Emperor Akihito does not necessarily intend to relinquish the throne early, but has indicated he is prepared to abdicate if he becomes unable to fulfill his duties, government sources said Saturday.
The Imperial Household Agency is considering organizing an occasion for the Emperor, who is 82, to publicly express his own thoughts. The plan is being broached partly due to speculation about his intentions, the sources said.
The government envisions formulating an outline of possible Imperial Household Law amendments around December to enable the Emperor to abdicate, and submitting a bill to the Diet next year, separate sources said.
The discussions on possible amendments do not presuppose the Emperor will step down early, however, according to the government sources.
Media reports since Wednesday saying the Emperor was hoping to hand the throne over to his 56-year-old son, Crown Prince Naruhito, sent shock waves across the country.
The Emperor has declined the agency’s proposal to drastically reduce his duties, they said. Recently he said he plans to move ahead at the current pace for the time being, according to the sources. The Emperor, however, has told his close aides that the performance of his duties is inseparable from his status as a symbol of the state and the unity of the people, they said.
It was in this context that he indicated he will be prepared to step down if his health does not allow him to perform his duties fully, they said. Empress Michiko and the Crown Prince understand his situation, the sources said.
Since the Imperial Household Law does not envisage abdication, a revision will be necessary for an emperor to relinquish the throne while living. No such succession has taken place for about 200 years.