Japan’s Emperor Akihito signals desire to abdicate

Japan's Emperor Akihito gave a televised national speech on Monday, implying he wished to abdicate. Here, Akihito officially declares the opening of the 190th Ordinary Diet session in Tokyo, Japan, on January 4. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

TOKYO, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Japan’s Emperor Akihito hinted in a televised speech that he wants to abdicate, saying age and health are impairing his abilities.

The speech was only the second given by the 82-year-old emperor and he did not actually say he wanted to abdicate, because it is not legal for an emperor to step down. Akihito would have to wait for the Japanese parliament to change the law first.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government is “seriously” considering a solution.

Akihito has been emperor since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989. He’s had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer.

“I am already 80 years old, and fortunately I am now in good health. However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, 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,” the Emperor said.

A recent survey in Japan showed 86 percent of citizens thought abdication should be legalized as an option for Akihito or his successors.

But it might not be easy. Nationalist politicians and intellectuals are against any change to the Imperial House Law, arguing it could create instability in the role.

“The Imperial House Law is a permanent law,” wrote Hidetsugu Yagi, professor of law at Reitoku University in a recent story for a right-wing Japanese magazine. “If any articles about abdication are inserted, it could bring confusion to the succession system and the status of the Imperial family.”


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