Last summer, we reported that Princess Mako of Japan announced her engagement. While that’s news in and of itself, it was the tradition behind the engagement that seemed to be the bigger news. As a female member of Japan’s royal family (she’s the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko), marrying a commoner (or folks like us!) means giving up your royal life. That’s right! Marry a commoner and you’re no longer considered a member of the royal family—that is, if you’re a female member of the royal family. Say, what?
In Japan, if you’re a female member of the royal family and you marry a commoner, you must give up your royal status. If you’re a male member of the royal family, however, you can keep your royal status, and the woman you marry becomes a member of the royal family. Fair or not; it’s tradition.
While Princess Mako’s wedding is on hold, another princess of the Japanese royal family, Princess Ayako, married her commoner businessman fiancé Kei Moriya this week. Although the couple was greeted with over 1,000 well-wishers at the Meiji Shrine where they held their wedding ceremony, their marriage and the fact that Princess Ayako had to renounce her title (or give up her title as Princess), once again brought up the debate about the role women play in the Japanese monarchy. Only men can succeed to the throne, and only two are currently in line to carry on the monarchy. In April, Emperor Akihito will be stepping down and passing on the Chrysanthemum Throne to his son, Prince Naruhito. The only other male to succeed Prince Naruhito is his twelve-year-old son, Prince Hisahito. Although some are in favor of tradition, others believe that this Japanese law where only male members of the royal family can inherit the throne is outdated and should be changed to allow women to inherit the throne as well. For now, it’s merely a debate. Only time will tell whether women will win over tradition.
What do you think? Should the Japanese government change its laws around royal succession? Why?