of his father, Prince Akishino. Bounding between his sisters Princesses Mako and Kako and mum Princess Kiko with a toy ball, the child was inevitably the focus of much attention.

In an interview the Emperor's younger son revealed Hisahito is maturing into a happy toddler, who is speaking his first words and loves "playing outside and running around".

Photo: ©
A fever and cold resulted in Aiko's seventh birthday celebrations being cancelled although her special day was marked with the release of this happy family snapPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Royal watchers also got a glimpse of the little boy who will one day be Emperor. Aiko's two-year-old cousin Prince Hisahito appeared in official pictures to mark the 43rd birthday of his fatherPhoto: © AFP