TOKYO – The Emperor of Japan will no longer release his traditional written New Year message, marking yet another step towards reducing his royal duties following his announcement in the summer of wishing to abdicate due to his advanced age and failing health.
The Vice Grand Steward Yasuhiko Nishimura said on Monday at a press conference that Akihito, who turned 83 on Friday, has accepted a proposal made by the Imperial Household Agency to forgo the message that he has been delivering on Jan. 1 ever since he succeeded the throne in 1989.
The Agency said that the New Year message is too close to the traditional press conference that Akihito offers on his birthday that falls on Dec. 23 and foregoing it would make his work load more bearable, Nishimura said, according to Kyodo news agency.
Nevertheless, the monarch will continue with the traditional greetings which the entire Royal household offers on Jan. 2 every year from the Imperial Palace balcony in Tokyo.
In August Japanese national television broadcasted a rare televised message by Akihito in which he expressed his desire to abdicate in favor of his son Naruhito, 56.
Given that the Japanese constitution does not have any provision for abdication, the government has set up a committee to draft special legislation to allow the head of state to transfer his powers around 2018.
Akihito, who recovered from a fever recently, has been suffering from health issues for the last few years having undergone bypass surgery in 2012 and suffered prostate cancer in 2003, after which he developed osteoporosis as a side effect of the prescribed hormonal therapy.