• Kyodo

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Japan is considering maintaining the current order of imperial succession, with the discussion on whether female monarchs will be allowed to ascend the throne to be held in the future, government sources said Monday.

The government’s advisory panel on the issue, chaired by former Keio University President Atsushi Seike, heard from a total of 21 experts from various fields in six meetings from March 23 through Monday, but few were of the opinion that the current order should be changed immediately.

Currently, the three heirs in line to succeed 61-year-old Emperor Naruhito are his brother, Crown Prince Akishino, 55, his nephew, Prince Hisahito, 14, and his uncle, Prince Hitachi, 85.

The government will present its findings to the Diet next month at the earliest, aiming to reach a conclusion reflective of the experts’ views by this fall.

The results of meetings will be organized into key points including positions on female or matrilineal imperial members in the line of succession, the current rule requiring women marrying commoners to abandon their imperial status, and adoption of male heirs from former branches of the imperial family.

As the government believes the issue should be discussed “in a quiet environment,” it is unlikely to reach a conclusion before the next Lower House election to be held by October to avoid turning it into a point of debate.

The imperial family has been shrinking under the 1947 Imperial House Law, which limits heirs to a male who has an emperor on his father’s side. The emperor and Empress Masako’s only child is a daughter, Princess Aiko, 19.

Over 60% of the 21 experts consulted were in favor, or conditionally in favor, of expanding the current patrilineal male-only imperial succession to women. The 21 experts included eight women.

In the last of the expert meetings on Monday, novelist Risa Wataya said it is with the times to welcome patrilineal imperial succession by women, but expressed more conservative views regarding an emperor descending from the maternal line.

Machiko Satonaka, a manga artist known for depicting female monarchs in her works, agreed it is natural for women from the paternal line to be eligible to succeed the throne.

But Hisashi Matsumoto, a professor of Shinto studies at Kokugakuin University, objected to the idea, saying, “We should refrain from lightly changing rules that are based on historical circumstances,” and called matrilineal inheritance “unthinkable.”

The six-person government panel, which was formed amid mounting concern over the dwindling number of imperial family members, will hold its seventh meeting on June 16 to discuss the views collected from experts.

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