Government plan floated in 2014 nixed idea of creating female branches within Imperial family


A source in the government said Saturday that in 2014 a plan was proposed by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which did not favor creating female branches of the Imperial family, but which would instead allow females to continue to take part in official activities.

Abe’s administration drew up the draft Cabinet proposal on the female members who, under current law, have to leave the Imperial family following a marriage to a commoner. Debate on allowing them to remain princesses and stay in the Imperial family comes against the backdrop of a decline in the number of Imperial family members.

Only males can ascend Japan’s Chrysanthemum throne.

But the plan was never adopted by Abe’s Cabinet as his government prioritized other issues such as the passage of draft security legislation, which enables Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Once a bill to enable the one-off abdication law applicable only to Emperor Akihito clears the current Diet session as planned, the government may revisit the set of proposals to tackle the shrinking number of Imperial family members.

Giving female members Imperial duties, even after they marry commoners, will not require any changes to current laws, including the Imperial House Law, the source said, adding the government will shoulder any expenses incurred while they carry out any official duties.

In March, a Diet proposal was presented to Abe calling for the launching of a debate on retaining princesses as Imperial family members by establishing branches for them even after marriage.

Last month, a government advisory panel issued its final report underscoring the need to swiftly take measures to reverse a decline in the number of Imperial family members. But it did not suggest creating female branches.

Of the 19 Imperial family members, 14 are females, of whom half are unmarried.