Female monarchs up for debate as Japan looks to secure imperial line

Japan Times -- Apr 04
Japan has finally launched formal discussions on how to secure a stable succession to the chrysanthemum throne amid a shrinking number of heirs, with options including allowing women or emperors from the maternal line to reign.

A six-member government panel held its first meeting on March 23, with its chairman, Atsushi Seike, a former Keio University president, vowing to hold "careful discussions" without haste as the government seeks to secure a stable future for the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.

But the clock is ticking for the family, which is now left with just three male heirs, as women marrying commoners have to abandon their imperial status under current rules.

A former senior government official warned that the unbroken line of emperors, which is traditionally said to stretch back more than 2,600 years although some of the earliest figures are viewed as legendary, could very well end in the not-so-distant future unless the government acts swiftly.

Currently, the three heirs in line to succeed 61-year-old Emperor Naruhito are his brother Crown Prince Akishino, 55, his nephew Prince Hisahito, 14, and his uncle Prince Hitachi, 85.

The imperial family has been shrinking under the 1947 Imperial Household Law, which limits heirs to a male descendant of an emperor on his paternal side. The emperor and Empress Masako's only child is a daughter, Princess Aiko, 19.

- Japan Times