Issues Facing The Imperial Family

Issues facing the Imperial Family

An enthronement ceremony for Japan's Emperor Naruhito has taken place at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

NHK NEWSLINE anchor Minori Takao talked with Senior Commentator Osamu Takahashi over a number of challenges facing the Imperial Household.

TAKAHASHI: One issue is the shrinking size of the Imperial family. Aside from the Emperor and Emperor Emeritus, there are currently 16 members. Female members have to leave the Imperial family once they marry commoners.

Of the six unmarried princesses, five have reached adulthood. The Imperial Household Agency earlier announced the planned engagement of Princess Mako, the Crown Prince's eldest daughter, to a commoner.

Imperial family members support the Emperor by assuming various roles, such as visiting disaster-stricken areas and engaging in international exchanges.

There is real concern that the household might fall short of members to fulfill the Imperial activities.

ANCHOR: So, shrinking size is one issue. What about maintaining a stable succession?

TAKAHASHI: That is another major worry. With the accession of Emperor Naruhito, only three heirs remain.

They are his younger brother, Crown Prince Akishino; the Crown Prince's 13-year-old son, Prince Hisahito; and the Emperor Emeritus's 83-year-old brother, Prince Hitachi. Prince Hisahito is the only male in the generation below the Emperor.

Under the Imperial House Law, only male descendants of Emperors can ascend the throne.

That means if Prince Hisahito assumes the throne but does not have a son, there might be no one to succeed him.

ANCHOR: As Japan celebrates the new Emperor's enthronement, some people are turning their attention to the future of the Imperial family. Can you paint us a picture of that future?

TAKAHASHI: As I said before, under the Imperial House Law, only male descendants of the Emperor can take the throne.

When the Diet enacted a one-off law in 2017 that enabled the then-Emperor Akihito to abdicate, lawmakers adopted a supplementary resolution, calling on the government to promptly study ways to ensure the stability of Imperial succession.

ANCHOR: Has there been any pushback to that?

TAKAHASHI: There are some conservative voices inside and out of the main ruling party who are concerned about the possible enthronement of women or the possible establishment of female branches of the imperial family as a way to sustain imperial succession.

The government is treading carefully, describing it as an extremely important issue that concerns the foundations of the nation.