The moats will still be there

Boy or girl, Imperial Family faces same problems

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 September 2006
Last updated 1 September 2006

Boy or girl for Kiko, the Imperial Family will continue to face the same problems. If a girl, then the ball goes back to the Diet to revise court laws -- with the same list of divisive issues. If a boy, then three decades down the line there will be a replay of the "who will marry him" scenario we saw when Hironomiya declared his candidacy for marriage -- and promised to protect Masako if she changed her mind and accepted his proposal.

The boy would grow up surrounded by women -- no brothers, no male cousins. He would be raised by the more animated and freer of the two imperial couples in Akihito's line. In public, Fumihito and Kiko are as stiff as Naruhito and Masako, but privately their lives have been much less constrained by official expectations and demands.

By the time the boy marries, his older sisters Mako and Kako will have already found mates and left the imperial family register -- unless the present Imperial House Law is changed. His cousin, Aiko, may face the same problem Akihito's daughter Sayako did for many years -- finding a commoner willing to marry the emperor's daughter -- for by then her father, Naruhito, will have ascended the throne.

Akihito and Michiko, and Hitachi and Hanako, will likely have passed on. One or two members of the Mikasa line may still be around. But the only viable branch of the Imperial Family will have shrunk to the boy and whoever he promises to protect as a condition for marrying him -- and their kids.

That's one nuclear family to bear the entire weight of the Chrysanthemum Throne -- still surrounded by a legal moat called the Imperial Household Law, and a bureaucratic one called the Imperial Household Agency.