TOKYO – Prince Akishino, younger son of Japanese Emperor Akihito, believes that it is good that his father had expressed his desire to abdicate due to his advanced age, according to statements released on Wednesday on the occasion of his 51st birthday.
“It was good that (the Emperor) was able to express in an appropriate manner what he had been thinking for a long time,” Prince Akishino said at a press conference held several days ahead of his birthday.
In an unprecedented message, televised live in Japan, Emperor Akihito in August expressed his wish to abdicate, which, should it happen, would be unprecedented in the imperial succession line since the resignation of the Emperor Kokaku in 1817.
“The Emperor has been thinking of what this symbol of the state represents and also that at some point his advanced age would make it impossible for him to fulfill his duties,” Prince Akishino added.
The prince acknowledged that he had heard this concern from Akihito since “a long time ago.”
Akishino, who five years ago had proposed to establish a retirement age for emperors, said he hoped his father would have more time to devote himself to what he wants to do.
He also expressed concern about the aging of the declining Japanese Imperial family, saying “it seems difficult” for the Imperial family to continue its same duties in the future.
Once Akihito’s eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, becomes emperor, Prince Akishino would be placed first in the line of succession.
Since the emperor’s televised message, the Japanese government has begun to work on special legislation to allow Akihito to leave the throne before he dies, which the Constitution does not currently contemplate.
The government expects that, once the parliamentary procedures are achieved, the abdication will take place in 2018, according to Japanese media.