TOKYO—Japanese Emperor Akihito signaled a desire to abdicate because of age and ill health, potentially ushering in 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 10-minute video message broadcast Monday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he took the emperor’s words seriously. The government is expected to open discussions on changing the law governing the imperial household, which doesn’t have any provision for abdication.
“Considering his majesty’s age and the burdens of official duties, we need to give thought to his majesty’s worries and contemplate what we can do,” Mr. Abe said.
The emperor’s remarks amounted to a valedictory address, summing up his nearly 28-year reign and describing the imperial role that he hopes to pass on soon to his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who is 56.
It was only the second time the emperor has released such a video message. The first was to offer condolences after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.
He described a life of constant motion, traveling to “remote places and islands” across the archipelago and striving to “stand by the people, listen to their voices and be close to them in their thoughts.”
It was a job he said he no longer felt confident about doing “when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining.”
In 2003, he was treated for prostate cancer. In 2012, he had heart surgery.
“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,” he said.
Emperor Akihito didn’t directly use the word “abdication.” But he left little doubt that was what he wanted, saying that alternatives such as having a regent perform his duties were unsatisfactory. Story continues here: Source
With Emperor Akihito looking to pass the chrysanthemum throne on to the next generation, we may be treated with a rare glimpse into Japanese Imperial succession traditions.