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Tuesday, 18th October 2016
In General Japan News,

Discussions into Emperor Akihito?s abdication begin in Japan

A panel of experts has convened in Japan to discuss the possibility of Emperor Akihito abdicating. The move has been anticipated for a number of months, after the longstanding figurehead spoke publicly about stepping down due to his advancing years.

The situation is more complicated than it may appear, as there is no provision for abdication under current Japanese laws. While the emperor has made his intentions known, it is desirable for all those involved that the process is as smooth as possible.

It is for this reason that the panel has come together, which is the first step in allowing the emperor to step down. The laws surrounding the royal family are expected to be changed for this to happen, but it is being approached with caution to ensure the system remains intact.

The six members of the panel are expected to submit their ideas on changes to legislation by May 2017. Prime minister Shinzo Abe will then be able to move forward with this advice and continue the process.

Akihito is now 82-years-old and has been on the throne since 1989, when his father Hirohito passed away. He has undergone heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer, but has continued in his role, with reduced responsibilities of late.

If the abdication goes ahead, it will be the first time since 1817 that a Japanese emperor has done so. The only provision for accession to the throne mentioned in the laws currently in force are in the event of death, when the heir is expected to take over.

The emperor has not made any official statements saying he wishes to abdicate, as this would violate his non-political status. Instead he has hinted at his wishes and Mr Abe has said that the government will do what it can to make them a reality.

He said in August: “I do respect the heavy responsibility the emperor must be feeling and I believe we need to think hard about what we can do.”

Despite having no political powers, the emperor has official duties, which include meeting with foreign dignitaries when they arrive in Japan. His role also has religious importance, as it is related to Shintoism and means he often leads religious ceremonies.

The panel of advisors is expected to meet on multiple occasions this year to discuss everything from changing the emperor’s duties to legislating an abdication. They could release a summary of the issues at hand as early as January next year to make it clearer what is at stake.

At present, only men can be in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, with Crown Prince Naruhito, Emperor Akihiko’s son, in the number one spot. Second in line is the prince’s brother, Fumihito, followed by his son Hisahito, as Naruhito only has a daughter.



Related news stories:
Crown Prince urges Emperor Akihito to 'reduce burden' (24th February 2012)
Debate rages on changing symbols on Japanese tourism maps (20th January 2016)
Japanese emperor celebrates 20 years (12th November 2009)