Japanese Emperor Akihito, in a rare televised address to the nation, talked about his ill health and cast doubts on his ability to carry out his duties as emperor much longer. He said that he wanted an orderly imperial family succession. Observers speculated that perhaps a regent might be appointed.
But Japanese law says the emperor must serve until death and is barred from appealing directly to be allowed to retire or abdicate. Thus legal changes may be needed for Emperor Akihito to step aside.
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The Japanese government has begun work to revise the law governing the imperial family system to permit an emperor to abdicate. Emperor Akihito wants to abdicate, government sources have said. He has been treated for prostate cancer and heart problems.
The 82-year-old monarch is expected to soon speak about his desire to hand over the throne to his 56-year-old son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
The Japan Times noted: “Revision to the Imperial House Law is necessary for an emperor to relinquish the throne while still alive, as the law does not provide for abdication. No succession from a living emperor has taken place for about 200 years.”
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