Empress Michiko turns 83, relieved that Emperor Akihito can abdicate under special law

Japan's Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Sept 27, 2017.
Japan's Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Sept 27, 2017.PHOTO: AFP/IMPERIAL HOUSEHOLD AGENCY

TOKYO (BERNAMA) - Japanese Empress Michiko celebrated her 83rd birthday on Friday (Oct 20), expressing her tremendous relief at the enactment in June of a special law to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, local media reported.

In written answers to journalists' questions prior to her birthday, Empress Michiko said that "I feel immeasurably great relief that the Emperor, who has grown old after pursuing for a long period of time his idealistic view of the Emperor's role as the country's symbol, will now be able to have peaceful days for a while."

"I deeply appreciate many people who helped make this possible," Japan's Jiji Press quoted the Empress as saying.

Empress Michiko also publicly revealed her thoughts for the first time since the passage of the law. She said when the couple made domestic trips this year, she thought that the trips "may possibly be the last opportunities for me to visit these prefectures publicly accompanying the Emperor" while he is on the throne.

The special abdication law was formulated after Emperor Akihito expressed last year his strong wish to step down due to his age. The Emperor is set to turn 84 in December.

Looking back on the year so far, Empress Michiko cited as matters of her concern reconstruction moves in areas hit by natural disasters and the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the country's scholarship system, the discovery of fire ants at home and other things.

The Empress also said she was impressed by the appointment in March of Izumi Nakamitsu, a Japanese woman, as UN high representative for disarmament affairs, noting that she learnt from Nakamitsu's remarks that disarmament efforts will lead to conflict prevention.

The winning of this year's Nobel Peace Prize by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was "very meaningful," Empress Michiko said.

She pointed out that worldwide attention was focused on the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, thanks to the efforts of people including the hibakusha, or survivors of the August 1945 US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She also congratulated Japanese-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro on his winning of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, adding that she has read his book "The Remains of the Day."

According to the Imperial Household Agency, Empress Michiko performed many official duties this year, including an official visit to Vietnam, although she was not in full health. In addition to a chronic nerve disease, she suffered labial herpes and shingles in the spring.