Addressing Japan’s demographic challenges requires cultural change.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to the editorial “Address Japan’s demographic challenges” in the July 18 edition, called Japan’s demographics a “national crisis.”

The demographics are cruel. A diminishing young and productive workforce will not easily support a growing elderly population. As people age, they often need more — and increasingly more expensive — health care.

The Japan Times frequently sounds the alarm over Japan’s aging population and low birthrate, calling for the same tired nostrums: workplace changes to make it easier for working couples to have children, more preschool and nursery services, and, crucially, more day care centers.

“The least that can be done in policy terms,” the editorial argues, “is to remove barriers that discourage people who would like to have and raise children.”

Financial payments to parents may help, too, but a less costly solution is available.

More babies will require cultural change. Japanese men must make it possible for Japanese women to take their proper place at the pinnacle of society.

Abe should support a change in the law to allow Princess Aiko to succeed her father and reign as an empress.

The hit that the Japanese male ego would take is a small price to pay for improved demographics.

Harrumphing recently, Hidetsuge Yagi said: “The Chrysanthemum Throne should be passed down only to male members of the imperial family in keeping with a tradition that lends legitimacy to the family” (“By tradition, imperial succession follows the male bloodline” in the July 17 edition).

Yagi’s tradition, however, does little to assure Japanese women of their unique, valuable and indispensable role in society.

A revised law of succession would effectively rebut the argument that the flower of tradition is worth more than the rice cake of demographic necessity.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.