• Kyodo

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An advisory panel to the government considering Emperor Akihito’s possible abdication Thursday unveiled a list of 16 academics and other experts it will hear from starting next month.

The panel is tasked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to discuss how the burden on the 82-year-old Emperor can be alleviated following his video message in August in which he expressed his desire to abdicate.

After holding a second session Thursday at the Prime Minister’s Office, the panel’s chairman, Takashi Imai, told a press conference that the panel will hear opinions from 16 intellectuals — whose expertise includes history, the Imperial Household system and constitutional law — in three sessions to be held in November.

The experts will be individually asked to convey their thoughts on such matters as the Emperor’s possible abdication, his duties and the creation of a permanent legal system enabling abdications.

Among the selected intellectuals are Makoto Oishi, professor of constitutional law at Kyoto University’s graduate school; journalist Yoshiko Sakurai; former Supreme Court Justice Itsuo Sonobe; and Takahisa Furukawa, professor of modern Japanese history at Nihon University.

“We have selected them so we can hear a wide variety of opinions from experts in various fields to proceed with discussions without prejudice,” said Imai, who also serves as honorary chairman of Keidanren.

The panel will hold meetings on Nov. 7, 14 and 30.

During Thursday’s meeting, the panel discussed the Emperor’s official duties, the role of a regent and past abdications, Takashi Mikuriya, a member of the panel and a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Tokyo, told the press conference.

The panel meeting took place at a time when the death of Prince Mikasa, 100, uncle of Emperor Akihito and the youngest brother of the late Emperor Hirohito, earlier in the day drew renewed attention to the future of the aging and shrinking Imperial family.

The panel, however, did not discuss the sustainability of the Imperial succession, said an official who took part in the meeting.

Prince Mikasa died earlier in the day at the age of 100, leaving only four heirs to the Chrysanthemum Throne, to which only males can ascend.

Emperor Akihito in August voiced concern that advanced age could one day prevent him from fulfilling his duties. To enable the Emperor to relinquish the throne, a legal amendment or special legislation is necessary because the 1947 Imperial House Law, which sets out rules for Imperial affairs, lacks a provision regarding abdications and effectively allows succession only upon an emperor’s death.

The government plans to submit a bill based on proposals to be compiled by the advisory panel to the next ordinary Diet session starting in January.

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