Japan has ruled out allowing a woman to ascend the Imperial throne despite a lack of male heirs and widespread popular support for a female ruler. The government panel working to solve the succession crisis will not even consider allowing women to reign.
Under the Imperial Household Law, only men can ascend the throne. The current Emperor Naruhito has just one daughter, Aiko, Princess Toshi. There are currently three men in the line of succession; Naruhito’s younger brother Fumihito, Prince Akishino (55), his only son Prince Hisahito (14) and Masahito, Prince Hitachi (85).
Other possibilities of reform include allowing the sons of Imperial princesses to join the line of succession, though princesses are currently required to forfeit their status when they marry a commoner. This would also not be enough for traditionalists who believe in succession only through the male line. As the late Prince Tomohito of Mikasa said: “For 125 generations, from the first Emperor Jimmu in the era of myth until now, without a single exception, the succession has been restricted to the male line only — this fact makes it something precious. The Y chromosome from Emperor Jimmu has been passed continuously to every member of the imperial family [through the male line]. [If we change this system] sometime in the future, the argument will be made, ‘We don’t need the emperor anymore’.”
Another possibility is to restore male members of former branches of the imperial family or allowing adoption from these branches.
In great contrast comes the opinion of members of the public, who would be happy to be reigned over by a woman, and most of the liberal politicians are also open to the idea. It appears that Japan will be gambling on Prince Hisahito producing plenty of sons to keep the line going – one can only sympathise with his future wife.