Report: Japan to Drop Woman Monarch Plan

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; 1:13 PM

TOKYO -- Japan will drop plans to allow women to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne following the birth last year of a long-awaited male heir, a news report said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to ditch recommendations by a government panel in 2005 that an emperor's first child _ boy or girl _ should accede the throne, according to a report by the daily Sankei Shimbun.

The reform was designed to defuse a looming succession crisis for the royal family, which had produced no male heir in four decades.

But the drive, championed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koziumi, lost momentum after the Sept. 6 birth of Prince Hisahito to Princess Kiko, the wife of the emperor's second son.

Abe now plans to encourage debate on other ways to make the imperial succession more stable, the paper said, citing unidentified officials.

Abe _ considered more conservative than Koizumi _ has repeatedly shown reluctance to change Japan's 1947 Imperial Household Law, which says only males with emperors on their father's side can reign as monarch.

A law change allowing female monarchs would have put 5-year-old Princess Aiko _ the only daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Masako _ second in line to the throne.

But the plan provoked an uproar among many politicians and scholars, who argued it would end centuries of tradition. Opponents even suggested bringing back concubines to help provide male descendants to increase candidates for the throne.

Despite Hisahito's birth, recent opinion polls show the public still supports the idea of a reigning empress. The imperial family, which traces its roots back 1,500 years, is highly respected in Japan but plays a largely symbolic role with no political power.

© 2007 The Associated Press