Japan's Prince Naruhito says he is ready to become emperor

Crown Prince Naruhito and Emperor Akihito on Jan 2, 2015. The Emperor has indicated his desire to step down due to old age.
Crown Prince Naruhito and Emperor Akihito on Jan 2, 2015. The Emperor has indicated his desire to step down due to old age.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Naruhito sees father as 'role model', Japan deciding how to allow Emperor to abdicate

Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito is ready to succeed his father as the emperor, he said on his 57th birthday yesterday.

In his birthday remarks released by the Imperial Household Agency, he added that he was "profoundly moved" by the video message his elderly father delivered to the country last August.

Emperor Akihito, 83, had indicated his desire to step down over fears that his old age will stop him from fully performing his duties.

In his first comments on the issue, the Crown Prince said he will regard his father as his role model.

"I will take the role of the emperor seriously to heart and work on my duties by bearing this constantly in mind," he added, noting that the role is to "share the pain and the joys of the people, and pray for their happiness".

CHANGING ROLE OF ROYALTY

How current duties can be continued, and the burdens shared, are important issues related to the future direction of the imperial family. Much like how a new wind will blow depending on the era, the role of the imperial family has also changed over time.

JAPANESE CROWN PRINCE NARUHITO

The current Imperial Household Law bars abdication and Japan is deliberating how to allow Emperor Akihito to cede the throne to the Crown Prince. A Bill is slated to be tabled in the Diet by early May.

If and when Emperor Akihito steps down - likely on his 85th birthday on Dec 23 next year - he will be the first monarch since 1817 to do so.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party prefers a one-time special law and a government-backed panel last month said doing so would be a low-risk approach. This is because "careful deliberations can be made in the Diet each time to reflect the will of the people and the situation at the time".

But the opposition Democratic Party wants a permanent framework that will also cover future monarchs.

Crown Prince Naruhito has one daughter, Aiko, 15. Next in line after him is his younger brother, Prince Akishino, 51, followed by the latter's son Hisahito, 10.

In his remarks, the Crown Prince noted issues such as fewer male heirs in the royal bloodline, and a system where females leave the royal family after marriage.

"How current duties can be continued, and the burdens shared, are important issues related to the future direction of the imperial family," he said. "Much like how a new wind will blow depending on the era, the role of the imperial family has also changed over time."

His wife, Crown Princess Masako, 53, a former diplomat, has suffered a stress-induced mental condition over her trouble adapting to the sedate royal life. Said the Crown Prince: "As she continues treatment, she is trying to fulfil both her public and private duties as far as possible, and has slowly been increasing her activity."

On Princess Aiko, who missed school for six weeks last year over an unidentified health issue, he added: "For a time, she was unwell, which caused some worry, but thanks to the support from her mother, she has returned to her usual school life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Prince says he is ready to become emperor'. Print Edition | Subscribe