A key government panel on Imperial succession said Tuesday it supports legal revisions to allow a woman to ascend to the Imperial throne, a move that would break the centuries-old tradition of male-only succession.
“It’s almost certain that the (tradition of) paternal-line-only succession can’t continue to exist,” he added.
Since the birth in 1965 of Prince Akishino, Emperor Akihito’s second son, no males have been born to the Imperial family, putting the survival of the throne in jeopardy.
The panel was tasked in January with discussing measures for a “stable succession,” including revisions of the 1947 Imperial House Law, which stipulates that only a male in the male line can ascend to the throne.
The 10-member panel now hopes to compile its final report by the end of November, with the Imperial House Law expected to be revised based on the report during the next ordinary Diet session, which opens in January.
But Yoshikawa also said the panel has yet to reach consensus on who should be given succession priority — the first child, regardless of gender, or the eldest boy.
Under the current law, a woman in the Imperial family is obliged to leave the family when marrying, a measure aimed at curbing the number of Imperial family members.
If this part of the law is revised, the number of Imperial family members could theoretically keep increasing through the years. But the panel has yet to agree how to limit the range of the royal family, Yoshikawa said.
This provision on the male line in the Imperial House Law dates back to the Meiji Constitution, promulgated in 1889 and abolished after World War II.
Before the Meiji Constitution, records show that eight women ascended to the Imperial throne, but the line of succession is believed to have always gone back to the paternal line after a female monarch.
Some conservative scholars and activists have argued that the long-standing male-only tradition should be maintained, calling on the government to revive the Imperial status of former Imperial family members forced to renounce their status soon after the end of the war, to secure a wider pool for heirs.
The concern about the lack of male heirs has thrust Princess Aiko, the 3-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, into the spotlight.
Some observers say that time is running out for a decision on whether to allow a woman to reign because the little princess is fast approaching the age at which she should start receiving the proper education for the role.
The panel has often been criticized for not disclosing details of its closed-door discussions.
Yoshikawa has held a news conference after each of its sessions. But on Tuesday, the panel head said he will no longer brief reporters.
The panel is to hold its final session of all members on Nov. 7, after which members will start tying up all the loose ends.
Because of this, Yoshikawa said, there would be no proper timing at which to brief reporters.