Emperor Akihito’s Abdication

By Charity Chukwu

During one of J-Plus’ Saturday classes (Dec.2), we read an article from BBC about the announcement of the official abdication date of Japan’s current emperor, Emperor Akihito. It was decided that he would step down next year on April 30 and that his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, would inherit the throne the following day. While rereading the article a few days after class, I flipped to the last page and noticed a sentence that I had not seen before: “It is a one-off piece of legislation, and does not allow Naruhito or his successors to abdicate.”

Reading this felt like finding the fine print within a document. “Why wouldn’t the same right be given to his successors?” I thought and have been thinking about this ever since then. Perhaps it is because it has been centuries since an emperor has abdicated and the Japanese government does not want it to become a habit. Why not, though? From the information I have read from various news sites, Emperor Akihito does not seem particularly eager to relinquish the throne; he almost seems reluctant. In a national address he gave last year, he expressed his concern for the effect his declining health may have on his responsibilities. Who’s to say that future emperors (or maybe empresses *quadruple fingers crossed*) will not feel the same way? During the same speech, Emperor Akihito even said that he did not want to fill his family and Japan as a whole with strife in the case that he dies while still on the throne. Shouldn’t that kind of selfless thought be encouraged? I doubt they would give up the throne over anything that does not mean a lot to them, so I think abdication at a certain age, maybe around 80 years old, should become a regular occurrence, but I still need more information. So far, I haven’t found any other arguments that oppose my own or relating to this particular condition in the legislation, but I will continue my search.

Do you think that abdication should just happen this once, or be available, or even mandatory, for future successors? Feel free to leave a comment explaining why!


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