05/19/2017, 10.07
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Government approves law for the abdication of Emperor Akihito

The law can only be used for this emperor. In all probability it will be approved by parliament by the end of June. Naruhito's new era is expected to begin with 2019. The imperial family has few members and few male children.     

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Japanese government today approved a special ad-personam law that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate the Chrysanthemum throne.

Akihito, 83, is the first emperor to abdicate in almost 200 years. The last one was Emperor Kokaku in 1817.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today signed the law that will now be sent to the Parliament (the Diet) for a final debate and endorsement, expected by the end of June. The law is specific to Akihito and cannot be used in the future for other situations.

Akihito, who suffered a heart attack and prostate cancer, rose to the throne at the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989 and is loved and revered by the population.

Last August, in a speech to the nation, he had confessed to feeling tired and to be reflecting on the "role and duties of the emperor in the days to come." Since Japanese law did not envision abdication, politicians had to embark on a law to make it possible.

In Japan the emperor's status is of high value. Considered a god until the Second World War and the defeat of the country, the Emperor was forced by the Allies to proclaim his "humanity", while remaining the symbol of the nation.

In a friendly style, Akihito tried to heal the wounds left by the war at home and abroad and tried to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people. His visit to some displaced by Fukushima, after the tsunami and the resulting nuclear disaster, remains famous (see photo 3).

The government expects Akihito to abdicate by December 2018, passing the scepter to Prince Naruhito, who will be 57 in February 2019. By 2019, when the Chrysanthemum era ("Gengo") will have ended, a new era will begin.

The law provides that with the end of the Chrysanthemum Throne, Akihito be called "jokor", a title that in the past was given to an emperor who had abdicated. Empress Michiko will be called "jokogo," or "wife of joko." Akihito’s funeral ceremonies will be equivalent to those of other emperors.

The law, however, does not address other issues affecting the imperial household: the shortage of male children (see photo 2) - and hence the possibility of opening the hereditary line to women - and the possibility of staying inside the family for those who marry a non-noble person, to help further reducing the number of members. This last problem resurfaced this week with the news of Princess Mako's engagement to a young lawyer Kei Komuro. By marrying him, Mako will renounce her role and membership of the imperial family.

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