Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the press’s take on the female imperial succession issue. As pointed out in the column, there are people involved in the discussion who think one solution to the problem of not enough imperial family members to carry out “tasks” is to reinstate branches that were dropped after World War II. These forces don’t address the notion that the work of the imperial family is basically a postwar invention; that when the emperor was a god he didn’t bother going out into the world for purposes of diplomacy, offering solace to his subjects, etc. Nevertheless, these forces are indubitably conservative. Who else would countenance, in the 21st century, the idea that people within the same extended family should intermarry? Because that’s what it comes down to. These forces want to have their mochi and eat it too: more imperial “civil servants” and a pure blood line.
One of the more vocal advocates of this position literally has skin in the game. Tsuneyasu Takeda is a great-great grandchild of Emperor Meiji and, interestingly enough, a constitutional scholar. He has also managed to spin these twin circumstances into a lucrative side career as a pundit and TV personality. Takeda’s family, which, apropos this week’s column, was descended from the wife of Emperor Meiji, meaning the female line of the prewar imperial family, (note, however, that Emperor Taisho, who succeeded Meiji, was the issue of a concubine) was one of those branches banned by GHQ in 1947, so if in the very unlikely chance that these branches are reinstated in order to boost imperial heirs, he would be back in the palace, so to speak, something he has implied he would like very much. But in a real sense, he’s already there. He wouldn’t be in the public eye if he were merely a constitutional scholar. It’s his connection with the old imperial family that has made him a star. He’s an important member of the Japan Olympic Committee because his father was an important member of the Japan Olympic Committee owing to his lineage. The overriding consideration for public exposure in Japan remains blood, whether the family is/was royalty in fact or in metaphor (show business, sports, politics). This also means that Takeda’s opinions about the imperial succession issue have more weight, and he’s said that the only reason the public cares about the abdication law is because they like the emperor as a person. If he were a real emperor, meaning someone who didn’t have a public profile but simply lingered behind the scenes in a purely ceremonial capacity, the people’s opinion wouldn’t matter, because there wouldn’t be any. And this is the real challenge of any “symbolic emperor” from now on: He has to follow the current emperor’s precedent of being a likable character. Regardless of what conservative groups like Nippon Kaigi want–and they would like nothing better than to revise the Constitution to revert the emperor’s status to what it was before the war–Japan is now saddled with a people’s emperor, someone who is good at gaming the media and projecting an image of a nice guy. Just in that regard, Takeda himself would be disqualified, because for all his fame as someone whose ancestors were in the imperial family, he comes off as something of a jerk on TV–smug, clueless, defensive. What self-respecting female member of the imperial family would want to marry him?