Lack of males a recent trend

I very much enjoyed the comprehensive article on the Japanese Imperial family by Prof. Colin P.A. Jones of Doshisha Law School in Kyoto (“And then there was one?: Japan’s right royal crisis,” Zeit Gist, Jan. 17).

Though I greatly benefited from the article, I have a couple of small points to make.

Firstly, out of eight ruling females in the Imperial family, there was one notable exception in the case of the 43rd-reigning Empress Gemmei (660-721) (the fourth female monarch), who was on the throne from 707 until her abdication in 715. She was actually succeeded not by a male but her own daughter, Gensho (683-748), as the 44th Empress regnant (the fifth female to sit on the throne, this time for nine years).

The other observation is that apart from under the system of concubinage — which was dropped in 1924 after Emperor Showa (then Crown Prince and Regent Hirohito) preferred to remain content to live with Empress Kojun (then Princess Nagako) and abandoned the 39 concubines allotted to him, who were subsequently pensioned off — the actual male births in the family have been few and far between.

In the case of Emperor Taisho’s family, which has effectively been the Imperial family since 1947, out of four sons, two — Prince Chichibu and Prince Takamatsu — remained childless.

Emperor Showa had fathered a string of four princesses before the birth of Emperor Akihito and Prince Hitachi. Again, Prince Hitachi and Prince Katsura, son of the Emperor’s uncle, Prince Mikasa, are going to be without heirs, the first being childless, the second remaining unmarried. Prince Mikasa at 96 has only five granddaughters from his other two sons, and one of those sons is already dead.


People must effect change

I greatly enjoyed reading the well-written article on the succession dilemma facing the Japanese crown by Prof. Colin P.A. Jones.

Of course, ultimately the Japanese people will effect some very pragmatic changes if they wish to retain the crown with so few eligible individuals left.

As an outsider, I cannot see that there is much difference between an emperor having a concubine for a mother — as Prof. Jones pointed out was the case twice in the 20th century — and a royal female marrying a “commoner.” This would broaden the pool of possible candidates.

Otherwise, Japan will find herself in the same position as one of the United States’ oldest social societies, which one was only eligible to join if their birth father had been a member. Given the decline in birthrates, I have heard that the society has virtually ceased to exist.

I doubt that the people of Japan will go that far with their royals.

Black Mountain, North Carolina

Priests could suggest solutions

Instead of approaching (the succession conundrum) via the political process, could not a religious approach be instigated?

Could a council of Shinto priests not be called to discuss in camera the problem and possible solutions, and then present alternatives to the public and the Diet?


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