The Japanese government has plans to set up a panel by the end of 2019 to discuss how to stabilise the Imperial succession and how to address the shrinking numbers of Imperial family members; this will also include discussion on whether to allow female succession. However, it is unlikely that it will discuss changing the current order of succession.
Under the current regulations, Emperor Naruhito’s only child Aiko, Princess Toshi, can not succeed as Empress in her own because she is a girl. There are currently just three people in the line of succession: Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother Crown Prince Akishino, his 12-year-old son Prince Hisahito, and the Emperor’s uncle the 83-year-old Prince Hitachi. Female members of the family must surrender their Imperial titles upon marriage to a commoner, like Princess Ayako of Takamado did last year becoming Ayako Moriya.
The 1947 Imperial House Law bans women from succeeding to the throne but there is nothing in Constitution that forbids females from ascending Chrysanthemum Throne. The departure of female members means that the Imperial family will see itself shrink considerably in the coming years. There are currently 18 members of the Imperial Family, of which 13 are female.
There are some opposition parties who want to allow female members to ascend the throne, believing that a direct descendant of the Emperor should take precedence, regardless of sex. This would make Aiko, Princess Toshi first in the line of succession. However, conservative members of the Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to having an Empress.
The Crown Prince recently commented: “Those who are building international goodwill are decreasing, but in a way, there is nothing we can do. I think those among us who are able can only do so much,” he said. His Imperial Highness added, “We can engage in broader activities if there are more people in the next generation, but if you look at the current situation, I believe it is necessary to examine what to do.”