Japan's Diet enacts law allowing emperor to abdicate

Lucy Hill
June 10, 2017

In passing legislation to allow Emperor Akihito to leave his throne, Japan's parliament acted in response to the emperor's own wishes.

Japanese Emperor Akihito (right), alongside his elder son Crown Prince Naruhito, waved to the crowd on his 83rd birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in December.

The House of Councillors passed the bill during a plenary session in the morning with support from all parties and factions, except the Liberal Party. Akihito, who is hugely popular in Japan, will become the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.

Under the new law, an abdication must take place within three years, according to the Associated Press. Under the current law, if Prince Hisahito's future wife does not give birth to a son, the imperial bloodline would end for good.

However, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is said to be reluctant to carry out such a drastic reform because many conservative politicians want to retain the traditional male-only, paternal-line succession system.

The current emperor, Akihito, is mortal.

Unlike in some countries with royal families, there is no republican movement in Japan and the emperor and royal family have won the admiration of the vast majority of the country. Female members who marry commoners lose their royal status. According to the law, it will happen within three years.

According to the 1947 Imperial House Law, females can not ascend to the throne and must leave the imperial family when they marry commoners.

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That could include allowing them to keep their titles so that they can make up for the declining royal membership and continue to perform some royal family public duties.

The government is mainly considering a plan for the Emperor's abdication and crown prince's ascension to the Imperial throne to occur in late December 2018, with the era name to be changed on January 1, 2019.

The greatest threat to the imperial family's long history came with Japan's defeat in World War II. It also highlights a pressing issue of the shrinking royal population and male successors.

Women have occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne in the past-eight, in fact-but not in modern times.

But Naruhito's only child is a girl, and his younger brother Prince Akishino has two adult daughters and a 10-year-old son, Hisahito.

While Japan might slowly be coming around to the idea of imperial princesses who marry outside the family, after what it believes could be up to 2,600 years of unbroken male rule, it doesn't appear as though there will be a woman on the Chrysanthemum Throne any time soon.

Abe has not commented on the role of women in the imperial family, despite his oft-repeated political rhetoric about creating a society in which "women can shine".

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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