Some parts of Japanese law might finally be catching up to the 21st century. The Japanese government is proposing an amendment to a law that will allow female members of the royal family to retain their imperial status after marriage to a commoner. The changes reflect the growing concerns over problems with the number of males in the royal household.
Under the current Imperial Household Law, female members of the royal family are required to relinquish their royal status after marrying a commoner, which excludes them from taking part in further imperial activities. This is starting to be seen as a problem considering decreasing number of the royal household, as well as the increasing number of female members compared to males, causing concerns regarding the ability of the royal family to continue its imperial activities in the future. Of the 21 imperial family members, eight are female. Three princesses will be affected by the new system: Princess Aiko, daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, and Princesses Mako and Kako, both daughters of Prince Akishino. The proposal has not yet definitively stated whether the husband and children of the princesses would also be given imperial status. It does mention giving them status as public servants in order to remain involved in imperial activities.
The proposal has generally garnered positive responses from the Imperial Household Agency, although there are some who have expressed concern regarding some unclear directions that the proposal is taking. The government has held hearings with 12 experts on the matter. While many support the idea of allowing female members of the royal family to continue to participate in imperial activities after marriage, some have voiced concern that the changes might lead to maternal-line emperors, emperors that do not have an emperor on the father’s side, as well as paving the way for female emperors in the future. The Imperial Household Law currently says that only the male offspring of the emperor are allowed to succeed the throne.