Emperor to forgo New Year’s message to lighten burden

Kyodo

Emperor Akihito, who turned 83 last Friday, will no longer deliver a New Year’s message as part of the effort to help ease his burden, the Imperial Household Agency said.

Vice Grand Steward Yasuhiko Nishimura said Monday that the Emperor has accepted a proposal by the agency to forgo the release of the annual message, which he has provided since 1990.

The Emperor will, however, continue the New Year’s tradition of greeting well-wishers at the Imperial Palace each Jan. 2.

In a rare video message delivered to the public in August, the Emperor expressed his desire to abdicate due to declining physical strength but sounded skeptical about simply reducing his duties.

He is apparently concerned about potential problems caused by performing only some of his duties, according to agency sources.

Nishimura said the New Year’s message comes too close to the Emperor’s greetings for his birthday on Dec. 23 and the public appearance on Jan. 2, and that there will still be sufficient opportunities to deliver his thoughts to the public.

A government advisory panel has been studying the feasibility of abdication along with how to alleviate his burdens. Nishimura denied any connection between the panel discussion and the decision to forgo the New Year’s message.