The Japanese government has decided to postpone holding full-fledged talks on how to achieve a stable imperial succession in the country to next spring as a divide in views has surfaced even within the ruling party.
Sources close to the matter recently said that as Crown Prince Fumihito is scheduled to announce himself to be first in line to the throne in a ceremony on April 19, the government plans to start the debate after the event to avoid a worsening divide within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Japan's imperial house has been shrinking under the 1947 Imperial House Law that states only men in the paternal line can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, and the Diet has called for a swift discussion on its course.
Some opposition parties have proposed tolerating succession by women or by members in the maternal line, while a group within the LDP adamant about sticking to the patrilineal succession has urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to break the centuries-old tradition.
But Akira Amari, a senior LDP lawmaker, said during a TV program aired Nov. 24 that succession by members in the matrilineage "should be tolerated as a last option" after placing members in the patrilineage before them in the order of succession.
While Amari later explained he was not actively advocating emperors of the matrilineage, Tetsuro Fukuyama, the secretary general of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, welcomed the comment, saying the fact that different views within the ruling party surfaced was valuable in itself.
Amari's remarks were followed by LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai's that was also widely seen as supporting a new style of succession as he has previously mentioned tolerating female emperors.
"As we bear in mind the equality of men and women and the democratic society, the conclusion is obvious," Nikai said at a press conference on Nov. 26.
The government initially planned to set up a panel to debate the future of the imperial succession after Emperor Naruhito completed Daijosai last month, a major Shinto-style Thanksgiving ritual accompanying his enthronement on May 1.
After Emperor Naruhito rose to the throne, the imperial family is only left with three heirs -- the emperor's younger brother, Crown Prince Fumihito, 54, his son, Prince Hisahito, 13, and Prince Hitachi, 84, the uncle of the emperor.