The Japanese cabinet on Friday approved a Bill that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate his throne by the end of next year, Reuters reported. Akihito had last year expressed a desire to step down as emperor, saying he was unable to discharge his duties properly. The abdication will be the first in Japan in over 200 years.
The 83-year-old Akihito will be replaced by his son, the 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito. The bill, expected to be passed by the government at the end of the current session, will authorise Akihito’s abdication as a one-time event, and not as a way out for future emperors wishing to delegate their responsibilities to others.
“The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Akihito, who suffers from prostate and heart problems, had announced his decision to retire on television last year. In the pre-recorded message, Akihito had cited his illness, his age, and fatigue. He had lost confidence, he had said, in his capacity to serve as a symbol of national unity.
Since such a step was unheard of in the country, the Japanese parliament had to devise a way to honour the Emperor’s request. The request for abdication had led to several other problems, such as devising a new term for a retired king, and re-orienting the Japanese calendar in which a year usually coincides with the start of an Emperor’s reign.