TOKYO - In a rare televised message to the country on Monday, Japan's Emperor Akihito said his failing health and advanced age is making it difficult for him to carry out important responsibilities.
"I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being, as I have done till now," the 82-year-old monarch said, hinting at his wish to abdicate.
However, in his second address to the nation since assuming the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989, Akihito could only hint at his abdication plans since the Constitution bars the emperor from political activities and also has no provisions for a living succession.
"It was some years ago, after my two surgeries that I began to feel a decline in my fitness level (...)", said the Emperor.
Health complications over the last few years have forced Akihito to delegate some of his responsibilities to his eldest son and Crown Prince, the 56-year-old Naruhito.
Akihito explained that when an emperor falls ill or his state of health becomes serious there is a danger of society entering into a deadlock or the situation impacting people's lives - as has happened in the past - and so he is deliberating on how to avoid such a possible scenario.
He said the Constitution gives him no political power but that the functions of the emperor as a symbol of the state has to continue uninterrupted.
The Emperor said that during the 28 years of his reign he has been guided by "deep respect and love for the people."
Akihito reiterated his desire to be part of the long history of Japanese emperors whose reigning monarchy is considered to be the oldest in the world.
Akihito's message comes almost two months after public broadcaster NHK reported the emperor's intention of abdicating the throne in favor of Naruhito.
The current law of succession will require an amendment if Naruhito's succession is to take place.