Japan's baby prince served with first festive meal

Japan's baby prince Hisahito, the first male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne in four decades, was served with his first festive meal of red bean and rice porridge for his healthy growth, wrapping up a series of age-old imperial rites since his birth.

Hisahito, born Sept. 6 to the wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, is hailed by royalists for ending a crisis for one of the world's oldest monarchy, which allows only males to reign and was in desperate need of a new successor.

Dressed in a white robe, Hisahito was introduced to the taste of rice porridge mixed with red beans as a palace maid scooped up a tiny bit of the food with chopsticks and gently touched his lip to it, as smiling boy was held by his mother, Princess Kiko, at their Imperial residence, according to public broadcaster NHK. His father, Prince Akishino, quietly looked on.

Hisahito's birth has stalled debate over changing the country's 1947 male-only imperial succession law, a move led by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has indicated his opposition to such a change, the AP says.

The government last year was set to introduce a bill that would allow women to reign as monarch. But that was put on ice after news of Kiko's pregnancy.

The infant is Emperor Akihito's first grandson and now third in line to the throne, behind Akishino and Crown Prince Naruhito. Until Hisahito's birth, brothers Akishino and Naruhito had three daughters between them, but no sons.

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