TOKYO – Japanese Emperor Akihito may relinquish the throne in favor of his son and Crown Prince Naruhito on Jan. 1, 2019, Japanese media reported on Wednesday after the monarch expressed his desire to abdicate in August.
It is the first time that a precise date has been given after Akihito’s rare televised message where he announced his decision to abdicate, an unprecedented event in Japanese imperial history since the resignation of the Emperor Kokaku in 1817.
Japan will usher in a new era with the change of the monarch as each era represents the reign of the emperor during his ruling period: the current “heisie” or peace era began on Jan. 8, 1989, the day after Akihito’s father, former emperor Hirohito passed away.
The idea of using the natural passage of 2018 to 2019 will limit the impact (for example in administrative matters) of changing the name of the era, according to official sources reported by Kyodo news agency.
Since the emperor’s announcement, the government has begun to work on a special legislation that will allow Akihito to abdicate while still alive, which the present Constitution does not provide for.
Although the abdication was expected to take place in 2018, coinciding with the 30th year of the current era, sources said there was not enough time to prepare for the new legislation before this date.
The government is expected to present a special bill applying exclusively to Akihito’s abdication by the end of January, thus avoiding an amendment to the constitution, which is a very lengthy and complex procedure.
An experts panel, appointed by the government to collect proposals and manage the abdication process, is expected to present a report to the Parliament on Jan. 23.
Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga, however, refuted media reports and said in a press conference on Tuesday that no date has been fixed for the abdication and that the expert panel is focusing on how to alleviate the workload of the emperor.