SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please consider donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!


No empress for Japan despite a lack of heirs

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan -, CC BY 4.0,

Despite a shrinking Imperial Family and only three people in the line of succession, Japan has decided that it will not allow women to reign in their own right.

The possibility of a female empress in Japan has popular support, but the more conservative members of the government do not want to change the status quo.

Right now, Japan has three men in the line of succession, Crown Prince Akishino, 55, Prince Hisahito, 14, and Prince Hitachi, 85. Only three men in the line of succession means the succession line traced back for more than two millennia has a chance of being broken.

However, Japanese officials believe they do not have to worry about the line of succession for years to come as the Crown Prince is 55 and his son, a future emperor, is only 14. Japanese media has said that government officials discussing the line of succession refuse to allow women the possibility to inherit the throne.

Many wanted to see Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako’s daughter, Princess Aiko, succeed her father, but it seems the Japanese government has put a stop to that idea. According to reports, the panel thinks emperors descending from a strict male line that is related to the sun goddess, Amaterasu, is unique, and there’s no reason to change.

Although, Taro Kono, cabinet member and potential future prime minister, said to the Times: “I think it is possible that imperial princesses, including Princess Aiko, could be accepted as the next monarch. There is only one next-generation heir to the throne [at the moment]. We need to consider what to do when there are no longer any male heirs left.”

Under the current Imperial Household laws, women are not in the line of succession. They are also not allowed to remain in the Imperial Family once they marry a commoner; they must give up their titles and place in the Imperial House upon marriage. Naturally, this has led to a shrinking Imperial Family.

However, one compromise under discussion is allowing the women to remain members of the Imperial Family, and if they have sons, allowing those sons to be in the line of succession. It remains to be seen if this will be approved by the conservatives of the country. A second option would be choosing an emperor from descendants of the aristocratic and former Imperial Family members that had their positions taken away by the United States after World War II. The last option is for the reestablishment of former members of the family back into the Imperial Family.

Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne in 2019 after his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, abdicated the previous day. He was the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in nearly 200 years, and a special law had to be passed by the Japanese parliament (the Diet) to allow for the abdication.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. Her love of royals began in middle school, and she's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.