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Editorial: Japan must discuss matters regarding stable Imperial Family succession

A government expert panel on Japan's Imperial Family system has submitted a report to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. It only suggested measures to secure Imperial Family members -- a short-term challenge as Japan's royal household continues to shrink -- and put off discussion on imperial succession, claiming that "the time isn't right yet."

    This will not lead to a fundamental solution toward stable successions of the throne. The government should swiftly move to the next step.

    Prince Hisahito, son of Crown Prince Akishino (Fumihito) and Emperor Naruhito's nephew, is the only next generation member eligible to succeed the imperial throne. To secure stable succession, it is crucial to discuss whether Japan will recognize a female emperor or matrilineal-line emperor whose father or his male ancestors weren't emperors.

    The panel presented two proposals for securing Imperial Family member numbers: One suggested female members remain in the family after they get married, while the other proposed that patrilineal men from the prewar, former branch households of the Imperial Family join the current family through adoption.

    Under the current system, female Imperial Family members become commoners when they marry, meaning that the dwindling of family members is unavoidable. The former of the two proposals would be applied to female members to be born into the Imperial Family in the future, and whether Emperor Naruhito's daughter Princess Aiko and other women in the current family remain as its members would be up to them.

    The latter plan would mean descendants of now commoners who left the Imperial Family over 70 years ago will become members of the family. This is the approach long suggested by the conservative camp in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but questions remain whether it would acquire understanding from the public.

    What is more is that both plans are mere stopgap measures to temporarily increase the number of Imperial Family members.

    Time is limited, but despite this, Japanese administrations since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's second stint in government have stopped short of engaging in earnest discussion over the issue in consideration of oppositions from the conservatives.

    Princess Aiko turned 20 earlier December and Prince Hisahito will be starting high school next spring. They each have their own life plans, and the government should map out a framework quickly.

    We must not forget that the Imperial Family system that serves as the foundation of Japan is maintained by actual people. Fostering an environment to ease the mental burden on Imperial Family members that comes with marriage and child birth is needed. And most of all, without the people's understanding, Japan would not be able to maintain its symbolic emperor system.

    An additional resolution attached to the special measures law four and a half years ago, which allowed then Emperor Akihito to step down, requested that the government promptly engage in studying the issues regarding stable imperial succession. The laws were adopted almost unanimously, meaning they could be considered as the consensus of the Diet.

    The government will report the panel's recommendations to the Diet, but it cannot be said that it successfully responded to the request included in the additional resolution. Expansive discussions, on more than the two proposals recently presented, must be held in the Diet about the future of the Imperial Family.

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