Succession and Membership Issues

If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
Well, I know that the Imperial Family is extremely controlled by the Imperial Household Agency, but there is any clue about the Emperor and his son's opinions on the succession crisis?

They have never publicly commented on the issue, and they would not. But, all things considered, it is to be supposed that they are deeply worried... Besides, it was upon the request of Shingo Haketa, at the time grand steward of the IHA, that then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda proposed to seek opinions from experts on the matter and to submit a bill to revise the Imperial House Law to the Diet. Haketa visited Noda (DPJ) at his office on October 5, 2011, and told him it was a matter of urgency to enable female members of the imperial family to create family branches. I, for one, believe that the emperor himself was behind this request. Princess Mako, his eldest grandaughter, became of age on October, 23, 2011, and I suspect that the emperor wanted to make sure that the law would be changed before she left the imperial family by marriage, as did his only daughter in 2005.

Since then, members of the IHA have repeatedly expressed their concern because of the fact that the matter did not seem to come any closer to being resolved (see for example the Mainichi article quoted in post #816 of this thread). See also this article:

The Imperial Household Agency has become increasingly anxious over the newly surfaced proposal [to allow princesses to continue using their imperial honorary status even after leaving the royal family], and its worries reportedly stem from the concerns of the Emperor himself over the future of the Imperial family. As the Emperor strictly complies with Article 4 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the Emperor will have no government-related powers, the government has refrained from asking him and other members of the Imperial family their opinions on whether princesses should be allowed to create their own branches. However, the Emperor has received reports on the interviews that were conducted with experts over the matter, as well as on the developments of discussions over the creation of new branches. Without asking directly, the Imperial Household Agency surmised the opinions of the Emperor and Imperial family members who would be directly affected by the change in the Imperial family system, and quietly reported its views to the government, a senior agency official said.

[...] A senior agency official expressed relief Friday over the government's report. "The decrease in the number of Imperial family members is unlikely to change in the near future. I hope the government will continue to discuss the issue even if the administration changes," he said. […]
It is also to be supposed that the (former) government´s plans to „give top priority to the desires of each individual princess“ stem from the fact that imperial family members have been asked for their opinions in summer:
[...] the government chose to give top priority to the princesses' wishes for reasons of compassion. Princesses born into the Imperial family are raised on the understanding that they will leave the Imperial family when they marry and may have their own future dreams or visions. The government wants to avoid imposing constraints on the princess by allowing them to determine their own lives. The government principle reflected the views of members of the Imperial family to some extent.
One thing is for sure: something has to be made. And as soon as possible. The Princesses are getting older, and I suppose they will want to marry and have children one day.

I my opinion, we'll have to wait until the next reign to see something happening. I hope to see an Empress Aiko of Japan.
And what about Princess Akiko of Mikasa, she's the oldest of the unmarried Princesses, isn't she? She'll be 32 in December. Any information about if she's seeing someone?
A member of this forum once said:
The young gentleman who is going to tie knot with Princess Akiko is 36 years old, he belongs to a former minor Imperial branch and is a professor at the university in Tokyo.
I do not know what her source is, but I admit to being somewhat scared by this statement because the given description fits Tsuneyasu Takeda, a member of the former collateral branches with rather extreme opinions:
I think Mr Takeda wrote about his admiration of a man who said that he would assissnate Mr Koizumi the former PM if his government was to make a way for Aiko to become a Tenno.
For further info see the posts #774, #775, #778 and #780 of this thread.

One thing is for sure: something has to be made. And as soon as possible. The Princesses are getting older, and I suppose they will want to marry and have children one day.
The problem is that everybody on one hand agrees in that something should be done as soon as possible but that, on the other hand, it seems impossible to find a compromise regarding what should be done. A national Yomiuri Shimbun poll in December 2011 showed the idea of creating female-headed imperial branches had 64 per cent support among the Japanese, most experts at the government hearings backed it.

But there is a very powerful minority that is fighting tooth and nail against this solution, and one of its proponents happens to be the present prime minister... He thinks that members of the former imperial branches should get imperial status to boost the imperial family´s size. There are several difficulties with this proposal, one is that to give back imperial status to all the branches would become an immense financial burden for Japanese taxpayers. But if they choose to select just a few, it would be difficult to decide who that should be. Besides, many Japanese seem to feel like Mariaantoniapia:

Many Japanese people as in the general public do not support this idea of such men as Mr Takeda whose grandfathers were Imperial Highnesses until 1947 to be made Imperial Highnesses now and in due course become Tenno because it does not seem correct even in a traditional sense for someone who was born outside the Kouzoku (the Imperial Family) to become our Tenno.

I personally think it is good if Aiko was allowed to become the Crown Princess in due course because it is only natural for most people in Japan if she succeeded her father Naruhito. [...]

In the UK, things seem more different that women can succeed the throne like your present queen did but in Japan it has been Salic since the Meiji Restoration that women are excluded from the succession completely. Even if they were allowed to succeed the throne, many ultra right wing people will oppose the idea of a child of a Josei Tenno to succeed throne because they say that it will be the end of the male line.

I have a great respect towards the Emperor & the Empress that I really hope this succession law will be changed in due course to allow the female succession and accept the matrilineal succession as well.

Accordingly, in spite of the broad consent about the urgency of the matter, I strongly doubt that there will be done anything decisive about it any time soon. If Princess Akiko should decide to put off her marriage in order to wait for a change, she might well end up being past her child-bearing years on her wedding day.
What's the problem with the Japanese politicians? They must hear people's opinions!
Poor Princess Akiko. I believe that she, as well her sister, Princess Yoko, and the three Takamado Princesses, will have to give up their succession rights in order to marry.

But things will be different for the Emperor's three granddaughters.
Does anyone knows if the members of the former branches are keen to become members of the Imperial Family, with all the limitations imposed by the Imperial Household Agency?
If they are "former members" how can they become members of the imperial family again?
If they are "former members" how can they become members of the imperial family again?

Did you never hear about the Japanese Government plans to restore the Imperial status of those former branches?

It's seems that Shinzo Abe prefers to inflate the Imperial Family instead to let Princesses marry and keep their Imperial titles, or allow Princess Aiko to succeed to the Throne.
Poor Princess Akiko. I believe that she, as well her sister, Princess Yoko, and the three Takamado Princesses, will have to give up their succession rights in order to marry.

They won´t have to give up their succession rights because they do not have any in the first place. It should be mentioned that the question of succession rights was completely left out of the debate that took place last year (about letting princesses keep their status upon marriage). It was soon clear that the ultraconservatives would fight tooth and nail against any plans to give the princesses succession rights, and the government hoped (in vain :ermm:) that in this way it might be easier to find a compromise.

Does anyone knows if the members of the former branches are keen to become members of the Imperial Family, with all the limitations imposed by the Imperial Household Agency?

It is not known. Only one of them has ever spoken about the issue in public, the above-mentioned Tsuneyasu Takeda. According to him, the heads of the former collateral branch families agreed in late 2004, just before Koizumi's advisory panel started its discussions regarding the amendment of the succession law, not to speak out on the issue in public. Takeda, in contrast, published a book titled „The untold truth of the imperial family“ to express his opposition to the proposed revisions. He also suggested reinstating the 11 former collateral branches that lost their imperial status after World War II. When Takeda approached some members to explain his plan to write this book, they told him to act according to the family agreement and not get involved in political issues. But Takeda chose to disregard their advice.

Takeda prides himself on being the “great-great grandson of Emperor Meiji”. Ironically, he is related to Emperor Meiji (who reigned 1867 to 1912) through one of the emperor´s daughters, that means through the despised female line (although this latter fact is usually not explicitly mentioned...). Through the male line Takeda´s relation to the present imperial family is not very close – he is descended from an emperor who reigned in the 14th century.

Although Takeda claims that he would feel overwhelmed if asked to step in to maintain the imperial house, I find it rather obvious that it is his secret goal to get imperial status one day. "Sometimes people say it would be good if I were to... return to imperial status, but that is something that I would be overawed by," he once said. "It's something I can't even imagine." But it is very improbable that this is more than the usual topos of modesty that is indispensable for a well-mannered Japanese. That becomes even more clear when Takeda with seeming humility informs the public: “People think that I must have been raised in a special way or that I lead a special daily life, but I personally don't think it's been all that special.” (If a Japanese wants to let you know what a wonderful person he is, he will tell you about his great amazement regarding the fact that other people use to find him so very wonderful...:rolleyes:)

Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yoichi Masuzoe said in 2006, when confronted with the proposal to restore the former family branches, that this would be ridiculous because it would favor former aristocrats, many with tenuous blood links to long-ago emperors, over contemporary female descendants of recent sovereigns. “As far as I know only one man would like to come back,” said Masuzoe. “But if he traces back to the Imperial Family – [it's] 600 years. The current emperor, Showa Emperor, Taisho Emperor, Meiji Emperor – they worked very hard and they’re really the cornerstone of our culture and our civilization. You abolish this to return some family relatives of long, long distant relatives? Personally, I cannot do that.”
Oh, yes, I got confused with succession rights and titles. I intended to say that the Emperor's granddaughters will keep their titles upon marriage.

So, you're much more aware of what's happening in Japan than me. Do you think Parliament will restore the Imperial status of the former branches, or the politicians will let Princesses keep their titles after marrying commoners, starting their own branches of the Imperial Family?
I think they will put off making any decisions until they absolutely have to....when Hisahito is unable to produce an heir or has only daughters.
I think they will put off making any decisions until they absolutely have to....when Hisahito is unable to produce an heir or has only daughters.

If they do that, they'll be very stupid, putting all their eggs in one basket.

If, by the time one of the situations you had imagined arise, and all the Princesses had married and lost their titles, the Imperial Family will simply come to an end.
Well, it can't be totally impossible to give them their titles back, can it? But yeah, I do agree with you. Putting all their eggs in one basket is really stupid.
Well, it can't be totally impossible to give them their titles back, can it? But yeah, I do agree with you. Putting all their eggs in one basket is really stupid.

They'll have to give back their titles, and give succession rights for the Princesses, soon or later.

I believe it's easier to allow Princess Aiko become Empress, she's still young and can be groomed for the role.
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Yep, something has to be done.
Oh, yes, I got confused with succession rights and titles. I intended to say that the Emperor's granddaughters will keep their titles upon marriage.
That is but natural. :flowers: I think, in most, if not all European monarchies women had some sort of succession right, at least in case there was no male successor available, and even if they could not ascend themselves, their sons theoretically could. We are not used to how things are presently in Japan.

I think they will put off making any decisions until they absolutely have to....when Hisahito is unable to produce an heir or has only daughters.
I think you are right...

If they do that, they'll be very stupid, putting all their eggs in one basket.
... and you are right, too. *sigh*

Already at the time of Koizumi´s reform plans, an IHA official said something to the effect that he was very disturbed by the fact that politicians seemed to be so absorbed with theoretically discussing the scholastical pros and cons of every option that they completely forgot that something had to be done and that the imperial family was dependent on a quick decision.

And during the latest discussions, IHA officials have voiced similar concerns:
"I feel responsible for failing to revise the Imperial House Law seven years ago," an aide to the Emperor said before Wednesday's hearing, recalling a similar attempt to change the Imperial family system. In 2005, the administration of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi tried to revise the Imperial House Law through his private expert panel.

"The state of the Imperial family's future should be decided by family members, but they may be unable to find a way to resolve the problem [of decreasing members] in time. It would be irresponsible for us to not take measures to allow female Imperial members to retain their status after marriage now," the aide said.
Daily Yomiuri Online

Many experts at the hearings voiced the need to lessen the burden on the Emperor and the urgency of establishing Imperial family branches led by female members, considering that the Emperor had been hospitalized for bronchitis and heart surgery. "When considering the near future, the system needs to change. I'm concerned about how discussions will proceed, but all we can do is see how things develop," a senior official of the Imperial Household Agency said.

Some experts said the establishment of female branches of the Imperial family will not reduce the burden on the Emperor, as female members cannot conduct duties in place of the Emperor. However, the Imperial Household Agency has a different view.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that the Empress and princesses, including not only the Emperor's daughters and granddaughters but also great-granddaughter and others, are temporarily allowed to act on behalf of the Emperor in state matters. During the Emperor's recent stay at a hospital for heart bypass surgery, Crown Prince Naruhito carried out many of the Emperor's duties. Prince Akishino also represented the Emperor.

If female members of the Imperial family are allowed to retain their royal status after marriage, they would be able to take on the duties of Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, thereby freeing up their schedules to take over the Emperor's duties.
Daily Yomiuri Online

I am usually not a fanatic fan of the IHA, but in this case it is they who clearly see the urgency of the matter. (Not that this would be so difficult, but still too difficult for Japan´s leading politicians, obviously... :whistling:)

If you read this thread, starting around November 2011, you will see how an initiative to change the law gradually lost impetus - although right from the beginning the plans had broad support from the people, there was, in the hopes of appeasing ultraconservative protests, one compromise added and another and another - until nothing was left... :ermm:
But what the politicians say on the matters of succession and future of the Imperial Family?

Is there any group in Parliament who advocates in favour of female succession?
How politically powerful are the ultra conservatives in Japanese politics today?
How politically powerful are the ultra conservatives in Japanese politics today?
Very powerful. Several watchers say that there has been a conservative backlash in Japan since the mid-nineties. The present prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is one of the main proponents of ultraconservatives. He has always been against the ascension of women to the throne, even at a time when Koizumi´s plans to change the law accordingly had nearly 90% support, according to polls, and were also supported by the majority of Koizumi´s and Abe´s own party, the LDP. There are several spectators very concerned about what Abe´s comeback to power might mean for Japan, for Asia and maybe even for the world. Before the elections last December, the Japan Times wrote:
This is the 15th general election I have witnessed since coming to live in Japan in 1967, and by any standards it is the most crucial one of those for this country. […]

If Abe becomes the next prime minister, the threat of Japan becoming involved in another “stupid war” becomes real. That the Constitution has overseen peace and prosperity in Japan for more than 65 years is a tribute to its validity. Destroy that and all Asia may plunge into nationalistic clashes and cross-border turmoil. Article 9 of the Constitution is not only the mainstay of Japan’s integrity — it is the hope of all Asia. This election may be key to deciding its future once and for all.
However, the LDP did not win the elections because people were particularly supportive of their politics but rather, because the voting public was seeking to punish the DPJ:
In an Asahi Shimbun survey 81 percent of respondents answered that the LDP's victory was because of "disappointment with the DPJ government," compared with only 7 percent that thought it was due to "support for the LDP's policies." [...] On a more basic level, the elections were a major rebuke to Japan's entire political class.
Japan Times

The voter turnout was, at 59.3 percent, the lowest in Japan's postwar history:
Much was made by candidates of the suffering of those displaced by the tsunami and nuclear disaster, but among the victims there was a pervasive sense that their plight was being used more for political gain. Ryohei Endo, who was forced to leave his hometown in Fukushima and is now living in temporary accommodations, expressed this sentiment: "I wonder how concerned [the candidates] are about people leading miserable lives like us? ... I assume they want to be Diet members for their own sake in the end." [...] The poor handling of the crisis in Fukushima and the slow progress in rebuilding from the tsunami are not just problems in and of themselves. These failings are a microcosm of the more general malaise that has come to define Japanese democracy.

If a massive natural disaster and the world's second-worst nuclear accident have not been enough to spur the country's politicians into action, it is hardly surprising that the public is losing faith in them. This situation is deeply corrosive for Japan's democracy in the long term.
In my opinion, that is exactly what the emperor thinks, too. His remarks regarding the situation of the disaster victims were remarkably blunt:
The number of dead or missing at the time of the disaster was reported to be over 18,000, but since then, there have been more than 2,000 disaster-related deaths, bringing the total number of victims to over 20,000. Many who survived the terrible earthquake and tsunami lost their lives because of harsh living conditions where sufficient medical care and other needs could not be provided. I feel this is indeed a tragedy.
It goes without saying that a rich nation like Japan could easily have provided the ressources to save most of these lives - if this had been a priority. As a cleanup worker at Fukushima put it: "I doubt any politician is giving serious thought to how to bring the crisis under control."

Here is one article that comments on the “LDP’s Nationalist Side“ and here is another that deals with roots of ultraconservative power in Japan.
Besides, regarding recent developments and the fact that quite a few popular politicians in today’s Japan take a very populist anti-foreigner stance and promote revisionist interpretations of Japan’s history, I would like to refer you to this blog of mine: Emperor Akihito’s Life’s Work in Serious Danger
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But what the politicians say on the matters of succession and future of the Imperial Family?

Is there any group in Parliament who advocates in favour of female succession?

Japan is a very consent-based society which leads to politicians of opposing parties often voicing remarkably similar opinions. These "official" opinions, so to speak, usually reflect what sort of compromise they think would be realistic, at any given moment, based on the real, more differing opinions (that are in existence but usually not openly expressed) and the current balance of power.

That is, incidentally, why it gave me a lot of confidence about the planned changes when in January 2012, former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki aired the idea that
"The most appropriate way would be to legalize creation of a branch of the Imperial family headed by a female member on condition that if she marries a commoner, that branch would last only for one generation, and that if she marries a male descendant of former Imperial family members, that branch would be made permanent."
(Japan Times)

Ibuki, one has to know, was education minister in the present Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's first cabinet. (Abe (LDP) was already prime minister for a short time in 2006/2007. He succeeded Koizumi (also LDP) (who was responsible for the first attempt to change the Imperial House Law and give women succession rights). Abe had always made it clear that he was opposed to a reigning empress.)

Ibuki became famous at the time because he wanted to abolish the one hour of English per week taught in fifth and sixth grade of Japanese schools, claiming that children should „first learn good Japanese“. (One wonders what sort of school that may be that has not succeeded in teaching its pupils good Japanese until fifth grade.
) Ibuki, not surprisingly, was a member of a group of LDP lawmakers who planned to push for a revision to the Imperial House Law to allow former members of the royal family to restore their status. But in January 2012 Ibuki, instead of further advocating the reestablishment of abolished family branches, turned to giving recommendations for „improvements“ of the law that would allow married princesses to stay in the family. Imo that clearly showed that he had given up on preventing the law or on supplanting it with a law to restore the status of former family members. It did not mean, though, that he had given up his opinion, considering the re-establishment of the former collateral branches. But typically for a Japanese, he gave up on voicing a point of view that seemed too controversial at the time, and instead took to proposing „improvements“ of the upcoming change that seemed inevitable.

Fortunately for Ibuki (and unfortunately for a lot of other people), he was proven wrong. But I am quoting this example to show that even if politicians should be in favour of female succession, it would not be considered very wise in the present climate and under an ultraconservative prime minister, to explicitly say so.

Actually, even the former Noda government was probably not openly saying what they really thought but was acting in an opportunistic way. In the very beginning of the debate, in November 2011, it seemed that the Noda government intended to also address the succession issue, but, after fierce ultraconservative protests gave up on it very soon. This could well have come as a surprise to someone who knew a bit about Japanese politics and the DPJ...

DPJ member Yoko Komiyama, then shadow minister of justice of the DPJ, told a foreign reporter in 2004: “My opinion is that succession should be to the first child, whether it is male or female, as this is an age of equality.” In November 2011, Ms Komiyama held the position of Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare in Noda´s cabinet. Taking into account these two facts, I´d suppose that the Noda government would have been just fine with changing the succession law to let women ascend, and just be done with it, once and for all. But they knew that this was a potentially very controversial view (even though it was probably the majority´s view). That is why they did not openly express it (even if they were the ruling party) but, at first, “tested the water” by saying that there also might be some problems with the stability of the succession (“mid-term”). But when they found that the water was much too hot for their taste :whistling:, they immediately drew back and proposed to concentrate on the question of imperial female-headed branches without succession rights.

Again, that is the Japanese way. If someone in Japan tells you his opinion, this may be his actual opinion. But it is more probable that he is just telling you about that part of his opinion that he thinks is acceptable to a relevant majority, and leaves out the rest.
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If the Parliament approve female headed branch, I believe they'll be taking a step toward female succession to the throne.
Scholar Yamaori says Crown Prince Naruhito should abdicate
By SHUNJI MORIMOTO/ Senior Staff Writer
A religious studies scholar, citing the health of Crown Princess Masako, has stirred controversy by calling on Crown Prince Naruhito to abdicate his position as first in line to succeed Emperor Akihito. [...]

Some have said Yamaori's suggestion would never work under the current Imperial Household Law. Others say it is important to discuss the issue, even if it is a very delicate one. [...]

Yamaori wrote that the people and media have directed "some concerns and rather excessive expectations" toward Naruhito's family.
“There is the possibility that the manner of viewing could someday change to one that is colder and less forgiving," he wrote. [...]

"I believe the time has come for the crown prince, Masako and their daughter, Princess Aiko, to choose how they want to spend the rest of their lives in a separate role," he wrote. Yamaori concluded that Naruhito should turn over the post of crown prince to his younger brother, Prince Fumihito.
The Asahi Shimbun, April 10, 2013

Although he does not actually say so, Yamaori, obviously, does not mean that Naruhito should give up his imperial status. As I have said before in this forum, I do not think that anybody could seriously consider this option, for a very simple practical reason: Naruhito is, his brother excepted, the only grown up male member in the imperial family who has not yet reached retirement age, and will remain so for more than a decade. They urgently need him, for many years to come, and I am unable to perceive how they could ever afford to let him go.

Of course, it would be theoretically possible for Naruhito to just renounce his succession right without giving up his imperial status. But why on earth should he do that? It would mean that he and his family would have to bear all the burdens of royal life, but without the benefit of getting in time at least some say in how things should be run.

So, although Yamaori says that "Naruhito should take his family away from the enormous pressure it is facing" which sounds as if he was making his proposal out of compassion, I really cannot perceive that the situation for the crown prince and his family would get any better if it was realized. It would be a different matter if Naruhito, Masako and Aiko could actually get commoner status (with an imperial "dowry", obviously, because otherwise they might have difficulties to get the bare necessities of life) and live wherever they like, in whatever way they like. This might - maybe - grant them a happier way of life (although it would imho be a catastrophe for Japan). But if Naruhito should just be forced to give up his succession right and be made to stay as part of the "royal workforce", as Yamaori seems to propose, this would make things even worse for him and his family. So, if Yamaori´s motive is not the promotion of the individual happiness of imperial family members - which seems clear, to me at least - the question remains: what is?

It is very difficult for me to get reliable any information on Yamaori and his intentions as most of his writings are only available in Japanese. But there is some evidence that he may belong to the people who want to make use of the emperor for their nationalist purposes. He for several years served as director-general for the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken):
The cultural-anthropologist Ueno Chizuko sharply criticized the center as a calculated attempt at national branding. Ueno claimed that, despite the center's academic pretensions, the real purpose of Nichibunken was to improve the image of Japan in order to prevent criticism of Japanese trading practices and improve sales of Japanese goods abroad. Ian Buruma caused considerable outrage at the time for arguing in influential newspapers abroad that the establishment of the Center was part of a project designed to revamp the kind of nationalist ideology current in pre-war Japan. The center has also been criticized for promoting theories of Japanese particularism.
Besides, I have found a 2011 article of Yamaori for The Yomiuri Shimbun in which he says:
Taking a bird's-eye view of Japan's sweep of history over the past millennium or so, two distinctive points can be made that no other country can boast of. The first is that this nation enjoyed two extensive periods of peace--about 350 years during the Heian period (794-1192) and about 250 years during the Edo period (1603-1867). […] These periods of peace are historical phenomena peculiar to Japan and can justly be called miraculous. […]

I can only call the second point of distinctiveness another historical miracle. Our nation was not invaded or occupied by another nation for more than 1,000 years until the Showa era (1936-89). […]

We should enlighten the world on Pax Japonica: the combination of the Shintoist and Buddhist religions and government under the symbolic emperor system. Japan must reject its passive politics and discontinue the traditional diplomatic posture of trying to read the "faces" of other countries before making decisions. Instead, it should show the world what it is made of. As an economic powerhouse, Japan should make its mark in the world by exporting spiritual culture along with material products.
You may think that this is a rather harmless and well-meant comment made by a patriotic historian. But it should be mentioned in this context that the political slogan “Hakkō ichiu” was one of the central characteristics of Japan´s pre-war value system. “Hakkō ichiu” – “all the world under one roof” – was the ideal that allegedly had been set up for the Japanese nation by the legendary first tenno Jimmu, the founder of the monarchy. “Hakkō ichiu” expresses the idea of Japanese racial superiority and orders the Japanese people to conquer the world in order to endow it with the supreme blessing of the unique Japanese national spirit that the tenno embodies. (Forum members who know a bit about German history may feel reminded of the slogan „Am deutschen Wesen soll die Welt genesen.“ - „The German spirit shall heal the world.“ that sounds very benevolent, too, but has a very menacing undertone to the informed reader.)

After the war, Japanese ultranationalists have taken to defining this Japanese "uniqueness" more specifically by emphasizing the alleged peace-loving nature of the Japanese nation, so the underlying threat has become nearly invisible. But it is maybe understandable that the countries that once suffered under the Japanese occupation forces to this day rather feel provoked than soothed if they are being told that the main trait of the Japanese national character is allegedly a special love of peace. If this eternal "peaceloving nature" did not keep Japan in the past from invading their countries, one might well ask if Japan actually defines "peace" in the same way as the rest of the world.

Accordingly, I, for one, suppose that the intentions that are behind Yamaori´s call for the crown prince to abdicate can, in some respects, be compared to those that caused the nasty press campaign against Empress Michiko in 1993. I want to further explain what I mean by that: On her 59th birthday, the empress collapsed and was unable to speak for some time. The New York Times wrote:

For several months some of the country's weekly magazines have been engaged in a rare attack on the Empress for offenses that in any other society would seem petty, if not ridiculous. The ostensible complaint is that Michiko is too demanding, forcing her ladies-in-waiting and chamberlains to endure endless changes of clothes between official events and to bring her noodles, tea or snacks when she has friends over late into the night.
Then there are stories of extravagance, like the one that she sought to cut down a dense area of woods on the palace grounds to make way for a new residence for herself and the Emperor.
There is reason to suppose that there was a very serious political background to this bitchy media gossip:
"No one believes the stories about Michiko," a Japanese reporter who covers the royalty said over the weekend. "And no one believes the palace's explanation that she is all right, and just needs some rest. There is something else going on." Some Japanese professing to understand the bizarre court politics of the palace say Michiko's habits are not the issue at all. Instead, they argue that it is a smoke screen for far more fundamental criticism about the direction in which she and Emperor Akihito have taken the Chrysanthemum Throne since they were formally enthroned in 1990. […] Some believe the nastiest comments were directed at Michiko because in Japan one still dares not find fault with the Emperor.

If that conspiracy theory is correct, and it is just one of many floating around, Michiko may have fallen victim to the latest subterranean battle between conservatives who want the Japanese imperial family to stay as it was -- remote, untouchable and mysterious -- and those trying to modernize its image. So far, the modernizers have scored all the points.

Though Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are hardly revolutionaries -- they say precious little beyond bland expressions of good will -- they have definitely set a different tone from that of Hirohito, the wartime leader whose every utterance seemed only to muddy the question of what he really thought. […] A year ago this month Akihito became the first Japanese ruler ever to visit China, speaking along the way of the "unbearable suffering" Japan inflicted there. Earlier this year he visited Okinawa, an island chain whose residents feel they were sacrificed by the Japanese Government in a last-ditch effort to save the mainland from the invading American forces in 1945.

The right wing was angered anew, though it could not say so publicly, by the selection of Masako Owada as the Crown Princess, and thus the next Empress. The Crown Princess does not descend from the "daimyo" families, Japan's old feudal lords, but from a family that represents Japan's new elite, educated as she was at Harvard and Oxford.
The ultranationalist Shinzo Abe is presently Japan´s prime minister and he is pursuing one of conservatives` favourite goals: to (finally!) revise Japan´s pacifist post-war constitution and change the emperor´s title from ‘symbol’ to ‘Head of State’. Japan, so far, does not have an official head of state. The emperor was demoted at the end of the war from a "living god" to a mere "symbol of the state". The reason for this measure was that the war had been begun, countries had been invaded and atrocities committed in the name of this very imperial "divine being", and the US-occupiers, accordingly, thought it necessary to radically change the tenno´s role and function, so he would be able to serve henceforth as the peaceful symbol of a modern democracy. To declare him the head of state could, even today, seem provocative to Japan´s neighbouring countries because it might be understood as a sign that Japan is planning, at least to some degree, to return to the old nationalist pre-war ways.

For Japanese conservatives it is, on the other hand, a darling project to give at least some of the political power back to the emperor that he used to wield in the Meiji era. This does not mean that they actually want the individual who happens to occupy the throne to have more power - Japan has a longstanding political tradition and history of sidelining the emperor, while others control power from behind the throne. Sloganeering about being loyal to the tenno was widespread in the past, and sometimes used by both of two inimical groups that were fighting for power. Too often, a closer look would have revealed that the tenno to be supported was not the individual who was actually occupying the throne but the legendary first tenno Jimmu I have already mentioned above. The authority of the tenno rather served as a justification for whatever measures were taken in his name. That means that it is, traditionally, not that important what sort of person the tenno is as long as he does not stand in the way of the people who actually rule the country. (For more on this issue please see here.)

The problem is - for ultraconservatives - that neither Akihito nor Naruhito really fit their purpose. By granting one of them more political power, conservatives would, in a certain way, just have managed to shoot themselves in the foot by realizing their plans: It is pretty clear that neither Akihito nor Naruhito would ever use this power in the interest of conservatives or would be willing to serve as mere token figureheads.

Unfortunately for ultraconservatives, there is not much they can do against Akihito. Fortunately for them, it is to be supposed that he will not be around to disturb them for many decades more as he will turn eighty this year. But it is certainly, from their point of view, a goal well worth fighting for to weaken Naruhito as much as possible, or to even get rid of him and replace him by his more cooperative brother. In this context, it is interesting to note that Akishino has taken great pains to present himself as the „Shinto-friendly alternative“ lately. (As often in Japan, there is a double meaning to "Shinto" - on one hand, Shinto is just a set of religious practices and rituals, based on the indigenous spirituality of the Japanese people and used by most Japanese at certain points in their lives. But on the other hand, "State Shinto" was once a powerful instrument in the hands of early 19th century militarists, who used it to glorify their policy of aggression that, finally, led to World War II.)

Last autumn, Akishino, along with his wife, took Hisahito to visiting the tomb of Emperor Jimmu. (As I have said before, Jimmu is one of the most important symbols of nationalists, and Akishino´s visit is rendered even more remarkable by the fact that Jimmu´s tomb does not belong to those that are most often frequented by members of the imperial family.) In March, Akishino went to visit the tomb of wartime Emperor Hirohito, and recently, he went with his family to Ise Grand Shrine. (One should mention that the shrine buildings at Ise are rebuilt every 20 years. The next scheduled rebuilding is due in autumn and the opening ceremony is traditionally an occasion where the conservative political and intellectual elite use to meet.) This time, Akishino took also Kako to the site, but imo already the fact that he left her at home when they visited the emperors` tombs gives us a clear message that will be much to the liking of ultraconservatives: girls are not really important for the imperial line...

I suppose that the abdication debate is very painful to Naruhito. I do not think that anybody can actually force him to give up his succession right, and I strongly doubt that he will relent under the pressure (as I said, there is nothing for him (or his family) to gain anyway by giving in). But they can hardly keep this whole debate a secret from Masako, and I am afraid she will worry because she will feel, again, like a hindrance to her husband and feel an immense pressure to recover as quickly as possible. And what pressure does to her, we already all know.

But as far as Japan and the Japanese are concerned, I think they are very lucky indeed that their next emperor will, in spite of everything, probably be called Naruhito. As I mentioned in the other thread, there are happening strange things in Japan that may even concern the international community. Roger Pulvers, an author, playwright, theater director and translator who divides his time between Tokyo and Sydney, wrote before the election last December:
If Abe becomes the next prime minister, the threat of Japan becoming involved in another “stupid war” becomes real.
Since then, Abe has become the next prime minister, and considering the fact that Japan is surrounded by countries like China, South and, notably, North Korea (that are not exactly angels of peace themselves), one might well have worries regarding the region´s future.
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So far, the emperor has always served as a "counterbalance", taking great pains to further peace and reconciliation. Last September, during the conflict with South Korea, he said that if he should be requested to formally apologize to Korea for Japan´s past colonialist rule, he would have no problem whatsoever to do that. He has once publicly spoken about the imperial family´s Korean roots (a big taboo in Japan), and he has never visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine. As a consequence, he is an authority all pacifist people in Japan are free to refer to. In order to be able to become this symbol of peace, Akihito (and his wife, see above) had to bear the biting criticism of diehards who wish the prewar monarchy to come back. I am sure he was, many times, obliged to resist the temptation to stop fighting and just give in to the requests of those who, admittedly, are the most ardent fans of Japan´s monarchy: the ultranationalists. I am sure though, that Emperor Akihito will always stand his ground, as long as he lives because he knows too well what is at stake for his country, and I am also sure that Naruhito would follow in his father´s footsteps, in this respect.

But I am very afraid that Akishino would not have the strength to do the same, to do what he knows is right for his country, even if it is clear that he will never get a "thank you" back, but mainly friendly disinterest or even nasty media campaigns. I do not even have the impression that he understands why it is so important that the emperor of Japan has become and remains a symbol of peace and reconciliation - not of a so-called "peace" (like in Orwell´s "Ministry of Peace") that just serves as a cover-up for aggressive purposes, but of a peace that can be recognized and cherished also by Japan´s former enemies.

If Akishino ever should become emperor, I would like him very much to prove me wrong. But, unfortunately, I strongly doubt that he will....
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I somewhat understand what you said ChiaraC, because I feel the same as you.

Emperor Akihito is a very approachable person and he values his country and his people that he feels that he needs to protect them at any costs, but protect in a healthy and correct way, always pursuing peace and unification. I truly admire him.

As for Akishino, I have the same feeling as you do. Naruhito received a diferent education and his personality got a positive approach of that education, while Akishino was labeled as the extra son, I think he maybe got a rebel inner-feelings about this bein' "just the other". Since he has a son, he seems so high in attitude, like he won the world and I especially don't like that, however I hope he can prove me wrong when he reigns in the future, as I seriously doubt that. Shall Naruhito reign in the future, when he dies, I believe Akishino is no longer around (please forgive me for saying this) and Hisahito will follow his uncle in the succession.

(I thought and still think that Akishino should renounce his right to the throne if his brother dies after reigning for a long time, Akishino as future Emperor was not supposed to happen if Naruhito had a son, that's why Hisahito was born, so its more appropriate if Hisahito is made 2nd in line. I don't know if I'm explaining this well, but what I feel is that Akishino should not be greedy and let his son reign instead of him, because he was not supposed to be the future Emperor in the first place)
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What I am getting from this speculation is that, when the Emperor dies, there will be a certain division in Japan.
I doubt that Yamaori is alone in his views. His statement may actually be a feeler to gauge public response.
I also suspect sympathy for Masako has worn thin.

If it comes to a power struggle between the brothers, I feel it will have serious impact on the future of the monarchy in Japan. (It may be a delicate issue, but they should settle things now, before Akihito is gone).
Thanks for the updates!
As usually, Professor Yamaori diplomatically conveys the message about a possible resolution of Crown Princely family's issues. Does this indicate that the IHA is unable to do anything about the situation?
It remains to be seen whether or not the succession will change.
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Kathia Sophia, I agree with you in every point. :flowers: Emperor Akihito is a very admirable man whom I highly respect, and regarding Akishino´s personality and the reasons for it, I have quite similar notions as you.

But although I hope, for political reasons, that Akishino will never get to reign, even I suppose that it would be asking too much of him if he was requested to abdicate in favour of his son. All I would desire of him would be: to loyally support his brother as long as Naruhito lives. I had the impression that Emperor Akihito has made efforts after he recovered from his heart surgery to bring the brothers together and make them work as a team for the monarchy and for the nation. But I am afraid that as long as Akishino still sees a chance to “beat” his brother, he will end up trying to do just that and, well - forget about the nation... :ermm:

Mirabel, there already is a division in Japan, and one could easily argue that the succession issue is but one of the smaller matters regarding which the country is at odds.

Albina, you are very welcome! :flowers:

I hope I have made it clear that, as I see things, Professor Yamaori´s proposal is not a suitable resolution at all (except for the political minority that wishes to isolate Japan from its neighbours and the international community), but neither for the crown prince and his family nor for the Japanese people in general, for reasons I have pointed out above. (Of course, you are most welcome to disagree if you choose.)

There are two burning issues here: the decrease of imperial family members and the lack of heirs to the throne. None of them would get any better if Naruhito gave up his claim to the throne. (To the contrary, actually.)

Regarding Masako, I really do not see how it should help her health if she were „demoted“ from being the crown princess to being the wife of a mere imperial prince without succession rights.

And, just for a change, this is clearly not the fault of the IHA. Neither the IHA nor the imperial family are actually in a position to solve the present problems. The Imperial Household Law has to be changed in one way or other, and the IHA has repeatedly expressed its concern that this is not happening. It would be up to the Diet to accomplish this. (But it is highly improbable that Japanese lawmakers will tackle this issue.)

Princess Masako is not the only member of the family who suffers from stress, she is only the one who is most famous for it. If no changes are made, the imperial burden will have to be born by fewer and fewer royals in the future. Even worse, the burden to carry on the line is already on six-year-old Hisahito (and his poor future wife) alone. Even if Masako left the palace in one way or other, this would predictably not be the end of stress-induced illnesses in the family - but rather the beginning...
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Thanks for the additional clarifications!
It appears Professor Yamaori and vocal minority could not make Crown Prince and the IHA do the right thing. So they tone down the rhetoric and care for Crown Princess Masako's well-being now.
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