June 10, 2017
Tokyo- Since Emperor Akihito signaled his wish to abdicate 10 months ago, the people of Japan have faced the question of what an Emperor should be like when he reaches an advanced age.
Parliament answered the question on Friday, enacting special legislation to allow the 83-year-old Emperor to step down from the throne and opening the way for the first succession from a living Emperor in about 200 years.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the law, which applies only to Emperor Akihito, can be "a precedent" for possible abdications of future Emperors. But their abdications are not guaranteed because there is no related provision in the law and a government thus can make its own decision.
Deliberations on the abdication shed light on other challenges faced by the Imperial Family, including how to secure stable Imperial succession and how to deal with the dwindling membership of the family.
If no measures are taken, it may be difficult for the Imperial Family to keep going.
Itsuo Sonobe, a former Supreme Court justice who provided his opinions to a government panel of experts on the abdication issue, said it would be impossible for the Imperial Family to survive in the generation of Prince Hisahito, the 10-year-old grandson of Emperor Akihito.
Prince Hisahito, who is third in line to the throne, is the only male among the eight Imperial Family members aged below 40. Of the seven female members, Princess Mako, a granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, is expected to soon get engaged to a former university classmate and lose her Imperial Family status after her marriage. Other female members will lose their own status if they marry outside the family. (Jiji Press)
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