Prince cites age limit for emperors


Prince Akishino, who turns 46 on Wednesday, has said it will become necessary to hold a public debate on whether an age limit is needed for emperors, who currently serve for life.

The youngest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko made the remark at a news conference he held together with his wife, Princess Kiko, 45, ahead of his birthday.

The 77-year-old Emperor resumed his official duties Tuesday after being hospitalized for 19 days this month for bronchial pneumonia.

Introducing a retirement age for emperors is “one idea” and “discussions should be held including at what age to draw the line,” he said, noting that the aging speed differs depending on the individual.

Under the 1947 Imperial House Law, the next male in line ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne upon an emperor’s death. Emperor Akihito’s eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, currently ranks first in line to the throne, followed by Prince Akishino.

Looking back on events in the last year, including the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, Prince Akishino said his father, who turns 78 on Dec. 23, was particularly busy with official duties.

The prince noted the need for the Imperial Household Agency and doctors to cooperate and be flexible to reduce the heavy burden on his father, who was discharged from the University of Tokyo Hospital last Thursday.

On recent reports that the government is looking into the possibility of allowing women to retain their Imperial status and set up a new royal family after marriage, the prince said it is up to the Diet to discuss systemic reform, but reiterated his call for listening to him and his elder brother in the course of the discussions.

The idea has emerged as there are currently only a few males who are eligible to ascend the throne. Prince Akishino’s 5-year-old son, Prince Hisahito, is now the sole heir eligible to succeed to the throne in his generation.

Referring to his visits to disaster-hit areas earlier this year, Prince Akishino said he will pay attention to recovery and reconstruction work from a long-range point of view and to disaster victims over a long period of time.

Emperor hails firefighters

Emperor Akihito attended a memorial service Tuesday in Tokyo for firefighters who have died on duty, including those who perished during missions following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, as his first official function after being discharged from a hospital Nov. 24.

The Emperor and Empress Michiko mourned the loss of 239 firefighters who died on duty between August last year and October this year, including 226 victims of the March disaster.

It was the most deaths among firefighters since 1991, when 24 perished.