Emperor Akihito wanted to express his thoughts about fulfilling his role at the news conference last December marking his 82nd birthday, Imperial Household Agency sources said Tuesday.
Although the Emperor conveyed his wish to do so to senior agency officials, it didn’t come to fruition as the agency could not make necessary preparations in time, the sources said.
As the Emperor’s feelings have since remained unchanged, the agency explored avenues for granting his wish, which culminated in Monday’s rare video address to the public in which he indicated his readiness to abdicate in the future, they said.
“When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now,” the Emperor said in the videotaped message.
He also said that after undergoing operations and starting to feel a decline in his physical strength, he had come to think about how his future course should be set for the sake of the nation, people and Imperial Family members who will follow after him, in the event of his becoming unable to fully carry out his duties.
The agency is expected to start working toward realizing the Emperor’s abdication in partnership with the Cabinet Secretariat, which will lay the groundwork for necessary legal changes.
Since the law covering Imperial matters has no provision regarding abdication, a revision or special legislation would be required.
According to the sources, five or six years ago the Emperor began consulting with senior agency officials about what he should do when he finds himself unable to carry out his duties as the symbol of the state.
He eventually came away with the feeling that it would be best to abdicate once he becomes unable to perform his duties to his satisfaction, and shared his thoughts with Empress Michiko and Crown Prince Naruhito, the sources said.
The Emperor traveled to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa in 2014 and to Palau in April 2015 to pay tribute to the war dead, timing the visits to coincide with last year’s 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
He then conveyed to senior agency officials last fall his desire to use the news conference prior to his 82nd birthday on Dec. 23 to tell the public his thoughts on his role, the sources said.
But agency officials weren’t quick enough in holding sufficient discussions internally and with the Prime Minister’s Office, a process needed in view of constitutional limits on remarks by the Emperor, they said.
At the birthday news conference, the Emperor said he was “beginning to feel my age” and that “there were times when I made some mistakes at events.”
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