• Kyodo

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Amid concerns over the dwindling number of male heirs, the government will ask female members of the Imperial Family for their opinion on establishing Imperial branches so they can retain their royal status even after marriage, government sources said Saturday.

The move is part of preparations to draft an amendment to the Imperial Household Law, which states that only male heirs who have emperors on their father’s side are allowed to ascend the throne. It also requires female members to relinquish their Imperial status if they marry commoners.

The government has interviewed 12 experts on the issue so far. Although their were split on the creation of female branches, they largely agreed that female members should continue to be involved in Imperial Family activities even after marriage.

The Imperial Family now has eight unmarried female members, including Princess Aiko, 10, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, and the daughters of Prince Akishino — Princess Mako, 20, and Princess Kako, 17.

Meanwhile, there are only three male heirs on the Emperor’s side among the 23 current members of the Imperial Family.

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