Japan’s shrinking royal family may have to cut down on its duties as more of its members opt out of the royalty.
Crown Prince Fumihito, better known as Prince Akishino, is now next in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after his father, Akihito, abdicated at the end of April and his brother Naruhito succeeded him in May.
The family faces a declining membership, with Akihito and his wife now retired and their three granddaughters expected to lose royal status when they each marry a commoner.
Japanese Emperor Naruhito's younger brother told reporters ahead of a trip to Finland and Poland to mark Japan's diplomatic centennial that scaling down of imperial duties is inevitable.
"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."
Official duties increased during the reign of Akihito, who actively interacted with the public, including visiting disaster-hit areas to console residents, and became a hugely popular emperor.
But this looks set to reverse as the royal family continues to dwindle in size.
Naruhito's succession left only two younger males in line for the throne, 53-year-old Akishino and his 12-year-old son, Hisahito.
Naruhito's 17-year-old daughter, Aiko, and Akishino's daughters Mako and Kako are not in line to the throne because they are women.
Akishino said he believes royal duties can be shared equally regardless of gender, but declined to comment on whether female emperors should be allowed.
The government earlier considered the possibility of female emperors, but the discussion halted as soon as Hisahito was born.
Surveys have shown that most Japanese support having female emperors, as Aiko has become increasingly popular.
A survey earlier this year, found while over 82 per cent of respondents felt affection for the new emperor of Japan, nearly 80 per cent would support allowing a woman to take the imperial throne.
Additional reporting by PA
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