The girl who may sit on Chrysanthemum throne

After months of controversy over who should be heir to the world's oldest hereditary monarchy, Japan may be finally nearing a decision on whether to allow a female emperor to sit on the Chrysanthemum throne.

After months of controversy over who should be heir to the world's oldest hereditary monarchy, Japan may be finally nearing a decision on whether to allow a female emperor to sit on the Chrysanthemum throne.

A Japanese news agency reported yesterday that a panel of experts set up last month by the government to debate female succession has determined that three-year-old Princess Aiko will be next in line to her father, Prince Naruhito.

The government's chief cabinet secretary, Hiroyuki Hosoda, immediately tried to quash press speculation about a future empress, saying that the experts, who are reporting directly to the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, had "only just begun discussing" the issue.

But many believe that with the survival of the supposedly 2,600-year-old patriarchal institution at stake, the panel has little room for manoeuvre despite opposition from conservatives.

The Imperial family has not produced a baby boy since 1965 and shows little sign of doing so, forcing most observers to face the inevitable: a recent survey found that 87 per cent of the Japanese public support the idea of an empress.

Even the conservative Prime Minister has thrown his weight behind the progressives, recently stating: "In this day and age, I'm sure that the nation would welcome a female emperor."

Some pundits have speculated that Mr Koizumi has deliberately excluded right-wing traditionalists from the panel, making it what the right-leaning Sankei newspaper calls, "a rubber-stamp for the government's foregone conclusion that female emperors should be permitted".

The current crisis was sparked last year by Aiko's mother, Princess Masako, who is widely believed to have buckled under the pressure of trying to produce a male heir after she disappeared from public sight for months with what was subsequently diagnosed as a "stress-related disorder".

The head of the Imperial Household Agency, Toshio Yuasa, had earlier stated publicly that he wanted the princess to have another child, even though she had endured seven years of intense media speculation, and a miscarriage, to have her first.

Although a total of eight empresses have temporarily warmed the Chrysanthemum throne over the centuries, none has gone on to give birth to a child that later succeeded her, meaning the panel is debating what traditionalists believe is a hereditary tradition dating back to before a pope sat in Rome.

Until recently, a steady stream of concubines kept the Imperial household supplied with male babies: Emperor Meiji, who ruled over Japan's transition to a modern industrial economy until 1912, had 15 offspring with five concubines, one of whom succeeded him.

But the tradition of concubines was abolished after the Second World War, so the burden has fallen on current Emperor Akihito's small family.

Opposition to a female emperor is strongest among followers of Shinto, which was the official state religion in wartime Japan and which revered the Emperor as a god.

Although a far less potent force today, Shinto groups still run thousands of shrines around the country and are an important source of votes in the conservative countryside for Mr Koizumi's party, the ruling Liberal Democrats.

The panel's final recommendation is not expected until later this year - but with interest so intense it will be a miracle if its conclusions don't leak before then. Most expect the eventual result to be Empress Aiko, but some have more radical solutions to the problem.

A letter to the Japan Times last week said: "Let the monarchy come to a quiet end. As a result, the annoying Imperial Household Agency will be disbanded, Tokyo's parkland will be vastly increased and taxes can be cut. It would seem to be a no-brainer."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried