Japan hit by succession crisis, advisory panel excludes women from ascending throne

Japan has ruled out women’s accession to the throne amid a looming succession crisis in the country’s shrinking imperial family.

A government advisory panel, made up of 21 members from different fields, is trying to find a solution and won’t even consider allowing Imperial Princess to rule, The times reported, citing Japanese media.

There is public support for allowing princesses to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, but such a move is fiercely opposed by Japan’s ruling conservative nationalists.

The Japanese Imperial Family is considered the world’s oldest monarchy, with an unbroken line of male succession dating back two millennia.

Mythology, recognized by the Imperial House, has the legendary Emperor Jimmu, said to be a descendant of a sun goddess and storm god, as the first of 126 Japanese emperors leading to the current Emperor Naruhito.

But the future of the Imperial line is in danger because of strict rules stating only: male heirs are eligible to sit on the throne.

There is a shortage of male heirs among the Imperial household, which has dwindled to just 18 members, three of whom are eligible heirs.

The decline is mainly due to a rule depriving Imperial princesses of their titles if they choose to marry commoners.

Japan has ruled out women’s accession to the throne amid a looming succession crisis in the country’s shrinking imperial family. Pictured: Emperor Naruhito (left) at the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

Only male heirs descended from a male emperor are eligible.  The family currently has three male heirs: Crown Prince Akishino, Prince Hisahito and Prince Hitachi

Only male heirs descended from a male emperor are eligible. The family currently has three male heirs: Crown Prince Akishino, Prince Hisahito and Prince Hitachi

There is a shortage of male heirs among the Imperial household, which has dwindled to just 18 members, three of whom are eligible heirs.  The decline is mainly due to a rule depriving Imperial princesses of their titles if they choose to marry commoners.  Pictured (L-R): Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Akishino and their daughters Princess Mako and Princess Kako attend a New Year's Eve celebration in Tokyo

There is a shortage of male heirs among the Imperial household, which has dwindled to just 18 members, three of whom are eligible heirs. The decline is mainly due to a rule depriving Imperial princesses of their titles if they choose to marry commoners. Pictured (L-R): Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Akishino and their daughters Princess Mako and Princess Kako attend a New Year’s Eve celebration in Tokyo

The option of considering whether a woman could ascend to the throne was floated three years ago after the decision to allow the historic abdication of then-Emperor Akihito, 87.

In order to gain opposition party support for the move, the government promised to explore possible reforms to the imperial succession.

However, the process has been delayed, with formal talks not starting until April this year.

Traditionalists in the government argue there is still time to find an alternative solution, as Naruhito, 61, is healthy and the family has male heirs in his brother, Crown Prince Akishino, 55, and his 14-year-old cousin Prince Hisahito.

The only other eligible heir is Prince Hitachi – the Emperor’s ailing 85-year-old uncle.

Polls suggest that the vast majority of the Japanese public supports women who are eligible to rule.

A number of politicians, including more liberal members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democrat party, are also in favor.

‘Within the ruling party there is a desire for it’ [Princess Aiko] to ascend the throne’ The Japan Times quoted a senior government official this month.

Traditionalists in the government argue there is still time to find an alternative solution as Naruhito, 61, is healthy and the family has male heirs in his brother, Crown Prince Akishino (left), 55, and his 14-year-old cousin Prince Hisahito (Turn Right)

Traditionalists in the government argue there is still time to find an alternative solution as Naruhito, 61, is healthy and the family has male heirs in his brother, Crown Prince Akishino (left), 55, and his 14-year-old cousin Prince Hisahito (Turn Right)

The only other eligible heir is Prince Hitachi (in wheelchair) - the Emperor's ailing 85-year-old uncle [File photo]

The only other eligible heir is Prince Hitachi (in wheelchair) – the Emperor’s ailing 85-year-old uncle [File photo]

But the current Imperial Household Law, enacted in 1947, states that only a male descendant of a male emperor can succeed to the throne.

Japan has had eight female monarchs between the sixth and the 18th centuries, but none came through a female lineage.

Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, 57, have a daughter, Princess Aiko, born in 2001.

Hisahito is the son of Naruhito’s younger brother Crown Prince Akishino, 55, and his wife Princess Akishino, 54.

One option for reform would be to allow women to retain their imperial status after marriage, regardless of their husband’s status, so that any future sons can join the line of succession.

This is opposed by traditionalists who argue that legitimate succession can only go through the male line.

Another possibility raised by the panel relates to former aristocratic families, whose imperial status was abolished during the American occupation of Japan after the empire’s defeat in World War II.

The proposal suggests that descendants of these families could be adopted into the emperor’s family.

There is support among the public and some politicians for ascending the throne, the daughter of Emperor Naruhito, Princess Aiko (pictured in November 2020)

There is support among the public and some politicians for ascending the throne, the daughter of Emperor Naruhito, Princess Aiko (pictured in November 2020)

Traditionalists worry that any reform of the rules of succession threatens the legitimacy, and thus the stability, of the Imperial household.  Reformers, on the other hand, argue that the Imperial House must adapt in order to survive.  Pictured: A crowd cheers on the Imperial family after Emperor Naruhito delivers his New Year's Greetings on January 2.

Traditionalists worry that any reform of the rules of succession threatens the legitimacy, and thus the stability, of the Imperial household. Reformers, on the other hand, argue that the Imperial House must adapt in order to survive. Pictured: A crowd cheers on the Imperial family after Emperor Naruhito delivers his New Year’s Greetings on January 2.

Yet another option, also affecting these former imperial families, would be an effective restoration of the aristocracy with the reinstatement of the male members.

Traditionalists worry that any reform of the rules of succession threatens the legitimacy, and thus the stability, of the Imperial household.

Reformers, on the other hand, argue that the Imperial House must adapt in order to survive.

March and April survey conducted by Kyodo News showed that 87 percent of respondents supported a reigning empress, while 80 percent favored a female-line emperor.

Taro Kano, a cabinet member tipped as a potential future prime minister, has expressed support for the move to allow princesses to ascend the throne.

‘I think so it is possible that imperial princesses, including princess Aiko, will be accepted as the next monarch,” he said.

‘There is only one next-generation heir to the throne’ [at the moment]. We have to think about what to do when there are no more male heirs.’

.