TOKYO -- If all goes as scheduled, a baby will be born in Tokyo on Wednesday with the weight of the world's oldest hereditary institution on its little shoulders.
All of Japan is waiting to see if Princess Kiko, the 39-year-old wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, gives birth to a boy in Aiiku Hospital when she has a Caesarean section.
No males have been born into Japan's imperial family since 1965, jeopardizing the male-only imperial bloodline that stretches back more than 125 generations. A male heir would defuse a succession crisis and give Japanese royal watchers a respite.
Princess Kiko's pregnancy allowed conservatives to delay a proposal that would allow females to accede to the imperial throne. The princess was hospitalized Aug. 15 with complications, leading to the decision to have a Caesarean. News of the delivery and the baby's gender is expected to break this evening in the United States because of the time difference.
If the baby is a boy, he'd be third in line to the Imperial Throne, after Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and his brother, Prince Akishino, 40.
Newspapers plan to issue extra editions after Princess Kiko delivers -- four-page editions if she produces a male heir and two-page editions if the baby is a girl.
Japanese magazines that specialize in peering across the moat of Tokyo's imperial palace take it for granted that a boy heir is on the way. Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino already have two girls, ages 11 and 14.