Conservative experts slam female Imperial branches

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Female Imperial family members should not be allowed to retain their royal status upon marriage, conservative experts told a government panel Tuesday, saying such a system could eventually break the centuries-long paternal lineage of Imperial blood.

Journalist Yoshiko Sakurai and Nihon University law professor Akira Momochi both expressed strong concern over recent discussions to allow Imperial family members to create their own family branches while retaining Imperial status.

Such an idea has been proposed as fears have grown over the future the Imperial family, which has only one male heir, Prince Hisahito.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that women who marry commoners must abandon their Imperial status. The government recently set up a panel of senior officials and advisors to draft a report on the proposed creation of female Imperial branch households.

During the hearing Tuesday, Sakurai stressed the importance of protecting the long-held Imperial system, which has had mainly male emperors — as well as several reigning empresses — but all based on the paternal-line succession system.

No children of the reigning empresses, however, have ascended the throne, with the successors always a male from the paternal line.

“We must firmly admonish any sort of legal revisions that could force a fundamental change of our nation’s Imperial family, which has a long history,” Sakurai said.

“Establishing a female branch is based on the assumption that the women would marry commoners and that could lead to a maternal-line system,” the journalist said.

To answer such concerns, the government is currently considering limiting female branches to only one generation — meaning that the children born into the family would be commoners.

But both Sakurai and Momochi pointed out that such families could fall apart, with children having the last names of their fathers while their parents have none. Furthermore, only the children would have a family registry, as all Japanese citizens do, but members of the Imperial family would not be included.

“To separate the parents and children is impossible. And to begin with, it is unfortunate for both the parents and the children to separate their social status and treat them differently,” Sakurai said.