TOKYO - The Japanese government is considering holding ceremonies to celebrate Crown Prince Fumihito's ascent to first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne possibly in mid-November, an official said Monday.
The "Rikkoshi no rei" ceremonies, originally scheduled for April, have been postponed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The ceremonies are intended to proclaim the 54-year-old crown prince's new status, which he acquired after his brother, Emperor Naruhito, ascended the throne in May last year.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government will make a final decision on a possible autumn staging of the ceremonies after assessing the spread of infections following the recent four-day holiday weekend this month.
If the government concludes it is possible to adopt the new schedule, it will convene a panel to determine the specific date, the official said.
It is expected that preparations for the proclamation ceremonies will take at least a month after the scheduling is confirmed.
Two events -- the "Rikkoshi Senmei no gi" ceremony to proclaim Crown Prince Fumihito's new status and the "Choken no gi" ceremony in which he will meet with the emperor and empress following the proclamation -- had been planned for April 19.
After the coronavirus began to spread in Japan, the government initially planned to reduce the number of guests at the ceremonies to about 50 from 350. But it eventually decided to reschedule them.
Since mid-August, the number of new cases of the coronavirus has been on a downward trend in Japan and the government has gradually relaxed a range of restrictions.
Following the proclamation ceremonies, the government is likely to start full-fledged discussions on how to ensure stable imperial succession.
The size of Japan's imperial family has been decreasing under the 1947 Imperial House Law that states only males in the paternal line can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have one daughter, Princess Aiko, 18.
The emperor's enthronement in May left three heirs to the throne -- the crown prince, the crown prince's son Prince Hisahito, 13, and Prince Hitachi, 84, the uncle of the emperor.
The current law stipulates female members of the imperial family have to abandon their imperial status after they marry commoners.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, while still serving in his previous role as chief Cabinet secretary, told a parliamentary panel in February that the government plans to launch a full debate on the matter after the proclamation ceremonies.