Emperor Akihito hints at abdication
EMPEROR Akihito said yesterday his advancing age and weakening health mean he may no longer be able to carry out his duties, setting the stage for Japan to prepare for an historic abdication.
“There are times when I feel various constraints such as in my physical fitness,” the 82-year-old said in a national address.
“As we are in the midst of a rapidly ageing society, I would like to talk to you today about what would be a desirable role of the emperor in a time when the emperor, too, becomes advanced in age,” he said.
Speculation about the emperor’s future emerged last month with reports he had told confidantes that he would like to step down in a few years, in what would be the first abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in two centuries.
“I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now,” he said, wearing a dark suit and sitting at a table in the pre-recorded video.
Emperor Akihito spoke obliquely – never mentioning the word abdication and stressing he is legally prevented from commenting on the imperial system – but analysts said his intention was clear.
The comments will now allow the government to begin the legal mechanism for a royal departure, which currently does not exist.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in
response to the emperor’s speech, said the government would take the emperor’s remarks “seriously”.
“Considering the emperor’s duties, as well as his age and the burden [of the job], we have to firmly look at what we can do,” he said.
“The emperor did not use the word abdication, but his message clearly called on the public to concretely consider the way for that in the future,” said Tomitaro Hashimoto, an assistant professor at Reitaku University.
“Legally, he can’t request a revision of law,” said Mr Hashimoto, an expert on Japan’s imperial system. “That’s why he can’t ask directly.”
The address marked only the second time Akihito has spoken speak directly to the nation. The first was in the days after the March 2011 triple earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster as he sought to calm a populace undergoing its worst crisis since the war.
The imperial house is said to be the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, and according to legend stretches back some 2600 years in an unbroken line. –
Japan’s Emperor Akihito turned 82 last December.