Japan government likely to defer conclusions on imperial succession

-- Mar 27
The government has finally started discussing ways to ensure stable imperial succession, but it still appears cautious about reaching a conclusion on the matter anytime soon.

On Tuesday, a government-appointed panel of experts on the topic held its first meeting, about four years after the Diet called on the government to discuss imperial succession-related issues.

But the government is expected to remain reluctant to accelerate discussions on the matter because it is controversial, and might split public opinion and affect the election for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, which must be held by October.

Concerns over stable imperial succession stem from a decreasing number of imperial family members, in particular male members, and the current rule of male-only imperial succession under the Imperial House Law.

"I ask you all, with deep insight, to discuss the matter," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told participants at the meeting of the panel.

In June 2017, a special law was enacted to allow former Emperor Akihito to abdicate. The committees of both Diet chambers that had debates on the special legislation adopted a nonbinding supplementary resolution asking the government to consider issues such as whether to allow female imperial family members to remain in the family after marriage, by establishing family branches, and ways to ensure stable imperial succession.

However, there had been no major progress in discussions on such issues under the administration of Suga's immediate predecessor, Shinzo Abe, whose supporters are mostly conservative and tend to prefer maintaining the current rule of allowing only men from the paternal line of the imperial family to succeed to the throne.

The Suga administration planned to hold a meeting on the matter in November last year, after a series of ceremonies related to the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito was completed, but this was postponed due to the resurgence of the novel coronavirus pandemic.