Crown Prince turns 52, wants Emperor’s burden cut

Kyodo

Crown Prince Naruhito celebrated his 52nd birthday Thursday, after noting earlier at a press conference the need to reduce Emperor Akihito’s official duties following his heart bypass surgery last week.

The Crown Prince said at the press conference Tuesday, “Considering the Emperor’s age, it is necessary to reduce his burden.

“I would be more than happy to do anything if I can be of help to him,” the Crown Prince said.

The Crown Prince also said the 78-year-old Emperor had been complaining of slight heart discomfort for some time prior to the surgery, which was conducted Saturday after an angiogram showed a narrowing of two of his three coronary arteries.

On the introduction of an emperor age limit, instead of the current reign for life, the Crown Prince declined comment specifically, only saying, “I think there are various options available” regarding how to reduce the Emperor’s burden.

The Crown Prince also refrained from clarifying his stance on whether female members of the Imperial family should be allowed to create their own family branches so they can retain their royal status after marriage.

Amid concern that the number of Imperial family members will continue to decline, the government is expected to hold the first hearing on the matter later this month.

On the upcoming first anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster, the Crown Prince said the catastrophe has constantly been on his mind during the past year.

“I feel truly encouraged by the fact that people affected by the disaster are making efforts hand in hand toward reconstruction despite harsh conditions,” the Crown Prince said.

Referring to Crown Princess Masako, whose official duties have continued to be limited as she has been receiving treatment for stress-induced illness, he expressed hope that she will “gradually expand the range of her activities” while making her recovery “the top priority.”

Regarding their only child, Princess Aiko, the Crown Prince said his daughter now feels secure at school by taking part in a brass band and field trips. She is now attending school without being accompanied by her mother.

Emperor starts rehab

Emperor Akihito has started cardiac rehabilitation at University of Tokyo Hospital following Saturday’s heart bypass surgery, the Imperial Household Agency said Thursday.

The Emperor, 78, began with walking in his room and is gradually extending the distance by going into hallways, according to the agency.

He was moved to a private room from an intensive care unit Monday and is on a recovery track, it said.

Empress Michiko has visited the Emperor and given him potted butterbur sprout and “hamamelis japonica,” which produces red flowers, the agency said.

Shingo Haketa, grand steward of the agency, told a press conference that the agency would consider ways of reducing the Emperor’s duties after he leaves hospital if he so desires.