But traditionalists, for whom the paternal line of succession is a defining characteristic of Japan's imperial legacy, started to protest. Echoing the shifting mood, on Feb. 4 the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's most liberal major newspaper, said that "Revision of the law must be considered through calm discussion." At a rally on Feb. 1, 173 Diet members signed a petition opposing a "premature submission of the bill."
Then came the shocker. On Feb. 7, news leaked that Princess Kiko was pregnant11 years after she last gave birth. To many, the timing of the leak (just before the bill's submission) and that of the baby's conception (just after the panel's recommendation) seemed, well, like happy coincidences. Koizumi promptly tabled the bill. If the child is a boy, traditionalists will know that their prayers have been answered. And if it isn't? Then they'll just have to offer up some more.