Japan cabinet approves Emperor Akihito abdication bill

Japan's government has approved a one-off bill which if passed will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. AGENCIES

The Japanese Government on Friday approved a legislation that will determination Emperor Akihito, who has suffered several bouts of ill health in recent years to abdicate in 2018.

After the envisioned abdication, the emperor and empress are expected to move to Togu Palace in the Akasaka Estate in Tokyo's Minato Ward, where the crown prince and his family now live, and the new emperor's family will move to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.

Akihito, who is 83, gave strong hints last August that he was thinking of stepping down because health and age were making it hard to perform his official duties.

This will be the first time a monarch has done so in Japan in two centuries. Once on throne, Crown Prince Naruhito need not look at roads as he once rued but walk along them or drive his way to reach the other world and mix with people more comfortably.

Current Japanese law has no provision for abdication.

The announcement was made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. In rare public remarks a year ago, he said he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfill his duties.

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Akihito ascended the throne in January 1989, at the age of 56, following the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito.

Some scholars and politicians have argued that changing the law to allow any emperor to abdicate would risk Japan's monarchs becoming subject to political manipulation.

Akihito's retirement and the forthcoming engagement of his granddaughter, princess Mako, have reignited debate about the shortage of male heirs and a possible succession crisis in an imperial line some claim stretches back 2,600 years.

Reports of Emperor Akihito's desire to retire surprised Japan when they emerged last July.

Traditionalists fear that fully ventilating issues surrounding the emperor system might open the way to permitting a woman to assume the throne as a reigning empress.

In addition to prohibiting abdication, the 1947 imperial law does not recognize the so-called collateral institutional branches, making female members of the royal family lose their royal status when marrying a commoner, which has since substantially reduced the number of members of the Japanese royal family.

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