One of Japan's oldest private universities for women could be on the cusp of shedding more than a century of tradition. That will happen if it decides to accept male-to-female transgender students.

The issue facing Japan Women’s University in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward was triggered by an inquiry from a parent of a transgender girl who is biologically male and wants to sit the entrance exam for a junior high school affiliated with the university.

In the normal course of events, the girl would go on to high school and then apply upon graduation to study at the university.

The child, who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture, clings to the hope that the winds of change are blowing in Japan so she can live in the sexual identity in which she feels comfortable.

The university, established in 1901, will begin giving serious consideration to accepting transgender female students from the new fiscal year starting April 1.

A policy change by the university would likely have a major impact on other women’s universities in Japan, where there is growing awareness and acceptance of the transgender issue.

When the parent contacted the university at the end of 2015, the child was a fourth-grader in elementary school. It was explained that while the girl is registered as male on the family register, she had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder and living as a female.

She wanted to sit the entrance exam for a junior high school affiliated with the university even though eligibility for applicants for the university and its affiliated schools is restricted to "female."

An online survey by Tokyo-based advertising agency giant Dentsu Inc. in April 2015 found that 7.6 percent of 70,000 respondents in Japan between the ages of 20 and 59 are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)--in other words, sexual minorities. Of the figure, 0.7 percent were considered to be transgender.

In response to the inquiry by the child's parent, the university in August 2016 set up a project team comprising heads of its affiliated kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school and university faculties to consider the LGBT issue and whether to accept transgender students.

Some were all for embracing LGBT students, but others were cautious on grounds that a general understanding of the issue among students, pupils, their parents and teachers "is far from being pervasive.” The team was headed by Satoko Oyama, vice president of the university.

The team concluded last October that it would be difficult to accept a transgender student at the present time.

However, the university decided it prioritize discussions on whether to accept transgender students by setting up a panel in the university in fiscal 2017 to weigh the pros and cons of the issue as well as offering more support for its students who already fall into the category of sexual minorities.

Some women’s universities in Japan accept transgender students if they change gender on their family register.

However, such students are required to be at least 20 years old and undergo a sex-change operation, a hurdle that many find too high to overcome.

If women’s universities decide to accept transgender students, certain issues would likely arise, such as getting a doctor’s certificate proving that the student had been diagnosed with sexual identity disorder.

“We will have to consider the criteria of what makes women different (from men) and how that overlaps with traditional thinking about values and the raison d'etre of the women’s university system,” said Oyama.

“We first want to hear the voices of students and their parents and discuss on this matter from multifaceted perspectives.”

(This article was written Mayumi Ujioka, senior staff writer, and Mariko Sugiyama.)