By TATSURO SUGIURA/ Staff Writer
October 27, 2021 at 14:07 JST
Princess Mako leaves the residence within the Akasaka Estate before her marriage to Kei Komuro on Oct. 26. (Pool)
With Princess Mako marrying a commoner and giving up her royal title, attention will turn back to the rapidly shrinking number of imperial family members and imperial succession.
Mako, 30, married Kei Komuro, 30, and left the imperial family on Oct. 26.
She is now a commoner and is not expected to carry out public duties of the imperial family.
The fact further puts Japan’s imperial succession into jeopardy.
There are 17 imperial family members remaining. Of these, eight are age 60 or older, and five are unmarried females.
Under the current system, a newborn member of the imperial family will carry out public duties after grown. However, if the member is a female, she will leave the imperial family upon marriage to a commoner.
The discussion over the dwindling number of imperial family members started in the 2000s.
The administration of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in 2011 floated the idea of creating a branch of the imperial family when a female member marries so that she can remain in the imperial family.
But after a change of government, it became a dead issue.
In March this year, a panel of experts started discussing how to maintain the number of imperial family members and concluded it is an "urgent issue.”
The panel released a progress report in July and proposed two ideas.
One is to allow female members to remain in the imperial family after marriage. The other is to bring back male members of former branches of the imperial family who are descendants in the male line to the imperial family through adoption.
The panel’s final report is expected to be released after the Lower House election on Oct. 31.
However, any change in increasing the number of imperial family members faces a rocky path among ruling and opposition parties in revising the Imperial House Law. With a new prime minister recently taking office, it will be difficult to start a serious discussion on how to maintain the number of imperial family members on a full scale.
The Imperial Household Agency said that it had not conducted a survey to gather the opinions of former branches of the imperial family regarding the panel’s two proposals.
The panel’s first proposal that allows female members to remain in the imperial family after marriage is perceived to be the preferred choice.
But a person related to the central government said, “Her child will not be a member of the imperial family. Therefore, it is nothing but a stopgap measure. The intention of a female member herself, whether she wants to remain in the imperial family, needs to be respected, too.”
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