News reports Wednesday that Emperor Akihito hopes to abdicate have attracted attention not only at home but abroad, with foreign media looking back on Japan’s history and touching on current domestic issues.
“For the first time in nearly two centuries, an emperor of Japan has said that he will abdicate the throne before he dies,” The New York Times said Wednesday in its online edition, citing Emperor Kokaku as the last emperor to abdicate, in 1817.
The newspaper also said the Emperor “may be trying to avoid the drama of his own succession” as his father, Emperor Hirohito, was ill for years, quoting an expert on Japan as saying Emperor Akihito “seems to want to make it easier and make it more matter of fact.”
The Emperor underwent surgery in 2003 to remove prostate cancer and had a coronary artery bypass surgery in 2012.
The New York Times added that although an emperor has no official political authority, Crown Prince Naruhito, who will succeed the Emperor, could offer a “counterpoint” to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of amending the Constitution, given that the Crown Prince has expressed his appreciation for the postwar pacifist charter.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, said in its online edition: “The emperor is known to take his public duties seriously, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he wanted to pass his crown to the next generation to ensure that they could be carried out fully.”
In Asia, The Kyunghyang Shinmun, a South Korean liberal-leaning newspaper, described the current Emperor as someone who “keeps his distance from the right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and continues to make efforts to protect the pacifist Constitution.”
The newspaper added the Emperor “has been always friendly to South Korea,” and noted that in his remarks last August at an annual war memorial ceremony, he used the expression “deep remorse” in regard to World War II for the first time.
In 2001, the Emperor also said he felt “connections” with South Korea, referring to a classical history text that says the mother of his eighth-century Imperial predecessor, Emperor Kanmu, was from Korea.
The Korean Peninsula was ruled by Japan as a colony from 1910 until the end of World War II.
In China, the official Xinhua News Agency, Phoenix TV in Hong Kong and other media also reported on the Emperor’s reported wish to abdicate.