Em­peror Ak­i­hito hints at ab­di­ca­tion

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: AFP

Ja­pan’s Em­peror Ak­i­hito turned 82 last De­cem­ber.

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