September 6, 2006

Support for a Female Heir in Japan

Before Today's Birth, the Public Was Ready for a Change

With the news today that Japan’s 39-year-old Princess Kiko has given birth to a male heir, a succession crisis has apparently been averted. A 1947 law dictates that only a male can ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, but there had been no princes born to the royal family since 1965, leading many to call for changing the law so a female — most likely four-year-old Princess Aiko — could eventually rule. The results of a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey show that the Japanese public was ready for just such a change: 76% would have favored amending the Imperial Household Act to allow a female to take the throne.1

And there is widespread agreement on this question across Japanese society. Women and men, young and old, the well-educated and the less-educated all support the idea of a female heading the royal family.

However, now that a prince (he has not been given a name yet) has been born, most experts believe the debate over reforming the succession law is probably over. Instead of becoming Japan’s first Empress since the eighteenth century, young Aiko will in all likelihood remain a Princess.

  1. Survey conducted March 31-April 21, 2006, among 500 Japanese adults.