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Monday, 5th September 2016
In General Japan News,

Japanese government contemplates special abdication law

Methods are being discussed within the Japanese government to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. Sources have suggested that the ruling power would prefer special legislation to be put in place to enable the 82-year-old to step down, as opposed to amending the Imperial House Law.

The reasons for this are mainly to do with the fact that the Imperial House Law is incredibly complicated and difficult to amend. Special legislation that was only effective for the current emperor would prevent potential problems in the future and would likely come into force more quickly.

Otherwise issues surrounding a permanent abdication system and whether female members should be allowed to stay within the imperial family could be debated. Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, said all sorts of things were being considered as a way forward.

The Imperial House Law was enacted in 1947 and remains in force to this day. It only allows for posthumous succession and has no provision for abdication. Something therefore needs to be done if the emperor wishes to step down legally.

This is something he indicated a readiness for last month when he addressed the public in a video message. He outlined concerns that his age could prevent him from fulfilling his role as a symbol of Japan.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have already cut down the number of duties they perform. The imperial couple are popular within Japan, but many people are positive about the proposed abdication, as it is thought they should be able to have a restful retirement after a lifetime of public service.

Crown Prince Naruhito is next in line to the throne and at 56 could take a more active role in public life than his father and mother have been able to of late. One of the issues surrounding the abdication is what Emperor Akihito might be called after retirement. He came to the throne in 1989, so has seen long service to his country.

The last Japanese emperor to abdicate was Kokatu, around 200 years above, but prior to that stepping down was fairly common. There have been 125 emperors of Japan throughout its history and approximately half of them have abdicated.

It is thought that the government is considering submitting the new bills to the ordinary Diet session next year. This would then start the process of enabling Emperor Akihito to step down, but there is no indication as to what the timescale applied to such a process might be and how urgently the emperor would wish to be relieved of his position.