Current Japanese Emperor Akihito, 82 years old, plans on abdicating in a few years – something that hasn’t occurred in the last 200 years.
According to the Imperial Household Agency, as cited by NHK, the Emperor believes that his old age prevents him from performing his duties as an emperor to the fullest. He said that someone suitable should take over. His eldest son and heir, Crown Prince Naruhito, is currently 56 years old.
Emperor Akihito had suffered from several health problems over recent years. In 2012, he underwent a successful heart bypass surgery, several months after he was hospitalized for pneumonial bronchitis in 2011. He is also reportedly receiving hormonal treatment to prevent a recurrence of prostate cancer following removal of a tumor in 2003. In spite of this, his plan of stepping down the throne doesn’t mean that he has any immediate health concerns.
However, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, a senior official of the Imperial Household Agency Shinichiro Yamamoto had denied the reports of the abdication plan, saying it was incorrect.
Born in 1933, the Emperor has reigned for 27 years. He dedicated his life to heal the wounds caused by Japan’s aggression across Asia in the World War II. His father, former Emperor Hirohito, was the ruling emperor at the time of war. In contrast to his father’s controversial figure, Akihito embraced the pacifist constitution and also his role as a symbol of national unity. He marked the 70th anniversary of World War II with an expression of “deep remorse”, praying that “this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.”
In his attempts to repair the ties between Japan and other countries, Akihito made many visits abroad. He was also the first Japanese monarch in living memory to have visited China, a land ravaged by Japan’s past military aggression.
For the emperor to abdicate, the imperial law would have to be revised, as the law states that the throne will be passed after the last emperor passes away.