The government plans to hold off on deciding whether to allow female members of the Imperial family to establish branches of the family after marriage, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The government will not launch in-depth discussions on the issue at least until after Crown Prince Naruhito accedes to the throne on May 1 next year, the sources said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet last week that there are many different views about the proposal to allow the creation of female Imperial branches.
“A full analysis and consideration as well as careful procedures are needed to build a national consensus,” Abe said.
The Imperial House Law stipulates that women in the Imperial family lose their family membership after marriage, unless they marry within the family.
The proposal for female Imperial branches, designed to allow princesses to remain in the family after marriage, reflects concern about the family’s shrinking size.
Princess Ayako, the third daughter of the late Prince Takamado, who was a cousin of Emperor Akihito, left the Imperial family after marrying a commoner on Oct. 29.
Abe’s caution over the proposal comes as conservatives, his main support base, worry that establishing such branches will eventually allow female Imperial family members or people on the maternal Imperial bloodline to accede to the throne.
A resolution attached to a law on Emperor Akihito’s abdication enacted in June last year calls on the government to deliberate the proposed creation of female Imperial branches. But the dominant view within the government is that it will be difficult to reach a national consensus on the matter, the sources said.
“There is no rush to reach a conclusion,” noted one of the sources, adding that the government will instead focus on preparations for Emperor Akihito’s abdication on April 30 next year and Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the throne the following day.