Hearings to start next month on status of princesses

January 08, 2012

By HAJIME HORIGUCHI / Staff Writer

The government will start hearings in February on legal amendments to allow female members of the imperial family to retain their status after they marry commoners.

The government appointed Itsuo Sonobe, a former Supreme Court justice, to the post of special adviser to the Cabinet on Jan. 6 to lead the hearings.

Sonobe, 82, served as deputy chairman of the Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law.

The council, established at the behest of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, reported in 2005 that the right to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne should be expanded to women and imperial family offspring of female lineage.

It also said females should be allowed to retain their imperial family status even after marriage to start a new branch, unlike the current arrangement.

But the hearings are not expected to touch on the subject of allowing women or imperial family offspring of female lineage to become emperor.

Sonobe and employees of the Cabinet Secretariat will conduct the hearings twice a month or so.

Those interviewed at the hearings will be experts familiar with the imperial family, the Constitution, religion, history, culture and art, as well as prominent figures in business and other circles, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

The government will likely use the 2005 report as the basis for discussions, but not set up a special panel for the task.

Fujimura said the government will take time to reach a conclusion on what is believed to be a divisive issue.

By HAJIME HORIGUCHI / Staff Writer
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Itsuo Sonobe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Itsuo Sonobe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Itsuo Sonobe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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