Future of Japan’s Royal Dynasty lies on shoulders of 13-year-old

TOKYO: The youngest prince of Japan, Hisahito, on his maiden overseas trip visited Bhutan in August just months after his uncle Naruhito became emperor. The trip was viewed as the debut of a future monarch on the world stage.

Prince Hisahito, 13, is the lone royal male in his generation, second in line to the throne after his father Crown Prince Akishino, 53, the emperor’s younger brother.

“Under the current rules of succession, Prince Hisahito … will eventually bear the entire burden of perpetuating the imperial family,” the Asahi newspaper wrote in an editorial this year.

“The pressure this prince would eventually come under is too formidable to contemplate.”

Hisahito’s birth in 2006 was seen as a miracle by conservatives eager to preserve the males-only succession. No imperial males had been born since 1965 and after eight years of marriage, the emperor’s wife, Masako, gave birth to a girl, Princess Aiko, spurring moves to revise the succession law and let women inherit and pass on the throne.

Emperor Naruhito became monarch at 59 on May 1 following the abdication of his father, Akihito, will proclaim his enthronement in an October 22 ceremony before foreign and domestic dignitaries.

Japan only allows males to ascend the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne and changes to the succession law are anathema to conservatives backing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Now, experts and media concern whether Hisahito is being properly groomed for the future. “It is important to have him realise that he is in a position to inherit the throne when interacting with people, and to keep them in mind, from an early age,” Kasahara said.

Japan’s post-World War Two constitution gives the emperor no political authority, and designates him the “symbol of the State and of the unity of the people”.

Hisahito is attending a junior high school affiliated to Ochanomizu University, making him the first imperial family member since the war to study outside the Gakushuin Junior High private school.

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