Date:    April 15, 2020

From:  Hidemi Nagao, Chairman of the Association to Boost Credibility of United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC)

To:   Honorable Members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)


Ref:  List of issues and questions prior to the submission of the ninth periodic report of Japan (CEDAW/C/JPN/QPR/9 of March 9, 2020, ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION)

Dear Sirs and Madams,

  1. Request

I, as Chairman of the Association to Boost Credibility of the United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC), request that your committee (CEDAW) to retract and rescind the following statement in paragraph 2 (Definition of discrimination and legislative framework) of the reference.

“Regarding the Imperial House Act, the provisions of which currently excludes women from succeeding to the royal throne, please provide details on the steps envisaged to enable female succession to the throne.”

  1. Reasons to call for retraction of the statement

I suspect some misunderstandings had contributed to the committee’s formulation of the statement above.  Please allow me to explain key matters related to the Imperial Household so that they can be duly allayed.  Brevity is essential and, therefore, I will try “not to keep you long” as British King Henry VIII said to his six wives.

2.1.  History about the Imperial Household

2.1.1.  The early days of the Imperial Household are written in both Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters, compiled in 712) and Nihonshoki (the Chronicle of Japan, compiled in 720).  Historians regard those days as belonging to myths; there is no argument among them.  According to the myths, three important deities came into existence after the islands of Japan were created.  They were allotted the heaven, the night, and the seas respectively.  Of note is two of them were women and one is a man.  In the myths is no sexual discrimination among the deities.

2.1.2.  There are, however, controversies about since when the Imperial Household (emperors) existed.  The first Emperor Jinmu ascended the throne in 660 BC, which makes Emperor Naruhito of today the 126th Emperor of Japan.  The 16th Emperor Nintoku who reigned in the 4th century is known to have existed.  In other words, the Imperial Household is blessed with more than 1800 years of history at least.

2.1.3.  The Imperial Household maintains until today the male succession policy.  History saw there were eight empresses in Japan, the first one being Empress Suiko from 592 to 628 and the last one being Empress Gosakuramachi from 1762-1770.  The empresses reigned for ten eras because two of them were enthroned twice.  They were exceptions.  For, eight empresses ascended the throne for the purpose of maintaining the imperial lineage.  Each of them reigned for a certain period till a male descendant got enthroned.

2.1.4.  There was a serious search to locate imperial descendants for the male succession policy.  Senator Hiroshi Yamada of the House of Councilors said at his speaking engagement on December 1, 2019 as follows.

“Before the 26th Emperor Keitai ascended the throne, the imperial court did an all-out search of ascendants up to several generations and found a descendant in Fukui (in the north of Kyoto).”

2.2.  A woman on the throne and the matrilineal imperial system

2.2.1.  As mentioned earlier, several empresses were in the Imperial Household history.  But they were exceptions.  The policy is to maintain the authentic imperial lineage, the emperor’s bloodline.  The bloodline which relates to DNA is briefly explained here.

“DNA is a chemical molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions.  It forms a chemical union with protein to produce chromosomes.  In a human cell are 23 pairs of chromosomes in which 22 pairs are autosomes and one pair are sex chromosomes.  A female has X+X chromosomes while a male has X+Y chromosomes.”

2.2.2.  The introduction of the matrilineal imperial system to the Imperial Household would mean, for example, the emperor’s daughters get married to males outside the imperial lineage, which translates to discontinuance of the imperial Y-chromosomes.  This system is not acceptable.

2.2.3.  If the Imperial Household happens to have no male descendants for the throne, it is possible for the Japanese parliament to pass a special law to ascend a daughter to the throne as a temporary measure.  CEDAW’s recommendation mentioned in paragraph 1 above does not clarify the issue of the authentic imperial lineage.

2.3.  Unwarranted intervention

2.3.1.  The recommendation to revise the Imperial Household Law to accommodate empresses seems to be without problem at first glance.  it would, however, be a case of “ultra vires” (beyond the powers).

2.3.2.  For, as mentioned in subparagraphs 2.1-2.2 above, the recommendation would deny the bloodline the Imperial Household has kept for a long time; it would amount to denying its history.  Once its history is denied, the Shinto rituals conducted by the household gets denied, too.

2.3.3.  There are many countries in the world that embrace Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, each of which has semi-mythical or mythical elements and conducts rituals in some form or another.  Even if some teachings in those religions are contrary to historical facts, would international organs and foreign governments call for correction of them?  Would they intervene those religions sovereign states embrace?  Such an act would become a case of “ultra vires.”

2.3.4.  Section 2 of the Additional Clause of the Imperial Household Law enacted in 1947 states “the present imperial family shall be the imperial family under this law.”  The clause is said to have seriously regarded the opinion of the General Headquarters, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.  That is, the Allied Powers intended to make the Imperial Family eventually become extinct.  Because of section 2, the imperial family was limited to the emperor, his two sons, his brother, the brother’s three sons, and his nephew’s son.  The act was nothing but an unwarranted intervention.  In October 1947, 11 former imperial families—according to the section and due partly to economic hardships anticipated—voluntarily separated from the imperial family.

  1. Conclusion

3.1.  No international organs or foreign governments have any vested right to call on Japan for discontinuing the Imperial Family.

3.2.  Such an intervention would be an act to retroactively deny rich cultural heritage the Imperial Household has nurtured until today.  Were it not for the Imperial Family, such great works as the Tale of Genji (the oldest and longest novel in the world, written by a woman) and the Pillow Talks (a collection of essays authored by another women) would not have been created at the turn of the 11th century.

3.3.  Based on my background explanations, I humbly request the honorable CEDAW members to retract and rescind the recommendation concerning the Imperial Household, by making a philosophical judgement.

  1. Supplementary note

On April 6, 2020, British Queen Elizabeth II made a televised address to her people as follows amid corona virus pandemic (COVID 19).

“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”

The queen’s intention is not to deny the past.  Observing tradition will make the Britons proud of their nation.  They and their nation, with the pride, can tackle with their present and their future.  The same is equally true of Japan, not to mention the continuity of the Imperial Household.

Very respectfully yours,

Hidemi Nagao

Chairman, the Association to Boost Credibility of United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC)

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