The Yomiuri ShimbunPrincess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, is to become engaged. We would like to express our heartiest congratulations to her.
This is the first time a granddaughter of the current Emperor will marry. This will also be the first auspicious occasion of a naishinno princess marrying since Sayako Kuroda, eldest daughter of the Emperor, did so in 2005.
Princess Mako’s prospective fiance is Kei Komuro, a former fellow student at university. The two met at a party for students to exchange opinions on studying abroad in 2012. With the consent of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, the two deepened their relationship.
Female Imperial family members have mostly married into the family of former peers and the like.
Komuro is an ordinary young man working at a law firm. Like Sayako, who married an employee of the Tokyo metropolitan government, Princess Mako has been the embodiment of an Imperial family member who is close to the public. Being an amiable person, she will surely build a cheerful home.
After graduating from the International Christian University, Princess Mako joined a postgraduate program to study museology at the University of Leicester. She is currently an affiliate researcher at the University Museum of the University of Tokyo.
Princess Mako has also actively engaged in public duties. She has fulfilled her role as a member of the Imperial family splendidly — by, for instance, visiting areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and speaking kindly to children there.
Discuss female branches
According to the current Imperial House Law provisions, a female Imperial family member will leave the Imperial family after marriage. Princess Mako’s marriage would leave six unmarried female Imperial family members. Should they leave the Imperial family upon marriage in the future, as Prince Mako will, it might become difficult to fulfill the various public duties currently being shared among the Imperial family members.
Responding to the declining number of Imperial family members is an important challenge.
In a supplementary resolution to a bill for establishing a special measures law enabling the Emperor to abdicate, political parties and parliamentary groups in the Diet are continuing to coordinate their views on whether to stipulate the need for a discussion on creating female Imperial branches.
Creating female Imperial branches would enable women to remain Imperial family members even after marriage. In 2012, the administration of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda publicized its points of discussion, saying the creation of female Imperial branches should be discussed. But following the inauguration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s second administration later that year, there has been no progress made regarding the discussion.
As a realistic measure for maintaining the number of Imperial family members, the creation of female Imperial branches should be incorporated into the supplementary resolution so the issue can be discussed in depth.
Another approach would be to restore Imperial membership for males who left the Imperial family after the war and who are descendants of princes. Prime Minister Abe also proposed this idea in a monthly magazine when his party was one of the opposition. Although this is primarily aimed at realizing a stable Imperial succession of males, it is hard to say the idea has won broad support.
In Diet interpellations in January, Abe said, “It is possible that all eligible people would refuse [to be restored].”
On this auspicious occasion, the issue of how the Imperial family should be in the future should be given thorough consideration.