Age­ing em­peror sets a date for his ab­di­ca­tion

Weekend Herald - - World - Mari Ya­m­aguchi in Tokyo

Ja­pan’s much ad­mired Em­peror Ak­i­hito is set to ab­di­cate on April 30,

2019, at age 85 in the first such de­par­ture from the Chrysan­the­mum Throne in about 200 years, the Gov­ern­ment said yes­ter­day.

Ak­i­hito’s el­der son Crown Prince Naruhito will as­cend the throne a day later, be­gin­ning a new as- yet un­named era.

The de­ci­sion was made yes­ter­day at a meet­ing of the Im­pe­rial House Coun­cil, which was chaired by Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and in­cluded par­lia­men­tary lead­ers, supreme court judges and im­pe­rial fam­ily mem­bers. Ak­i­hito ex­pressed his ap­par­ent wish to ab­di­cate in Au­gust last year, cit­ing his age and health.

Abe will pro­vide the sum­mary of the meet­ing at the next Cabi­net ses­sion early next week ahead of the for­mal ap­proval ex­pected on De­cem­ber 8, Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga told re­porters.

“I feel deeply moved that the de­ci­sion was made smoothly by the Im­pe­rial House Coun­cil, mark­ing a ma­jor step to­ward an im­pe­rial suc­ces­sion,” Abe said.

Suga said the tim­ing was cho­sen so that Ak­i­hito can ab­di­cate af­ter reach­ing his 30th an­niver­sary on the throne, a mile­stone. Late April is also more ap­pro­pri­ate for many Ja­panese to em­brace the change of an era af­ter set­tling down from a busy pe­riod of travel and job trans­fers around April

1, the be­gin­ning of a new fis­cal year. The events also mean longer Golden Week hol­i­days — up to 10 straight days for those who can take May 2 off.

Leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing Ak­i­hito to ab­di­cate within three years was en­acted ear­lier this year.

There will be more prepa­ra­tions to come, in­clud­ing de­cid­ing a new era name and a new home for the em­peror and the em­press, Suga said.

“We would like ev­ery­one to cel­e­brate an ab­di­ca­tion of the em­peror and suc­ces­sion of the crown prince,” he said.

Ak­i­hito’s de­sire to leave the throne re­vived a de­bate about the coun­try’s 2000- year- old monar­chy, one of the world’s old­est, as well as dis­cus­sion about im­prov­ing the sta­tus of fe­male mem­bers of the shrink­ing royal pop­u­la­tion. The cur­rent male- only suc­ces­sion rules pro­hibit women from suc­ceed­ing to the Chrysan­the­mum Throne and fe­male mem­bers lose their royal sta­tus when they marry a com­moner.

Ak­i­hito was 56 when he as­cended the throne in Jan­uary 1989 af­ter the death of his fa­ther, Em­peror Hiro­hito, be­gin­ning the Hei­sei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he be­comes em­peror.

AP

Crown Prince Naruhito ( left) will as­cend the throne a day af­ter Em­peror Ak­i­hito ab­di­cates.

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