Paving the way for the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in nearly two centuries, Japan’s Cabinet on 19 November 2017 approved a bill that would allow Emperor Akihito to step down.
The approval will allow Emperor Akihito to hand over the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, 57.
As per reports, the government envisions December 2018 as the possible timing for his abdication, the time when the Emperor will turn 85 years old. It also says that the abdication will also mark nearly 30 full years on the throne for the emperor.
Earlier in 2016, the Emperor, who has had heart surgery and prostate cancer treatment, in a rare public remark feared that age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties. Akihito has sought to soothe the wounds at home and abroad of World War Two, which was fought in his father Hirohito's name, and to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people.
About the Bill
• The bill is one-off legislation that would allow only Akihito to step down, with no provisions for future emperors.
• It also makes no reference to the controversial issue of changing the system to allow women to inherit the throne, or to stay in the imperial family upon marriage, Japanese media said, although political parties are discussing a separate resolution on the topic.
• Both steps have been suggested as ways to deal with a shortage of male heirs and a shrinking pool of royals generally, a problem thrust back into the limelight this week, with news that Akihito's eldest granddaughter will marry a commoner, after which she too must become a commoner.
• There are only four heirs in the line of succession - Akihito's two middle-aged sons, Akihito's octogenarian brother, and Hisahito, the 10-year-old son of Akihito's younger son.
• The crown prince has one teenage daughter, Aiko, who cannot inherit the throne.
• In 2005, with hopes for a male heir fading, then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi prepared to challenge a 1947 law limiting succession to male descendants of an emperor. But the proposal was shelved after Hisahito was born the next year.
Now, the Bill will be sent to the Parliament for a passage by the lawmakers. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a news conference said that the lawmakers are aiming to pass the bill before the current session ends in June 2017.
Under the existing Imperial House Law abdication is not possible for the Emperor as the law allows posthumous succession.
The enactment of the bill will make Emperor Akihito the first emperor to abdicate since Emperor Kokaku, who relinquished the throne in 1817. Historically, abdication of Japanese emperors was common, with about half of the 125 emperors having abdicated.
When: 19 May 2017