Official duties of aging Emperor, Empress to be eased

Kyodo

The Imperial Household Agency said Monday it will reduce the official duties of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, both in their 80s, to ease the burden on them by cutting the number of their meetings with guests at the Imperial Palace.

By next March, it will begin to reduce the number by about 10 per year. It will be the first major review of guidelines on their duties since 2009, when the agency decided that the Emperor and Empress basically will not give speeches during their visits to cities.

“We considered how official duties should be performed by the couple in view of their age and obtained consent from the Emperor and the Empress,” said the agency’s Vice Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto.

According to the agency, the Imperial Couple’s meetings with chiefs of prefectural police departments, district public prosecutors offices, district courts and municipal assemblies will be canceled.

The couple will also skip luncheon parties with foreign guests, including national leaders, who are on an official working visit.

Some duties will be handed over to Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, such as a meeting with members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team.

At a press conference to mark his 80th birthday in 2013, the Emperor showed eagerness to continue with his official duties, saying “I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being.”

But Yamamoto noted the Emperor had about 270 meetings, including with foreign guests and recipients of decorations, in the past year.

“The review is an adjustment in the Emperor’s mind and he will never change his attitude to put emphasis on each official duty,” Yamamoto said.

He said the agency started to review the Imperial Couple’s official duties in earnest after their trip to the Philippines in late January, but added “no particular changes have been observed” in their health.