TOKYO (Reuters, AFP) - Emperor Akihito will make a video address to the people of Japan on Monday at 0600 GMT (2pm Singapore time), the Imperial Household Agency said on Friday (Aug 5), following a report last month that he wants to abdicate "in a few years".
The 82-year-old monarch, who has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer in recent years, expressed his intention to abdicate in a few years to the Imperial Household Agency, public broadcaster NHK said last month.
“The emperor will express his feelings regarding his duties as a symbol” of the nation, the spokesman told AFP.
But Japanese media, including public broadcaster NHK, have widely reported that Akihito would likely hint at his desire to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Ordinary Japanese sympathise with his apparent desire to hand over to Crown Prince Naruhito, but such a step would be unprecedented in modern Japan and the idea faces stiff opposition from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative base.
Akihito has been cutting back on official duties recently, his place taken by his heir, 56-year-old Naruhito.
Conservatives have already raised objections to changing the law to let Akihito step down, citing problems ranging from his title and possible strife with a new emperor, to worry that the next step would be a break in tradition by letting women succeed and pass on the throne.
Naruhito has only one daughter, so since only males can inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne, the throne after Naruhito would pass to his brother, Prince Akishino, and then to nine-year-old nephew Hisahito.
Before Hisahito’s birth, no male had been born into the imperial family for more than four decades. This prompted discussion of equal inheritance for women, a move opposed by traditionalists eager to preserve a male line they believe goes back more than 2,000 years.
The emperor's video message scheduled for Monday would be uploaded on the Imperial Household Agency’s website and shown on television, Kyodo News agency reported Friday.
Abe’s government is planning to release a statement on the same day in response to the emperor’s remarks, NHK reported.
The mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper reported last week that the government plans to set up a panel of experts to discuss revising the law governing the imperial family system as early as this autumn.
The throne is held in deep respect by much of the public, despite being largely stripped of its mystique and quasi-divine status in the aftermath of Worl War II.
Akihito’s father, Hirohito, in whose name Japan’s military campaigns of the 20th century were prosecuted, was treated as a living god until defeat in 1945. He died from cancer in 1989.