Cracking The Boy's Club: Japan's Royal Dilemna

Faced with no male heirs, Japan's boy-only emperor club may have to crack its doors and let women in.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has pledged to submit a bill to change the constitution and let female heirs ascend to the imperial throne. But he gave no specific date for the bill nor said exactly how it would be written.

That means 4-year-old Princess Aiko has a chance of becoming an empress, since she's the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito. She's got some time to prepare, since her father has first dibs on the throne.

Not everyone in Japan agrees with women sitting on the throne, but with no male heir born to the royal family since 1965 and with little chance of getting one (both princes are in their 40s), Koizumi is betting on the future with women.

Naruhito has a younger brother, Akishino, but he and his wife have two daughters.

Male Crisis

Women have been barred from succeeding to the throne under a law passed in 1947. That same law also automatically strips female royals of all royal advantages when they get married.

Two months ago, Aiko's aunt, Princess Sayako, married a "commoner" and bid farewell to her family and her royal title.

After 36 years of pampered life, Sayako had no chance to rule the country, so she gave it all up for her 40-year-old hubby. Out went privilege, in came housework.

In his keynote speech to parliament, Koizumi said that changes must be made "in order that the imperial throne be continued into the future in a stable manner."

After all, women have worn the crown before. The last empress ruled the Land of the Rising Sun from 1762 to 1770.

My Favorite Concubine

Some say that maintaining male lineage trumps all, and that the princes should use concubines to pop out male heirs.

The current emperor's cousin, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, favors male bastards to blue-blooded women.

Japan's priests also oppose letting the "weaker sex" take the reins of the country. The Shinto priest association said the bill would "damage national respect for the throne."

No word on whether they advocate Tomohito's take on the issue with preapproved mothers-to-be, but it may never come to that.

A recent poll revealed that 80 percent of the Japanese public wants Aiko to become empress.

As modernity trumps tradition, maybe Aiko can give everyone a jolt by taking on male concubines when she rules.

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