OSAKA – Overseas media reaction to Monday’s recorded video address by Emperor Akihito, in which he indicated a desire to abdicate, praised his efforts at peace and reconciliation in Okinawa and parts of Asia.
Some suggested that Japan’s political debate will now shift from constitutional revision to the legal changes needed to accommodate his wishes, and whether those changes could include allowing for an empress to reign.
In an online report, the BBC in London noted that the “revered 82-year-old Emperor’s comments came in only his second-ever televised address to the public.”
On the issues of succession, the BBC said that “women are not allowed to inherit the throne, and so Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, cannot succeed her father.”
Reuters noted that “the idea of abdication has sparked opposition from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative base, which worries debate of the Imperial family’s future could widen to the topic of letting women inherit and pass on the throne, anathema to traditionalists.”
AFP observed that the “speech comes during an annual time of sensitivity in Japan with August being a month of remembrance,” including ceremonies at Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9 to commemorate the atomic bombings by the U.S. in 1945, and Aug. 15, when Japan “pauses to recall the 71st anniversary of its defeat in World War II, an annual event at which the Emperor delivers a speech.”
“The Emperor has keenly embraced the role of symbol of the state imposed after the war. He is credited with seeking reconciliation both at home and abroad over the legacy of the war fought in his father Hirohito’s name. He has ventured to a number of locales that saw intense fighting, including Okinawa at home and Saipan, Palau and the Philippines abroad, making sure to offer prayers for the souls of all dead and not just Japanese,” the AFP report said.
The online edition of South Korea’s Munhwa Ilbo newspaper, in explaining the timing of the announcement, said some analysis indicated the Emperor, who has been an advocate of peace, brought up the issue of abdication at this time in order to slow down or even stop the Abe administration’s rush to amend the Constitution, as it will now force discussions within the government about revising the Imperial House Law.
And a VOA News report on South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo website noted that “while the Emperor does not overtly take sides in Japanese politics, he has made recent statements that seemed critical of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition.”