In a historic move, the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday approved a bill allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate the Chrysanthemum throne and hand over duties to Crown Prince Naruhito. The announcement was made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The move is likely to be implemented in December 2018, when Emperor Akihito turns 85. This is the first time in about 200 years that Japan will see such a shift.
The move comes almost a year after Emperor Akihito made a rare public television address to the nation wherein he spoke about his advancing age and health, perhaps suggesting that he wanted to step down from duties. As there is no current legislation that allows the stepping down of an Emperor, this bill will now have to be presented in Parliament where it is largely expected to be approved.
The country’s era name – Gengo – will also have to be changed as the nation gets a new emperor.
The bill has been specifically drafted to ensure it is used only for the current emperor and to disallow future emperors from following it. Currently, only posthumous succession is allowed under the Imperial House Law.
According to Japanese news reports, the bill states the public’s “understanding” and “sympathy” for the ageing emperor’s “deep concern” about becoming unable to fulfill his duties eventually as a reason to set up the special-case abdication law.