The Japanese government is holding off on deciding whether or not to allow female members of the Imperial Family to establish their own branches of the family after marriage, according to sources. They will delay discussions on the matter at least under after Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the throne on the 1st of May next year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet last week that there are many different views about the proposal to allow the creation of female Imperial branches. “A full analysis and consideration, as well as careful procedures, are needed to build a national consensus,” Abe said.
Currently, the Imperial House Law stipulates that women in the Imperial Family lose their titles and their membership of the family if they marry commoners. The proposal to allow the establishment of female Imperial branches reflects the concern for the family’s shrinking size. The last Princess to leave the Imperial Family was Princess Ayako, the third daughter of the late Prince Takamado, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, who married commoner Kei Moriya on 29 October 2018. “I’m very happy that many people were able to celebrate (our marriage),” the Princess told reporters after the wedding. “We want to make efforts to become a couple like my mother and father.” She added that her late father, who died in 2002, “would have rejoiced at my marriage”, and added that the top hat Moriya was holding had been her father’s. Kei Moriya said he hoped to “build a family full of laughter and smiles.”
With the departure of Princess Ayako, the number of Imperial Family members has dropped to 18, of which 13 are female. The main concerns come from the conservatives who worry that the establishment of such branches will eventually allow a woman or a man from a maternal bloodline to succeed to the throne. Historically there have been six Japanese Empresses who ruled in their own right, the most recent from 1762–1771.
The government remains focused on the preparations for Emperor Akihito’s abdication on 30 April 2019 and Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the throne the following day.