Japan's Cabinet approves Bill that paves way for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Japan's Cabinet approves Bill that paves way for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Japan's Cabinet approves Bill that paves way for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Abdication used to be a common practice; according to Kyodo, about half of Japan's 124 former emperors did so. The emperor avoided using the word "abdication" in his address. As there is no current legislation that allows the stepping down of an Emperor, this bill will now have to be presented in Parliament where it is largely expected to be approved. The last emperor to retire was Kokaku in 1817.

Akihito indicated his apparent desire to abdicate in a rare video message in August, but no emperor has abdicated for the past 200 years and current laws do not provide for it.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet signed off on the legislation on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

"By looking at the overall situation, we will decide on a course of action" on the issue, he said at a press conference on Friday morning. Media reports have said officials are considering his abdication at the end of 2018, when Akihito turns 85 and marks 30 years on the throne.

The nation's era name (gengo), informed sources said, which lasts for as long as the emperor is on the throne, will possibly change at the beginning of 2019.

Article 1 of the bill explains the goal of realizing the Emperor's abdication.

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The bill recognises Akihito's "deep concern" about his inability to satisfactorily carry out his duties and notes the widespread public sympathy for his predicament.

The specific details are defined in Article 2 of the bill and beyond.

Empress Michiko will be given a new title, "jokogo", which means "wife of joko" after her husband's abdication. The honorific form of address for both "joko" and "jokogo" will be "heika" (Your Majesty). A series of rituals will take place over the course of a year, based on ceremonial practices from Japan's history. The bill also did not mention about the imperial family allowing women to stay in the palace upon marriage, Reuters noted.

The Liberal Democratic Party, however, is cautious toward this idea and is holding talks with the main opposition party.

Female members of the imperial family must give up their royal status when marrying a commoner, underscored by news this week that one of Akihito's granddaughters plans to marry her college sweetheart. This may affect debates on the additional resolution. It will permit the increasingly frail Akihito to abdicate in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito. The Imperial House Law stipulates that only male patrilineal descendants of emperors can ascend the throne.

In addition, the Emperor will turn 85 on December 23 that year.

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