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Money row tied to Princess Mako's partner casts shadow over debate on female-line emperors

Princess Mako and Kei Komuro are seen during a press conference at the Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo's Minato Ward in September 2017. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- A member of a government expert panel on ensuring a stable line of Imperial succession has used a longstanding financial dispute involving the mother of Princess Mako's informal fiance Kei Komuro to cast doubt on the idea of allowing female-line emperors.

    Princess Mako is one of Emperor Naruhito's nieces and the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino (Fumihito).

    The panel, which has held four meetings since March 23, is looking to sort through points of contention regarding the Imperial succession issue by the end of this year. There are growing concerns that there will be too few Imperial Family members to fulfill public duties in the future.

    The panel has held hearings with experts regarding issues such as whether to expand the line of succession to female Imperial Family members, or to allow female members to create their own Imperial branch houses after marriage instead of removing them from the Imperial Family as stipulated under the current system.

    At the panel's second meeting on April 8, one of the participants stated, "If a female Imperial Family member got married to a commoner, that man would become a member of the Imperial Household." The expert, though not naming Komuro specifically, apparently had him in mind when expressing reservations about female emperors and female-line emperors.

    The expert also insisted that a way be opened for male-line males of former Imperial branch families deprived of their Imperial status in the wake of World War II to be reinstated to the Imperial Household, arguing, "If we were to accept men who had heretofore no ties to the Imperial Household into the Imperial Family, then there should be no problem to readmit those who used to be part of the Imperial Family."

    Professor Hidetsugu Yagi of Reitaku University also told reporters following the April 8 meeting, "Imperial succession by female-line emperors means, for example, a child born to Princess Mako and her husband would become the emperor. If you imagine that kind of specific scenario, then you will be able to understand what it means to allow Imperial succession by emperors of female lineage."

    The professor apparently made the remark with the financial dispute between Komuro's mother and her former fiance in mind. He also revealed that he had lodged an objection to allowing female-line emperors during the meeting that day.

    While Komuro released documents explaining the financial row on April 8, his stance on paying settlement money to his mother's ex-fiance has changed repeatedly, suggesting no improvement to the situation.

    One source close to the government indicated concern that conservatives citing the financial dispute in their arguments against female-line emperors would adversely impact debate on stabilizing the Imperial succession.

    "Komuro's case may be easy to understand, but it is a special case," they commented.


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