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Wednesday, 11th May 2016
In General Japan News,

Ageing Japanese emperor and empress to cut back on official duties

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will begin to cut back on the number of official duties they carry out, the Imperial Household Agency has announced.

The sovereign and his wife are both in their 80s and it has therefore been decided that the pressures of hosting guests to the Imperial Palace should be eased somewhat.

It is thought that by March 2017, the imperial couple will be welcoming just ten groups of guests to the palace annually.

The announcement updates the changes to their duties that came into force in 2009, exempting them from making speeches while visiting local cities.

Shinichiro Yamamoto, vice grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, said: “We considered how official duties should be performed by the couple in view of their age and obtained consent from the emperor and the empress.”

The shake-up will also see all meetings between the couple and chiefs of prefectural police departments, district public prosecutors’ offices, district courts and municipal assemblies come to an end.

Foreign visitors, including the leaders of other nations, can expect not to have lunch parties with the emperor and empress either.

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako will be taking over a number of imperial duties instead.

These will first and foremost involve meeting with members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team in the wake of earthquake that shook the country.

When the emperor celebrated his 80th birthday in 2013, her expressed a desire to continue his formal duties, saying he would “like to maintain the status quo”.

In the last year alone, however, he has had 270 meetings, greeting foreign guests and those receiving decorations.

The Imperial Household Agency said no specific changes had been acknowledged in the health of the couple, but a scaling back of duties would take place.