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Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011

Fujimura says 'stable' system of Imperial succession needed


Staff writer

A way has to be found to secure a "stable" accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, expressing concern over the small number of successors to the crown.

The remark by the top government spokesman came a day after Emperor Akihito was discharged from the University of Tokyo Hospital, where he was admitted for bronchial pneumonia Nov. 6.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that only males can ascend the throne, which only leaves Crown Prince Naruhito, his brother, Prince Akishino, and Akishino's son, Prince Hisahito, to succeed the current Emperor. During a news conference Friday morning, Fujimura said a thorough discussion is necessary to resolve the issue.

"The government is aware that future anxiety over securing a stable succession has not been resolved," Fujimura said. "Maintaining a steady succession is an issue that relates to the core of the nation and the government will consider it based on thorough discussions from various levels of the public."

Fujimura revealed during the news conference that Grand Steward Shingo Haketa of the Imperial Household Agency visited Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda last month and expressed his concern over the decreasing number of females in the royal family.

If the women marry commoners, they are by law no longer part of the Imperial family, leading to an overall decline in the size of the family.

Currently, the Imperial family consists of the Emperor and 22 other family members. There are only seven males and four of them are over 60 years old.

Meanwhile, there are eight single females, of whom six are over the age of 20.

"The grand steward mentioned that the current system under the Imperial Household Law stipulates that the women will leave the Imperial family once they get married, noting that some of the women in the Imperial family are getting closer to the age of marriage," Fujimura said. "He expressed his understanding that urgent problems needed to be dealt with regarding the Imperial families' activities."

Whether to change the male-only succession has been a controversial issue as Prince Hisahito, born in 2006, was the first male to be born into the family in about 41 years. In 2005, an advisory panel submitted a controversial report proposing that the Imperial Household Law be revised to allow females to ascend the throne.

But Fujimura said the Noda administration has no intention of changing the Imperial system in the near future, stressing the need for a wide range of discussions.



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