Party Talks on Imperial Family Likely to Affect Princesses; Burden of Duties Growing as Members Age

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Imperial Household Agency

The Imperial Household Agency is paying close attention to how talks between the ruling and opposition parties on measures for ensuring stable Imperial succession unfold.

On April 11, Yasuhiko Nishimura, the grand steward of the agency, said the decline in the number of Imperial family members who perform the family’s official duties is a very important issue.

“We hope that sufficient discussion will be held, and adequate measures will be taken in this regard,” Nishimura said at a regular press conference.

Other than the Emperor and the Emperor Emeritus, there are only three male members in the Imperial family, including Prince Hisahito, who is currently a minor.

The average age of Imperial family members is 59.76 years old. As the family members age, the burden on Crown Prince Akishino and female Imperial family members is increasing.

Official duties were reviewed when the Emperor took the throne in 2019, and Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko took over the visiting duties for four regional events, including an annual National Sports Festival for People with a Disability, from the Emperor and the Empress, who had made the visits during their own time as the crown prince and crown princess.

Regarding two other events, which also were attended by the Emperor and the Empress, Crown Princess Kiko took over one of them and Princess Nobuko, the widow of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, took over the other.

Princess Hisako of Takamado serves as the president of 29 organizations and has actively engaged in overseas visits.

Princess Kako, 29, the second daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and Princess Aiko, 22, the daughter of the Emperor and the Empress, who began working in April, are also important Imperial family members who perform official duties.

Concerning the idea of enabling female members to retain their Imperial status after marriage to commoners, there are differences in opinion between members of the ruling and opposition parties regarding the status of those members’ husbands and children.

“This is an issue that will have a great impact on the lives of female Imperial members since it can create a division within a family depending on the outcome of the discussions. We hope that the issue will be discussed in a careful and prompt manner,” an agency official said.

Meanwhile, regarding male lines of the Imperial family that lost Imperial status after World War II, there is a proposal for men of such lines to be given Imperial status through adoption. It is possible that this would mean adoption by current Imperial family members who have no male heir. Specific discussions are still to be held on which members of former Imperial lines would be eligible for such adoption, among other issues.

“We hope a system will be developed in a way to fully respect the wishes of Imperial family members who become parties to the issue,” a senior official of the agency said.