Emperor Akihito expresses doubts about age, health
wsj.com -- Aug 08
Japanese Emperor Akihito said Monday that ongoing issues of age and health could make it difficult for him to carry out his official duties, potentially paving the way for his abdication and the most significant change to the imperial system in the postwar era.

"When the Emperor has ill health and his condition becomes serious, I am concerned that, as we have seen in the past, society comes to a standstill and people's lives are impacted in various ways," the 82-year-old emperor said in a prerecorded speech broadcast in Japan on Monday afternoon. It was only the second time that the emperor released such a video message, following a statement of condolences in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

Although Japanese media have reported that the emperor wishes to abdicate, he refrained from directly saying so in Monday's message. Under Japan's constitution, the emperor holds no political power. Some officials have expressed concern that if Emperor Akihito directly called for a change to the law to permit his abdication, it could represent unconstitutional interference in the political process.

Current law says only that imperial succession happens after the death of an emperor, and it has no stipulation for abdication.

The last time an emperor abdicated was in 1817. Since Japan's current constitution took effect in 1947, establishing the emperor as the "symbol of the state," there has been little change to the imperial system. Under the law, succession passes through the male line only. Women cannot take the throne and must leave the imperial family when they marry.

Next in line to the throne is Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, followed by his younger brother, Prince Akishino, 50.

Emperor Akihito has had health problems and has cut back on his official duties in recent years. In 2003, he was treated for prostate cancer. In 2012, he underwent heart surgery.

News source: wsj.com
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