From the beginning of the marriage of Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada, the new Crown Princess was under pressure to produce a son, as girls are banned from inheriting the throne under the 1889 Meiji law. Between 1976 and 1993 seven girls but not a single boy was born into the family. And now only Naruhito and his younger brother were young enough to produce sons. Then the years began to pass, and the press became ever more insistent. Six years after the wedding, it was finally, tentatively, confirmed that Masako was pregnant. At the end of the year, it became clear that Masako had suffered a miscarriage and had to have surgery to remove the foetus. A year later, Masako told the press, “Honestly speaking, it is a fact that I was disturbed by the overheated coverage in the mass media from the very start.”
Masako was now approaching 40, and the couple decided to seek fertility treatments. In April 2001, it was confirmed that Masako was pregnant once more. On 1 December 2001, Masako gave birth to a daughter named Aiko. Her name was chosen by her parents, instead of the Emperor. Aiko, the princess’s personal name, is written with the kanji characters for “love (愛)” and “child (子)” and means “a person who loves others”. Her Imperial title is Princess Toshi (敬宮 toshi-no-miya), which means “a person who respects others”.
Aiko began her education at the Gakushuin Kindergarten on 3 April 2006. Since 2014, she is enrolled at the Gakushuin Girl’s Junior Highschool, and she told reporters on her first day of school, “I am looking forward (to starting a new school life).” Aiko was frequently home from school due to bullying from classmates. Now that she is a little bit older, she sometimes joins her parents of official engagements. Last year, Aiko attended a course at Eton College.
Soon Aiko’s father will become the next Emperor of Japan, but Aiko will not be able to succeed him. Before the birth of her younger cousin Hisahito, there was some debate about whether the Imperial Household Law of 1947 should be changed to absolute primogeniture to allow for the succession of a woman. There have been eight Empresses in their own right in Japanese history, and most European monarchies have changed their laws to allow for female succession. Only Liechtenstein completely bars the succession of women, while Spain still abides by a preference for males. With the male line being dangerously close to extinction, it would only be prudent to allow for Aiko to succeed her father and to abolish the system where Japanese Princesses must give up their Imperial titles if they marry a commoner.
On 30 April 2019, her grandfather will abdicate in favour of her father.