Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Japan to start discussions soon on imperial succession system

Japanese Emperor Akihito (2nd from left, front row), Empress Michiko (3rd from left, front row) and other Imperial Family members attend a spring concert for "gagaku" traditional imperial court music at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, on March 18, 2019. (Pool photo/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government said Monday it will soon start discussing how to achieve a stable imperial succession, including the creation of female branches of the imperial family.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a parliamentary committee session the government will study whether or not to allow female members to remain in the imperial family even when they marry commoners. The process will start immediately after Crown Prince Naruhito succeeds Emperor Akihito on May 1, he said.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that only males can ascend the throne and requires women marrying outside the imperial family to abandon their royal status. The government has held discussions in the past on whether a female member can ascend the throne, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been cautious about changing the law to allow female monarchs.

Abe said in the Diet committee session, "Because this is an extremely important issue related to the foundation of the nation, we have to give careful consideration to the matter."

Emperor Akihito, 85, will be the first living monarch in the country in around two centuries to abdicate on April 30. A one-off law was enacted in June 2017 allowing him to pass his status to his 59-year-old son after he indicated his desire to step down in a rare video message.

While the government-led process stopped short of resuming a debate on female succession, the Diet adopted a nonbinding resolution requesting that the government consider how to ensure stable succession.

There are currently 18 imperial family members and 13 of them are women.

After the crown prince ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne, there will be only three male heirs -- the crown prince's younger brother Prince Akishino, 53, the emperor's only grandson Prince Hisahito, 12, and Prince Hitachi, 83, the younger brother of the emperor.

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media