Emperor Akihito, on the occasion of his 80th birthday on Monday, repeated his intention to do his best amid expectations that he will hand over some of his official duties to the younger generation in the year after next.
“While accepting the limits arising from age, I hope to continue to fulfill my role as best I can,” the Emperor said at a customary press conference Wednesday ahead of his birthday.
Emperor Akihito, enthroned on Jan. 7, 1989, is the second to have turned 80 while on the throne, following his father Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.
Next year will be the last time for the Emperor and Empress Michiko, 79, to make annual visits to kindergartens on Children’s Day in May and facilities for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day in September, as they will pass on those visits, made since 1992, to their children, including Crown Prince Naruhito.
“We already have quite an age gap with the children, while we will be around the same age as the elderly citizens,” said the Emperor, adding, “My health has had no bearing on this decision.”
Regarding the passing on of official duties to reduce his burden, he said, “I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being.”
Asked about the relationship between politics and the activities of the Imperial family following Princess Hisako’s involvement in Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the Emperor said, “It is my intention to continue to attend to my duties in a manner compliant with the Constitution.”
“The Constitution of Japan stipulates, ‘The Emperor shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in this Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government,’ ” he said.
About the events that have left a special impression on him during the course of his life, the Emperor pointed to “the Second World War.”
“About 3.1 million Japanese people are said to have lost their lives in that war. It still pains me deeply to think that so many people, who must have had various dreams and hopes for the future, lost their lives at a young age.”
He also noted: “I have profound gratitude for the efforts made by the Japanese people at the time who helped reconstruct and improve the country devastated by the war.”
Touching on major disasters, such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the northeast, especially the Pacific coastline, the Emperor said “there are so many people in Japan who value the bonds between people, can deal with various situations calmly, and work hard toward reconstruction. I have found this most reassuring.”
“Being an Emperor can be a lonely state,” he added.
He also reflected on his marriage.
“I feel most fortunate that I have been able to endeavor to carry out my role as Emperor with the Empress by my side,” he said.
Regarding his overseas trip in November to India, which he also visited 53 years earlier, the Emperor said he was optimistic.
“I received the impression that we can expect high hopes for future exchanges with India and for the development of the country itself.”