The government plans to set up a panel by year-end to discuss how to achieve a stable imperial succession amid a shrinking number of royal family members, including whether to allow female succession, a government source said Saturday.
But the panel, consisting of intellectuals from various fields, will not discuss changing the current order of succession following the ascension in May of the 59-year-old Emperor Naruhito, who has no son, the source said.
At present, Crown Prince Akishino, Emperor Naruhito’s 53-year-old younger brother, is first in line to the throne, followed by his son, Prince Hisahito, 12, who is second in line. Prince Hitachi, 83, the younger brother of former Emperor Akihito, is third in line.
Princess Aiko, 17, the only child of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, is not entitled to take the Chrysanthemum Throne as the 1947 Imperial House Law bans women from succeeding the throne and stipulates they must leave the imperial family if they marry a commoner.
The stipulation has resulted in a decline in royals performing official duties.
The number of imperial family members currently stands at 18 including Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko.
The government pushed the idea of holding discussions on ensuring a stable imperial succession when the Diet enacted a law in 2017 to allow then-Emperor Akihito to abdicate.
Some opposition parties want to allow female members to ascend the throne, saying a direct descendant should take precedence in order of succession, regardless of sex, effectively putting Princess Aiko first in line to the throne.
Conservative members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to having an empress on the throne, who could open up the line of succession to female members.