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Monday, August 01, 2005

I have always been fascinated by Japan, at least as far back as the 3rd Grade. This was long before I was aware that cartoon shows I loved to watch like Speed Racer, Gigantor, The Amazing Three, and Kimba The White Lion were all Japanese in origin, and were actually known as Mach Go Go Go! Tetsujin 28-Go! W3-Wanda 3 and Junguru Taitei respectively.

I am also not much of a royalist either. I definitely agree with the peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who said:

Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you. I mean, if I went round saying I was an Emperor because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away.

However, in otherwise constitutional republics/democracies, a figurehead Queen, King, or Emperor is not a problem. Just as long as the monarch is kept as far from the reins of power as possible, it in fact can be quite a boost to tourism. In fact, if said Queen, King or Emperor was replaced by actors under the employ of the real government, it might even be better for the country in question. No messy scandals to bring the prestige of the "Royals" down, no huge royal allowances, no problem. Every night, the fictive "King and Queen" would go home to their real home and real life. They'd draw a modest salary from a new "Ministry of Pageantry." Sounds like a win-win situation to me...

Anyway, Japan is finally wrestling with the problem of no male heir to the throne after Prince Naruhito. Japan had Empresses early on in its history, but after The Shotoku Empress, who ruled from 749-758CE, abdicated, then reclaimed the throne from 764-770CE, the rules changed. Because of a royal scandal involving The Shotoku Empress, no woman has been elevated to the Chrysanthemum Throne since then. However, Naruhito was the last significant male born to the Japanese Imperial House, and no males at all have been born to any branch of the family since 1965.

So the Japanese are on the horns of a dilemma. What to do after Prince Naruhito? The American-written "Peace Constitution" that is currently the supreme law of the land in Japan forbids any but three of the former noble families of Japan to produce the next figurehead Tenno. As I mentioned before, none of them have had male children since 1965. However, they have had several daughters, including Naruhito's daughter Aiko-hime, born to a great media blitz three years ago. Aiko-hime is quite beloved by the Japanese people, and currently 80 to 92 percent of the Japanese population wants to see the succession rules rewritten to allow Aiko-hime to be next in line. A small group of conservatives (who are not coincidentally the same folks who want to see an absolute monarchy in Japan again) would rather see the office of Emperor opened up to the 11 families who were written out of the succession in 1947. Presumably there are male heirs in those noble families.

I'm not Japanese, so I don't have any say-so. However, I would think it awfully silly if the will of 80 to 92 percent of the Japanese population was ignored in favor of a small minority who also want to turn back the clock and give the Emperor absolute power again. Since the Imperial House has nothing but ceremonial power now, I suspect it shouldn't make a difference.

Then again, at this point we seem to have a Royal House of our own as absolute rulers of this country. sigh...