Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Princess Kiko gave birth to a baby boy this morning. I guess many of us Japanese felt somewhat relieved by the news, not because the birth solves all the problems but it bought us some time. I have to admit that I am one of them.

I have to confess that I wasn’t clear about the difference between supporting “a female emperor” and supporting “maternal-based succession of the throne” until this morning. Well, I’m still not 100% clear, but I did a bit of net search and now I understand at least better than before. Now I know that the real issue was not whether a female is qualified as an emperor; it was whether it is OK to end the “paternal line of succession” which has continued for over 2600 years. Whether Princess Aiko (the only daughter of Crown Prince) becomes an emperor or not is not the real issue -- it is what would happen when she married someone and had a baby.

The Imperial House Law allows paternal line of succession only. The law was almost going to be changed in order to allow Princess Aiko to be a female emperor because the birth of a male heir seemed hopeless. But many do not want to change the law because they fear that if Princess Aiko became a female emperor and “married someone from outside the Imperial Family, the male Y chromosome from the current line would be forever lost, replaced by the Y chromosome of whoever she marries,” as mentioned in this site.

I can see the fear of abandoning something which continued for over 2600 years and cannot be found in any other countries. But at the same time, I can’t help raising questions such as “What indispensable quality does the imperial Y chromosome have? Or is it just the‘continuation’per se that is honored?”“Are we still thinking that a boy is better than a girl, or a mother who gave birth to a boy is a winner?”“Is passing down the Y chromosome the ultimate role of the imperial families? Does it mean that it’s the proper Y chromosome, not the ability/personality of the emperor that matters?” Then I realized that I have never thought about what kind of ability/personality I wanted for the emperor to have.

So I guess, after all, my questions can be boiled down to these basic ones: “What is emperor? What is royal family? What is the role we want them to play --- or is it us or them who should decide on their roles?” No easy answer... right? I think it is a blessing that this baby boy gave us time to discuss these issues more carefully and thoroughly. To me it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to change the Imperial House Law in a hurry when Crown Princess Masako is still psychologically vulnerable.
posted by obachan, 9/06/2006 11:55:00 PM


Hmm .. I have always wondered how strong the Japanese Imperial family has its hold on its citizens today. What do you think?
commented by Blogger Aleanor, 9/19/2006 11:04 AM  
Well, they have no political power. But there are so many “royal family groupies” -- mainly obachans around my age, or my mom’s age, -- who follow them wherever they go and take photos. And many Japanese moms have their eyes on the clothes, picture books and toys that the royal children have, and buy the same things for their children. So the imperial family definitely has a hold on its citizens’ hearts.

To be perfectly honest, I’m still uncertain about what the ultimate role of the Japanese imperial family is. But I’m sure that Japan would look helplessly dry and tasteless to me if the imperial family’s existence would possibly be terminated. To me Japan would not be the same Japan without them.

I guess there are people who serve certain roles by just “being special,” rather than by some particular things they do. I got this idea when I was working as a volunteer after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. I was so deeply touched to see (on TV actually) Empress Michiko hugging an elder refugee at a school gym which was used as an evacuation center. Even an American woman who was working with me at that time said she was touched and teared up. It wouldn’t have been the same if it were someone else… like our prime minister, or …anyone famous or prestigious. I guess I’m not the only Japanese feeling this way.
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/20/2006 11:45 AM  
"I can see the fear of abandoning something which continued for over 2600 years and cannot be found in any other countries."

Are you really sure this is true?
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10/21/2006 11:23 PM  
Well, this is what they say. I heard that at least the record exists. To be 100% perfectly sure, I would have use a time machine to go back to B.C. 660 or something and fast-forward the history, but I'd rather have someone else do that job. ;)
commented by Blogger obachan, 10/23/2006 4:49 PM  

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