Cabinet approves special bill for Emperor Akihito to step down

Miranda GreerMay 20, 2017

The Japanese cabinet approved a bill on Friday allowing the 83-year-old Emperor Akihito to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The move comes nearly 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. It means Akihito is poised to become the first Japanese emperor to step down for almost two centuries.

After Emperor Akihito relinquishes the Chrysanthemum throne, he will be called "joko", an abbreviation of "daijo tenno", a title that was given in the past to an abdicated emperor, according to the bill.

Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says he expected smooth passage of the abdication bill, which would only apply to Akihito. When she marries she will become a commoner. The current law was set in 1947 and bans abdication as it is seen as a potential risk to political stability.

Women are not allowed to inherit the throne and so Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, can not succeed her father.

Under the current Imperial Household Law, there is no provision permitting the emperor to abdicate.

While no definite plan for an abdication has been confirmed, media have said it will likely take place in late 2018, which would mark almost 30 full years on the throne for the emperor. The Japanese government has approved a bill to let Emperor Akihito abdicate TIME (@TIME) 19 mai 2017 He will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, possibly in late 2018.

Akihito, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, is loved and revered by many Japanese.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on the other hand, is reluctant to include a phrase on establishing imperial branch houses headed by women, which would allow female members to remain in the Imperial Family after marriage. His younger brother Prince Akishino has a young son and two daughters.

Some have suggested that female members of the family who marry commoners should stop losing their royal status - as will happen to Akihito's granddaughter Princess Mako when she weds her college sweetheart. The nation's "gengo" era name, which remains in use for the length of an emperor's reign, will likely change at the start of 2019, Kyodo news agency reported.

Akihito is Japan's 125th Emperor and records claim the imperial line has been unbroken for 14 centuries.

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