Japan's Cabinet OKs bill to let Emperor Akihito abdicate

Vincent Carr
May 19, 2017

The Japanese government has given approval to a bill that, if passed in the legislature, will permit Emperor Akihito to abdicate the "Chrysanthemum Throne", the BBC reports.

The bill is set to be submitted to the Diet later in the day, with the government expecting its enactment by the end of the current Diet session in mid-June. The move is likely to be implemented in December 2018, when Emperor Akihito turns 85.

Reports of his desire to retire surprised Japan when they emerged last July.

In August he publicly cited age and declining health, which was interpreted as his wish to hand the crown to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito. It instead drafted a bill for one-off abdication legislation and a supplementary provision to the Imperial House Law to enable the special-case law to serve as a precedent for future emperors.

Akihito has sought to soothe the wounds at home and overseas of World War Two, which was fought in his father Hirohito's name, and to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people.

Revered as a demigod before and during the conflict, Hirohito was reduced to a mere figurehead as part of postwar reforms.

Officials also quickly ruled out any discussion of a possible change to the succession law to allow female members of the imperial family to become empresses.

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Historically, abdication of Japanese emperors was common, with about half of the 125 Japanese emperors having abdicated.

The bill was specifically designed for the current emperor so as to prevent other monarchs from easily following suit.

The issue has also highlighted concerns over a potential succession crisis in one of the world's oldest monarchies.

FILE - In this January 2, 2017, file photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year's public appearance with his family members at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The shrinking royal family will lose another member with the coming marriage of Princess Mako, one of Akishino's daughters.

Naruhito's heirs are his younger brother, Prince Akishino, and Akishino's son, Hisahito.

"The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation", Suga said.

Other reports by BadHub

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