Princess Mako on the left with her mother, Princess Kiko
Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Fumihito (Akishinonomiya) and his wife, Princess Kiko, is preparing for an engagement to a young man whom she met while they were both students at the International Christian University in Tokyo.
The news of Princess Mako’s engagement to Kei Komuro—a 25-year-old graduate student at Hitotsubashi University and an employee at a law office—was greeted with joy in Japan.
However, the news, which the Imperial Household Agency will make official soon, has brought to fore concerns about the future of the imperial line.
In accordance with the Imperial Household Law, Princess Mako, who will turn 26 in October, will be required to renounce her royal title upon marrying. With Princess Mako’s departure from the royal family, the smaller royal household will necessarily see a reduction in its activities.
Debates within the government over the smooth transfer of the imperial throne seem likely to intensify with the announcement of Princess Mako’s engagement. They include the discussion over the establishment of bloodlines for princesses of the blood in the maternal line, enabling them to remain within the imperial household even after marriage.
There are great concerns over changing the tradition of imperial succession through the male line. The current emperor, the 125th monarch in Japan’s imperial succession, is also the 125th male to ascend the throne as a patrilineal descendant of the imperial line. There has never been an exception to this tradition. Thus, there is likely to be much resistance to opening a path for princesses of the blood or even male descendants of the matrilineal line to possibly assume the throne at some point in the future.
In the era of Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet, the Japanese government first seriously began to grapple with the problem of the shrinking imperial household. In 2005, PM Koizumi assembled a committee of experts in order to study the situation of there having been no male imperial issue for forty years.
In its report, the committee accepted the possibility of either a male emperor from the matrilineal imperial line, or an empress descended from the male line. The committee also accepted the creation of households of princesses of the blood who would retain their royal status even after marriage.
PM Koizumi indicated his desire to submit to the Diet a draft legislation reforming the Imperial Household Law, but he postponed this submission after Princess Kiko gave birth to a son, Prince Hisahito, in 2006.
In October of 2012, the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet released a set of revised debate points, mainly on the subject of households for princesses of the blood and based largely on expert testimony. These debate points reverted to being a mere white paper, however, when Noda’s party lost in lower house elections in December of that same year and the LDP regained control of the Diet.
Some in the current government are of the view that there should be no objection to the head of a household of a princess of the blood marrying either a male formerly of the imperial household or another male blood descendant of the patrilineal line.
In April 2017, a committee of experts formed to study the possible abdication of the current emperor found the problem of the shrinking imperial household would not brook delay. In its final report, the committee recommended that the government seek quickly to resolve this problem. The suggestion to create households for princesses of the blood was incorporated into a compendium of parliamentary opinions compiled by both the chairman and vice chairman of both the upper and lower houses of the Diet.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)