TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Akihito thanked the Japanese people on his 83rd birthday on Friday for backing his desire to abdicate, a wish he made public in August.
At a press conference held ahead of his birthday, Emperor Akihito recalled the video message broadcast on national television in August, in which he expressed his desire to abdicate in favor of his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito, citing old age and fragile health.
“I am profoundly grateful that many people have lent an ear to my words and are giving sincere thought to the matter in their respective positions,” Akihito said at the press conference.
Since the emperor’s televised address, the government has begun to work on a special legislation to allow Akihito to abdicate while still alive, which is not allowed by the current Constitution and the Imperial House Law.
The government hopes the abdication will take place in 2018 after the parliamentary procedures are completed.
According to polls, nearly 90 percent of the Japanese are in favor of allowing the emperor to abdicate.
During his address, Akihito also touched upon his historic trip to the Philippines in January and his visit to regions in southwestern Japan, struck by powerful earthquakes in spring.
The emperor has been suffering from ill health since he underwent a heart surgery in 2012, and was also operated upon for prostate cancer in 2003.
Akihito also spoke about his uncle, Prince Mikasa, whose demise in October at the age of 100 has left only four heirs to the Chrysanthemum throne.
Like every year on his birthday, thousands of people gathered at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where Akihito and other members of the royal family greeted the crowd from a balcony.