Emperor Akihito released a video message Monday, which suggests that he might renounce the throne. Photo courtesy: United States Marine Corps.
TOKYO- In a video address released Monday, Japanese Emperor Akihito addresses his declining health, hinting that he may step down as Emperor.
“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,” Akihito said in his 10-minute national address.
“Even under such circumstances, it is my hope that by thoroughly reflecting on our country’s long history of emperors, the Imperial family can continue to be with the people at all times and can work together with the people to build the future of our country, and that the duties of the Emperor as the symbol of the State can continue steadily without a break. With this earnest wish, I have decided to make my thoughts known,” said the 82 year-old emperor.
Not since Emperor Kokaku in 1817 has a Japanese emperor abdicated their duties while alive. Abdication is not mentioned in the 1947 Imperial Household Law, and therefore the laws would have to be rewritten to allow Akihito to do so. Akihito assumed the throne in 1989 and should he step down, he would pass on his duties to the next in line, his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
Satoru Yamamoto, a former senior official at the Imperial Household Agency, once said in 1984 that emperors are not allowed to abdicate under Imperial House Law because the law works to “stabilize the status of the emperor.”
Although the Imperial Household Law currently does not allow for Akihito to step down, a Kyodo News survey found that 85 per cent of Japanese people believe that the emperor should be able to abdicate.
In a press conference Monday, Prime Minister Abe addressed the Emperor’s statement. “I would like to take seriously the fact that the Emperor addressed the nation,” he said. “Given the age of the Emperor and the burden of his duties, I believe we need to think what grievance it causes him and what we can do.”