December 01, 2005

Problems with patrilineage

As the current Crown Prince of Japan (Akihito's eldest son) has no male children, lawmakers have been wrestling with stodgy Imperial Household Agency over the most obvious solution to the problem:

A government panel on imperial succession has issued a final proposal to revise the Imperial Household Law . . . . The immediate effect of the revision would be that three-year-old Princess Aiko, the Crown Prince and Princess' only child, will become the nation's first female emperor since female Emperor Go-Sakuramachi, who reigned from 1762 to 1770.

The real problem is a tricky one of patrilineage:

All those who succeeded to the Imperial throne, with eight female emperors counted among them, had emperors on their fathers' side, including cases in which their emperor ancestors were more than one generation apart. Traditionalists place the biggest importance to this unbroken male line of emperors, or "Bansei Ikkei," literally one line through all ages.

But to maintain the male line only with children born to emperors and their wives was often difficult. Nearly 60 emperors were children born to emperors and their concubines, including the Emperor Meiji and the Emperor Taisho. The current Imperial Household Law, enacted in 1947, excludes the concubine system.

Of course, some people aren't happy:

Academics and other commentators Friday blasted a government panel's recommendation that women and their descendants be allowed to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, claiming it would break with tradition.

And, hey, if it worked before:

The question is whether it is the right thing to change our unique tradition and and history so easily," the Emperor's cousin, Prince Tomohito, wrote in a recent essay distributed to palace officials. "Using concubines, like we used to, is one option. I'm all for it, but this might be a little difficult considering the social climate in and outside the country."

You think? As you might imagine, though, overall public opinion is pretty favorable (towards a female monarch, that is, not towards concubines).

And speaking of the kid in question, the less she gets involved in these nasty palace intrigues, the better:

Japanese Prince Akishino has said he seldom talks to his brother Crown Prince Naruhito . . . . Naruhito took the unprecedented step last year of saying [Crown Princess] Masako was being deprived of her personality since she quit her promising diplomatic career for palace life. Akishino [then publicly] took his brother to task, saying he should have first consulted their father, Emperor Akihito.

On the plus side, she won't have to bother with this empress business for another half century or so, minimum, and who knows what the world will be like, then? I'd bet Prince Charles is just as happy warming the bench as sitting in the hot seat, as well.

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