The government might let female members of the Imperial family continue to engage in official activities after they lose their Imperial status by marrying, it was learned Saturday.
The measure would be intended to prevent activities by the Imperial family from decreasing at a time when the family is shrinking.
Discussions on the matter have become sluggish under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012.
But they are now on course for revival after the Imperial Household Agency announced the planned engagement of Princess Noriko of Takamado, the second daughter of the late Prince Takamado, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, in late May.
The Imperial Household Law stipulates that a woman in the Imperial family will lose her status as a member of the family if she marries a person outside it.
With the death of Prince Katsura, a cousin of the Emperor, on June 8, the size of the Imperial family fell to 21 members. Eight are unmarried women, meaning that the family’s size will shrink further if they decide to marry outside the family.
In October 2012, the administration of then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda brought up ideas to halt the shrinkage of the Imperial family, including one to let female members set up Imperial family branches if they marry outsiders.
But the ideas met with a chorus of opposition.
Abe has also taken a negative view of the plan. In February last year, he said on TV that members of Imperial family branches led by women would be unable to ascend the Imperial throne because the Imperial Household Law stipulates that the throne shall be succeeded only by male descendants in the male line of Imperial ancestors.
Therefore, the revived discussions are likely to focus on the idea of allowing female members to continue to engage in the official activities of the Imperial family as national civil servants, another one of the proposals presented by the Noda administration, even after they lose their Imperial status by marrying commoners.
The Abe government may consider giving these female members new titles, such as Imperial family assistant or special envoy, sources familiar with the matter said.