Japan's emperor 'may speak about his future as early as Aug 8'

Emperor Akihito, 82, seen here through a window of a train at Tokyo Station last Monday, reportedly does not wish to remain the monarch if he has to cut back on his official duties due to health problems.
Emperor Akihito, 82, seen here through a window of a train at Tokyo Station last Monday, reportedly does not wish to remain the monarch if he has to cut back on his official duties due to health problems.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Japan's Imperial Household Agency is arranging an occasion for Emperor Akihito to express his thoughts to the public this month, reported Japanese media.

Yomiuri Shimbun said "the expression of his thoughts will be conveyed through a televised speech in early August". The agency is carefully examining the Emperor's speech to the public, according to Yomiuri.

Kyodo news agency said the date could be as early as Aug 8, thereby avoiding some annual national events such as the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug 6 and Aug 9 respectively, and the Aug 15 anniversary of the end of World War II.

The 82-year-old monarch, who has had health problems in recent years, reportedly does not wish to remain Emperor if he has to reduce his official duties.

Public broadcaster NHK reported on July 13 that Emperor Akihito expressed his intention to the Imperial Household Agency, the agency that oversees the royal family. Kyodo reported on the same day that he had been expressing his intention to abdicate to people around him for about a year.

But a palace spokesman subsequently denied any official plan for the monarch to abdicate in what would be an unprecedented move in modern Japan.

Under Japan's current Imperial Household Law, which governs the status of the Emperor, there is no legal mechanism for abdication. Any move to step down would therefore require a revision of that law.

The Emperor, according to Kyodo, is likely to avoid making any direct reference to an abdication, but would express his thoughts on "whether it is acceptable for him to stay on the throne if he cannot fully perform his duties as a symbol of the state due to his age".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Friday said he "would refrain from making any comment on behalf of the government" regarding the report that the Emperor may express his thoughts this month.

Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, is the first in line of succession. Emperor Akihito himself ascended the throne at the age of 55 upon the death of his 87-year-old father, Emperor Hirohito.

Emperor Akihito underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer in 2003, and a heart bypass operation in 2012.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Japan's emperor 'may speak about his future as early as Aug 8''. Print Edition | Subscribe