According to Japanese government sources, the government has begun an informal study on ways to ensure a stable imperial succession as Japan is faced with an extremely short line of succession. The informal study is being headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita.
The line of succession only has three people: Crown Prince Akishino (54), Prince Hisahito (13) and Prince Hitachi (84).
Hearings with experts are being held behind the scenes, and a full-scale debate by the Japanese government is expected to begin in April. This will include the establishment of an expert panel, but this will not take place until after the 19 April Rikkoshi no Rei ceremony which will see Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother, Akishino proclaim himself as heir to the throne.
The Japan Times has said that the government has already sent out personnel to get opinions from multiple experts. Reportedly, opinions are being gathered on whether or not to allow women to inherit the throne or heirs from the maternal line to inherit the throne.
Discussions are also to be held on whether or not to restore royal status to the members of the Imperial Family who left the family at the end of World War Two and if women should be allowed to head their own branches.
The results of the discussions and hearings with experts will be used in the government’s decision-making process.
At the moment, when a female member of the Imperial Family marries a commoner, they lose their royal status and must leave the Imperial Family.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have one daughter, Princess Aiko, who is not entitled to inherit the throne under the current laws of succession. The stress of not producing a male heir has been blamed on the health issues of the Empress in the past.