Japan Enacts Law to Allow Emperor Akihito to Abdicate

Akihito is the first Japanese emperor who was never considered divine. Source Reuters

Japan's Cabinet has approved for legislative debate a bill to allow 83-year-old Emperor Akihito to abdicate.

According to the BBC, he wishes to pass the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, who is the spritely age of 57.

The legislation, which had already cleared the lower house, was triggered by a rare televised address a year ago... His Imperial Majesty will be the first monarch in Japan to abdicate for almost 200 years. The day the law is to be enforced will be set by a government ordinance within the three-year period following the legislation's promulgation.

The second in line would then be Prince Fumihito's son.

USA Today said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ultra-conservative government, though, still supports male-only succession to the throne. He is the son of Japan's wartime emperor Hirohito.

The abdication law applies only to Akihito and expires in three years, to avoid putting future monarchs at risk of forcible abdication due to political manipulation.

The scarcity of young men in the family has prompted talk of alternatives, including letting women ascend the throne, though traditionalists abhor the idea. The Crown Prince only has one child - a daughter named Princess Aiko.

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Dating back to 600 BC, ascending the Chrysanthemum throne, Crown Prince Naruhito and his former diplomat wife Masako Owada will usher in a new era from the date of their ascension to the throne which is slated towards the end of 2018.

The emperor is expected to abdicate in December 2018, when he will mark his 85th birthday.

Speaking at a memorial marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender, Akihito expressed "deep remorse" for the country's actions in World War II. According to Reuters, the legislation also included a resolution for parliament to consider letting female royals stay in the imperial family after they marry, but it did not address the controversial issue of female succession.

The Imperial Household Act did not allow for abdication; this led to the Japanese government to create a new law to allow it for the Emperor.

"I am sure Abe has done the political calculation", said Kenneth Ruoff, a history professor and the director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at Portland State University in OR, "and decided it's far better not to tick off the far right that feels intensely about this rather than cater to a largely passive majority that thinks that women should be allowed to sit on the throne".

Despite his push for women's empowerment, Mr. Abe has yet to comment on the role of females in the imperial family.

But some conservative lawmakers are concerned that could eventually allow their sons to become Emperor, something they say goes against Japanese tradition.


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