Japanese Emperor Akihito Will Likely Abdicate — and Possibly Change History

The 83-year-old emperor hopes to give future monarchs the power to do the same, too

Emperor Akihito Turns 83

At 83 years old, Japanese Emperor Akihito is ready to retire.

The royal, who has held the throne since 1989, has battled prostate cancer and undergone multiple surgeries in recent years. In August, he released a video expressing his desire to abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Naruhito, the Crown Prince of Japan. Naruhito is 56 — nearly the same age as his father was when he succeeded his own father.

But there’s a catch: In Japan, a monarch isn’t legally allowed to abdicate. In the video, he issued a plea of sorts to parliament to allow him to resign and hand over the reins to his son.

“Fortunately, I am now in good health,” he said in the address. “However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as a symbol of the state with my whole being.”

Now, it appears he’s going to get his wish.

A Japanese government panel, set up in response to Akihito’s video, is expected to announce that they have decided that he should be allowed to abdicate through the implementation of a special, one-time-only law.

However, a friend of Akihito’s said that he wants not just a pass for himself, but for future emperors, too.

Members of the panel and some of the public are wary of allowing any emperor the ability to abdicate. Many worry that it would crumble the foundation of the monarchy, and would lead to an heir to the throne refusing to take over, or abdicating after a short period.

Most of the public seems to be in favor, though: According to a poll by Jiji press, 61 percent of those asked support a permanent law that would allow for abdication.

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