Sunday, February 12, 2006

Japan's succession "crisis"

If you are a Japan watcher, you know this issue in Japan: whether the Imperial Household Law (the law on the Japanese royal family) needs to be reformed so that a woman can ascend throne. (See this BBC article last month and this month.)

But BBC doesn't seem to understand the fundamental issue here (nor the Japanese media, though). The issue is not whether or not a woman can succeed to the throne but whether or not a child of a woman in the royal family can become the Emperor of Japan.

In its history of more than 1500 years, the Japanese royal family did have female emperors (there are eight of them, two of whom became the empress twice). The current law prohibiting a woman to succeed is a product of Meiji Japan (in the late 19th century). But no children of these female tennou (the Japanese term for the Emperor of Japan) ascended throne. Which means that the current emperor has blood inherited only through men during the past 1500 years.

Those Japanese putting heavy weight on tradition, therefore, oppose the idea that a woman becomes the Emperor of Japan. Don't misunderstand them as anachronistic sexists.

But does tradition matter that much? They even propose that "former members of the old aristocracy who left the Imperial Family after Japan's defeat in World War II could possibly be brought back." (quoted from BBC article.) This is nonsense.

What's wrong with imperial blood transcended through women? Yes, it never occurred in the last 1500 years. But think about 1500 years later from now. The Japanese Emperor in the year of 3506 will have blood inherited from more than 3000 years ago, through both men and women. What's wrong with this?

Princess Masako, the wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, suffered from depression because she was implicitly accused of having no male children by those tradition fundamentalists in the Imperial Court. If women can pass the Imperial blood, this kind of absurd thing will never happen.

By the way, BBC seems really curious on this issue. Its website allows visitors to post their opinions. I burst into laughter quite hard when I read this:

I think this old-fashioned monarchy should be abolished, as it has no longer any connection with the realities of life in Japan.
Anna, Iran

Which also makes me feel like hearing what people around the world would say to this issue. Can you post your view coupled with your national background? That will be interesting.

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