National | The Argument

Should Japan allow females to ascend the throne?

The Argument is a new feature dedicated to promoting dialogue and deeper understanding on contentious issues by introducing various viewpoints.

Two months into the Reiwa Era, talk about imperial succession and Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s abdication has calmed.

But there is still an issue that will be revisited in the coming months — the question of whether a woman should be able to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The issue throws into question the validity and significance of bansei ikkei — a concept based on the imperial family’s unbroken line of male heirs and the idea that the throne has consistently been passed down its male line without exception.

Some argue women should not be able to succeed the throne or pass it to their children. Others argue having an empress is acceptable as long as she serves as an interim, but that the throne itself must be passed down the male bloodline. Still others believe both empresses and female succession should be allowed, in a break from modern tradition.

The public overwhelmingly favors having an empress and having the throne passed down the family’s maternal line, with April polls by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and Jiji Press news agency showing some 70 percent would be pleased to see such a change.

But a joint poll by the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and broadcaster FNN in May showed many respondents could not discern between the two issues. Only 10 percent said they were confident they knew the difference and 20 percent said they didn’t understand it.

What are the arguments and points of contention regarding female succession in Japan?

The Japan Times asked three experts to respond to this question.

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