• Kyodo


The government may shelve any decision on how to achieve a stable imperial succession despite the Diet calling for a swift report of discussions on the matter, government sources said Saturday.

Many government officials believe it is premature to draw up a clear idea, given that public opinion regarding imperial succession remains divided, the sources said.

With only three heirs to Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne in May last year — his younger brother Crown Prince Akishino, 54, his nephew, Prince Hisahito, 14, and Prince Hitachi, his 84-year-old uncle — finding a resolution has become more urgent.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have one daughter, Princess Aiko.

The imperial house has been shrinking partly due to the 1947 Imperial House Law that states only men in the paternal line can ascend to the chrysanthemum throne. It also requires women marrying commoners to abandon their royal status.

“A decision cannot be made until we see whether Prince Hisahito will have a male child,” one of the sources said.

The government has said it will begin full-fledged discussions after ceremonies to proclaim Crown Prince Akishino’s rise to first in line to the throne, which was postponed to Sunday from the initial schedule for April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The crown prince’s declaration will be the last in a series of ceremonies held for the imperial succession following former Emperor Akihito’s abdication at the end of April last year, the first by a Japanese monarch in over 200 years.

When a one-off law was enacted in 2017 to allow the former emperor’s abdication, the Diet adopted a nonbinding resolution for the government to consider measures ensuring stable imperial successions and swiftly report the outcome without a deadline.

But as the nation remains split on the matter of succession, including whether to allow women or members in the maternal line to ascend to the throne, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to focus on the establishment of a digital agency and deregulation among other top policies of his administration.

While public approval for establishing female emperors and female-headed branches of the imperial family is growing, calls for continuing to pass the throne down the male line remain strong among conservatives. Some are advocating for the restoration of the imperial status of unmarried men from collateral branches of the family.

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