Japan panel ponders law for emperor to retire

Japanese law currently does not allow an emperor to give up the throne, but Emperor Akihito, 83, said in rare public remarks last August that he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties.
Japanese law currently does not allow an emperor to give up the throne, but Emperor Akihito, 83, said in rare public remarks last August that he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO • A panel of experts is expected to indicate today a preference for a special law to allow Emperor Akihito to retire, most probably by the end of next year.

Japanese law currently does not allow an emperor to give up the throne, but Emperor Akihito, 83, said in rare public remarks last August that he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfil his duties.

The government has since set up a panel to look into the issue and related topics such as his title and duties. Officials are looking at ancient precedents, since the last time an emperor abdicated was in 1817.

"Japan is in uncharted territory except for historians,"said Professor Colin Jones at Doshisha University Law School.

History suggests Emperor Akihito should get the title Joko, or retired emperor. Besides his title, duties and residence after he retires, the government also has to fix the name and date for the commencement of the new "imperial era" that will be ushered in by his successor, under Japan's unique calendar.

The current era, called Heisei, or Achieving Peace, began on Jan 8, 1989, the day he took the throne after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito. Japan uses the Gregorian calendar now, but it has kept its ancient Nengo system, under which a new emperor ushers in a new era.

Residence options include the Togu Palace, now home to the Crown Prince, and the Fukiage Omiya Palace, where Emperor Hirohito once lived - both lie within the Tokyo palace grounds. The ancient capital of Kyoto cannot be ruled out either, said some experts.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Japan panel ponders law for emperor to retire'. Print Edition | Subscribe