Panel offers 2 plans for stable imperial succession

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A government panel discussing ways to ensure stable Imperial succession adopted a final report on Wednesday featuring two plans to secure the number of Imperial Family members.

One of the two plans would allow female members to retain their Imperial family status after getting married, while the other would use the adoption system to restore the Imperial family status of male descendants in the family’s paternal line.

The report did not elaborate on drastic changes in the current Imperial succession system, such as whether Japan should have a female emperor or an emperor connected to the Imperial lineage through the maternal bloodline.

The panel “held very well-balanced discussions,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after receiving the report from Atsushi Seike, former president of Keio University and head of the panel. The government will report the outcome to the Diet.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that only men in the paternal bloodline of the Imperial lineage can assume the throne. Under the law, there are only three heirs to the throne — Crown Prince Akishino, his son Prince Hisahito and Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of the Emperor Emeritus.

The final report stressed that a situation should be avoided in which there is no other Imperial family member to succeed when Prince Hisahito assumes the throne, due to a lack of male Imperial family members other than him.

But the report said that Japan should be careful about changing the current Imperial succession system significantly at a time when there are heirs to the throne.

It also said that the circumstances in which Prince Hisahito, the nephew of the Emperor, assumes the throne should not be neglected.

Japan should deepen debates on Imperial succession in the future, as early discussions may make succession after Prince Hisahito unstable, the report said.

Referring to the plan that would allow female members to retain their Imperial Family status after marriage, the report said that such female members’ children should not be eligible for Imperial succession and that their spouses and children should not have Imperial family status.

The suggestion is designed to dispel criticism that the plan could create a female emperor. The report also avoided using wording to suggest the creation of female Imperial family branches.

The adoption system plan to restore the Imperial Family status of male descendants in the family’s paternal line could apply to 11 branches that left the family in 1947. The system would alleviate pressures for the birth of a boy, the report said. People who restore their Imperial family status under the system are supposed to have no right to succeed the throne, it said.

The final report also presented an extra option, separate to the main two plans, to revise the law to grant Imperial Family status to male descendants of the family’s paternal line who have left the family.

The country’s parliament asked the government to consider ways to ensure stable Imperial succession when it enacted a special law in 2017 to allow then Emperor Akihito to abdicate. The panel started discussion in March this year.