The Shinzō Abe government in Japan recently approved a bill that would allow Emperor Akihito to step down in the coming days. It is indeed a historic move, as 83-year-old Emperor Akihito will become the Asian country’s first monarch in more than two centuries to abdicate. Now, the Cabinet will send the bill to the Parliament, where it is expected to get passed. If the bill is passed by the Parliament, then the current emperor will be abdicated.
The Abe Cabinet cleared the bill on May 19 soon after Emperor Akihito expressed concerns about being able to fulfil his duties as emperors. Earlier in May, the emperor said that his age might not allow him to fulfil his duties in near future. Akihito also announced that he and his 81-year-old wife Empress Michiko would reduce public appearances.
Immediately after approving the draft bill for Akihito’s abdication, the Cabinet sent it to the Parliament, urging the Upper and Lower Houses to review the bill. The two Houses will hold a debate and then, the bill will officially become a law. Prime Minister Abe has expressed hope that the Parliament will pass the legislation in its current session that will end on June 18.
If the Parliament passes the bill, then Emperor Akihito will hand over the Chrysanthemum Throne over to Crown Prince Naruhito. According to sources close to the Japanese government, the handover will take place in December 2018 and the nation’s ‘Gengo’ Era name (which remains in use for the length of an emperor’s reign) will be changed in January 2019.
The bill has been designed in such a way so that other monarchs cannot follow the current emperor’s suit easily. Currently, only posthumous succession is allowed in Japan, as the Imperial House Law has no provision regarding an abdication by a reigning emperor. The enactment of the bill will make Emperor Akihito the first Japanese emperor to abdicate since 1817, when Emperor Kokaku relinquished the throne.
However, the abdication of Japanese emperors was not uncommon. About half of the country’s 125 emperors were abdicated in the past.