TOKYO (AP) -- Crown Princess Masako gave birth Saturday to a baby girl, and as Japan celebrated, court messengers placed by the infant's pillow the sword and purple robes that are the symbols of her lofty position.
But while the nation cheered the arrival of the newest member of its ancient royal family, a long-brewing controversy was certain to heat up in the months ahead over a law that says only males can assume the throne.
For several decades now, all the royal babies have been girls.
Palace officials on Saturday said both infant and mother were doing fine. The baby -- who won't be named until next week -- weighed 6 1/2 pounds.
Crown Prince Naruhito, 41, was with Masako, 37, in the hospital at the Imperial Palace where the infant princess was delivered.
"I am relieved and grateful that the mother and child are both healthy," Naruhito said in a statement. "From now on, the two of us will look over the growth of the child and pray for her happiness."
The birth provided some much-needed good news for Japan, awash in gloomy economic predictions, record-high unemployment and fears over the global threat of terrorism.
"It's a joyful thing. There's been nothing but bad news. I hope it means we will have a good year next year," said Tazuko Murakami, a 61-year-old snack shop worker in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district.
The birth was heralded on live television broadcasts on all major networks. Extra editions of newspapers were handed out on street corners, and thousands of well-wishers gathered at the gates of the Imperial Palace. Some 10,000 people were expected to join in a lantern festival outside the palace gates Sunday.
The presidents of South Korea and the Philippines sent their congratulations.
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