Japan prince says small imperial household cheaper

Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:45am EST
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - A smaller imperial family would be less of a burden on Japan's finances, said the prince who stands second in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Prince Akishino's comments, made in a news conference to mark his 44th birthday, came as Japan's deeply indebted government struggles to cut back on record budget requests of 95 trillion yen ($1,097 billion) while trying to avert a slide back into recession.

Under current regulations, the number of people included as official members of the imperial family and supported by public coffers is set to fall. Some have expressed concern about whether the narrow definition of the imperial family might eventually mean imperial succession ceases to be viable.

"From the point of view of the financial burden on the country, it is no bad thing," Akishino told reporters, while noting that there would be fewer people able to carry out official duties.

Akishino is the second son of Emperor Akihito. He and his wife, Kiko, whom he met at university, have three children, the eldest of whom starts university next year.

Kiko gave birth to a boy three years ago, defusing a row about whether to change the law to allow women to accede to the throne.

(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds, editing by Miral Fahmy)