TOKYO – Japan’s upper house of parliament approved on Friday the bill that will allow Emperor Akihito to hand over the throne to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, which will be the first abdication in the country in 200 years.
The promulgation was issued 10 months after the 83-year-old emperor had expressed his desire to leave the throne owing to his advanced age and delicate health, an assumption that the Japanese Imperial Household Law did not take into account at present.
The government must now set a date for the abdication that will take place within three years after the proclamation of the regulations that only apply to the emperor Akihito.
Although the date has not yet been set, the government is considering between December 2018, when the emperor will turn 85 and marks three decades as the head of state, and January 2019, which will coincide with the country’s move into the new year and will limit the possible effects on the administrative bodies.
Although only posthumous abdication is allowed in the present Imperial Household Law, half of the 125 emperors that have previously occupied the Chrysanthemum Throne renounced the position before their death, the last being the emperor Kokaku in 1817.
The legislative body also approved on Friday a non-binding resolution urging the government to open the debate on the presence of women in the institution after marriage and the possibility of establishing the royal family’s female collateral branches to address the decline of their members.
The Japanese Imperial Household Law since 1947 does not allow women to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne and establishes that they will lose their royal status if they marry a commoner, which is practically the only viable option for them since the only unmarried male of royal blood is Prince Hisahito, 10 years old.
The announcement in May of the engagement of Akihito’s eldest granddaughter, Princess Mako, with a college friend had a major social impact in Japan and revived the debate over the Imperial Household Law reform to ensure the succession, considering the shortage of male births in the family.
When the princess gets married, the family will have 18 members, of whom only five are male: Emperor Akihito (83), his brother Prince Hitachi (81), Crown Prince Naruhito (57), Prince Akishino (51) and Prince Hisahito (10), the emperor’s only grandson.