The government is considering denying Imperial status to children born in family branches that would be created by female Imperial members in the future, several political sources said Tuesday.
The move is apparently aimed at fending off criticism that the envisaged creation of female family branches could lead to the acceptance of female or female-line emperors, according to the sources.
The government has been holding hearings with experts since February to study whether Imperial female members should be allowed to create their own family branches so they can retain their Imperial status.
The matter has come into focus recently due to concern that the Imperial family may not be able to maintain its activities in a stable manner given the larger number of females than males in the royal hierarchy.
The Imperial Household Law stipulates a female member of the Imperial family has to relinquish her Imperial status if she marries a commoner, fanning fears that the number of Imperial family members will continue to decrease.
Currently, there are only three male heirs on Emperor Akihito’s side, while there are eight unmarried females among the 23 current family members.
The government is carefully weighing who should be allowed to create new branches — whether it should be limited only to the three granddaughters of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, officials said. The granddaughters are Princess Aiko, 10, Princess Mako, 20, and Princess Kako, 17.
Whether the five granddaughters of the youngest brother of the late Emperor Showa, the father of Emperor Akihito, should be allowed to establish new family branches will also be considered, the officials said.