A petition drive by a small Kyoto-based political group requesting that Emperor Akihito move to Kyoto upon his abdication had drawn over 10,000 signatures as of Friday.
The campaign by Kyoto Party comes just a few days after Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said the city would push the government to conduct an objective study on issues related to the relocation proposal for at least some Imperial family members by listening to the advice of a wide variety of experts.
The group hopes to convince the government that Japan’s former capital, where emperors reigned for nearly 1,000 years, should be discussed as a possible choice for Emperor Akihito after he retires next year, and said that, if he had the same idea, the people of Kyoto would welcome him.
“In February and March, we collected a total of 10,745 signatures, and held on to them until the Diet had established a law to allow the abdication,” Kyoto Party head and city Councilman Shoei Murayama said in a statement released June 9, the same day the law was established.
“We passed off the signatures to the Abe government on June 16,” Murayama said. “We hope that discussions will take place on Kyoto as a possible choice for a post-abdication residence.”
Murayama added that while media reports quote Kyoto residents as saying they want the Emperor, whose ancestors lived in Kyoto from 794 to 1868, to move there in a symbolic “return,” the petition drive has drawn nationwide attention to Kyoto’s history as the former Imperial capital.
Kyoto Party’s efforts are being supported by Mayor Kadokawa, who envisions members of the Imperial family becoming residents and conducting some of the Imperial ceremonies there as well.
“We’d been thinking before the establishment of the abdication law about having some Imperial family members move to Kyoto,” Kadokawa told a June 12 news conference. “But now that the law has been enacted, we want the central government to look at the possibilities.”
Since 2013, officials from the city and representatives from Kyoto’s business, academic, and cultural communities have been discussing a proposal to make Kyoto, along with Tokyo, Japan’s twin cultural capitals. This would entail having at least some of the Imperial family move to Kyoto along with the Cultural Affairs Agency, which is scheduled to be transferred there by 2019, at the earliest.
It was unclear how the Emperor himself viewed a potential move to Kyoto or what role he would play in any decision to relocate.