In this NBC News piece, Kristin Roebuck, assistant professor of history and Howard Milstein Faculty Fellow, writes that constitutional guarantees of equality between the sexes and within marriage in Japan do not apply to the imperial household, which is governed by a unique body of law.
"Imperial Household Law, in force since 1947, decrees imperial daughters, like Mako, ineligible to succeed to the throne," Roebuck writes. "It also decrees that, upon marriage to husbands outside the imperial family, imperial daughters, mothers and widows be demoted to their husbands’ status."
Yes, marrying within the imperial family is nearly impossible, she says, as it would require marrying a brother or uncle. Most Japanese actually support a more inclusive vision of the imperial house.
"About 80 percent endorse putting a woman on the throne. Nearly as many support keeping the descendants of princesses in the line of succession. But defenders of the status quo frame the current law of succession as inviolable 'Japanese tradition.' "