The government will set up a panel of experts to deal with an expected further decrease in the number of female members of the Imperial family, informed sources have told Jiji Press.
The government plans to establish the panel after the House of Councilors election next summer in the hope of preventing the problem from developing into a political issue, according to the sources.
The Imperial House Law stipulates that a female member of the family loses her status as Imperial family member if she marries a person outside the family.
The family has seven unmarried female members. All of them are adults except Princess Aiko, 14, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and a granddaughter of Emperor Akihito.
If female members marry, Imperial family members will decrease. Such a situation would significantly affect the activities of the Imperial family, the sources said.
The planned panel is expected to discuss the idea of allowing female members to head branches of the Imperial family and continue performing their official duties after marriage as national civil servants.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to be cautious about the idea of allowing female members to head Imperial family branches.
But recently, a source close to Abe said the prime minister “is not necessarily critical” of the idea.
In 2012, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan worked out options as to how to deal with the problem.
But discussions on the issue came to a halt after the DPJ was ousted from power by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in December 2012.
Abe’s government created a group, headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita, to prepare for discussions on the matter, but it has not been active.