THE progenitor of Japan’s imperial line, supposedly 2,600 years ago, was female: Amaterasu, goddess of the sun. But for most of the time since, all emperors have been male. This has exercised the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Recently it concluded that Japan should let women inherit the Chrysanthemum throne, too.
It is not clear what Emperor Akihito, who is 82 (and has a hugely popular wife), thinks about this. But the Japanese prime minister blew his top. Shinzo Abe leapt to the defence of a male-only line, saying it was rooted in Japanese history. The panel’s meddling, he said, was “totally inappropriate”. Cowed, it withdrew its recommendation that the law of succession be changed.
Polls suggest that most Japanese would welcome a female monarch. A decade ago a looming succession crisis triggered a robust discussion, led by Junichiro Koizumi, then prime minister and Mr Abe’s political mentor, on whether to allow a woman to ascend the throne. But the birth of Hisahito, a boy prince, ended the debate. A draft law was quietly shelved.
Mr Abe does not share Mr Koizumi’s iconoclasm. An...