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Japan Enters a New Era

The Emperor’s Abdication: Proposed Legislation Must Give Priority to Tradition




A select committee of government officials has presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe its final report on the issue of the Emperor’s abdication. The report supports the drafting of a special, one-time-only legislation that would allow the reigning emperor to abdicate to his successor only on this particular occasion. It calls for the current emperor to be referred to as the joko, or retired emperor, after he steps down.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan have commenced unofficial meetings since March on the outlines of the special draft legislation. The government will draw up the special bill based on the select committee’s final report and inputs from consultations with held by the LDP and DPJ. A Cabinet-level decision will be made on May 19 and then submitted to the Diet.



The Emperor's state visits to Vietnam



His Majesty the Emperor, who is 83 years old, has continued diligently executing his duties this year by making state visits to Vietnam and Thailand. The Japanese people revere His Majesty and surely hope that, by abdicating, he will be able to enjoy a rest from his long years of attendance to the requirements of the throne.


The most important thing to be done now is to prepare the legislation without delay and then to see it safely through the Diet.


The final report finds it fitting that, after their abdication, the current emperor and empress should be referred to as “retired emperor” and “retired empress.” The report also proposes that His Highness Akishinonomiya, the younger brother of the current crown prince who will become next in line to the throne after the current emperor’s abdication, be referred to as “His Majesty Crown Prince Akishinonomiya.”


The imperial household system is rooted in tradition, and it is most proper that a historically-attested appellation be used instead of a newly-minted form of address. We hope that the government will honor these sensibilities, which value history and tradition.



During hearings held by the select committee, some members proposed that the official title of the abdicated emperor should be taijo tenno—an exalted version of “abdicated emperor.” The natural abbreviation of this would be simply joko or “retired emperor.”.


In the same way, the terms “dowager empress” to refer to the empress after her abdication, and “younger brother of the emperor” to refer to the current younger brother of the crown prince, would be easy to understand. The term “younger brother of the emperor” should be written into the eighth clause of the Imperial Household Law.


As for the activities of the retired emperor, it would be most proper should all symbolic duties be yielded to the new emperor.



What we wish to emphasize here is that the retired emperor would be the best advisor to the new emperor. History provides examples of retired emperors instructing reigning emperors and crown princes in virtue, guiding them in their studies, and generally playing a positive role in their instruction.



This advisory role differs from the kind of government effected in earlier ages by retired emperors controlling affairs from behind the scenes, and yet is also not entirely a private matter for the retired emperor and the reigning one. It goes without saying that, as a symbolic constitutional monarch, there can be only one emperor at a time, and that fears of overlapping authority are unfounded.


We agree with the report’s recommendation that steps be taken immediately to deal with the reduced numbers inside the royal family. Without a single exception, there are no examples in the history of the imperial household of imperial succession along the female line, or so-called “female princes of the blood.” Discussion should now begin on whether to reinstate former princes of the blood into membership in the imperial family, which would also serve to stabilize imperial succession going forward.



(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)




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