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Japan may allow women to keep imperial status after marriage.

TOKYO, Nov. 25 Kyodo

Japan's top government spokesman Osamu Fujimura on Friday suggested looking into the possibility of allowing women to retain their imperial status even after marriage.

The current Imperial House Law stipulates that female members have to leave the family when they marry a commoner.

''Looking at it as a fundamental issue for the nation, we recognize the need to make consideration based on sufficient discussions with all levels of society,'' the chief Cabinet secretary told a news conference.

Fujimura made the comment when asked if Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration will adhere to a report by a panel of experts on the possibility of creating such a system. The report was made under the government led by the Liberal Democratic Party, which is now the country's main opposition.

According to Fujimura, Shingo Haketa, chief of the Imperial Household Agency briefed Noda on Oct. 5, a month after he launched his government, about the current situation and the future of the imperial family.

Among the concerns raised were that female members are nearing the age of marriage and the provision of the Imperial House Law that requires female members to leave the family when they marry a commoner.

Currently, there are 23 imperial family members, of which eight are unmarried females, including Princess Aiko, 9, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, and the daughters of Prince Akishino -- Princess Mako, 20 and Princess Kako, 16.

Haketa, the grand steward of the agency, is believed to have told the premier that the imperial family cannot maintain their activities in a stable manner because its members will decrease in the future given the large number of female members, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Some experts have been calling for a revision of the law that would allow female members to maintain their imperial status even after marriage.

Fujimura refuted a local news report that the agency made a request to make such a move possible, and said the government has no immediate plans to amend the law.

Also touching on the imperial succession, Fujimura said the government recognizes that there remains ''uncertainty'' about how to secure a stable line of succession.

Japan's traditional imperial succession rules allow only males to ascend the throne. But given that the ranks of imperial successors are shrinking rapidly, debate has been ongoing through the years about whether to allow female monarchs.

Crown Prince Naruhito, Emperor Akihito's eldest son, is the first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, followed by Prince Akishino, the emperor's second son, and then Prince Hisahito, 5, the son of Prince Akishino.

The Imperial Household Agency says reforms to Japan's imperial system constitute a political and legal issue and must be tackled by the Cabinet and parliament.

As stated by the Japanese Constitution, the emperor serves as a symbol of the state, and has no authority over national political affairs.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Nov 28, 2011
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