• Kyodo

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Prince Akishino, the younger son of Emperor Akihito, said on the occasion of his 51st birthday Wednesday it was “good” that his father had expressed his desire in August to abdicate out of concern for his age.

“It was good that (the Emperor) was able to express in an appropriate manner what he had been thinking for a long time,” the prince told a Nov. 22 news conference ahead of his birthday.

This is the first time that an Imperial family member who can ascend the Chrysanthemum throne has officially expressed their impressions over the issue following the 82-year-old Emperor’s unprecedented video broadcast to the nation on Aug. 8.

The Emperor said in the televised video, “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.”

According to the prince, “The Emperor has been thinking of what a symbol of the state should be and also thinking that his advanced age would one day make it impossible for him to fulfill his duties.”

Asked when and how he first learned about those thoughts of the Emperor, the prince said he had heard it “occasionally” beginning “a long time ago.”

“I think the Emperor has conveyed his thought (about abdication) maximally amid various restrictions,” the prince said, referring to concern that language that was too direct could have been construed as a political call to make the abdication happen. The Constitution bans the Emperor from exercising power over the government.

The prince, who five years ago proposed there be a retirement age for emperors, said he hoped his father would have more time to devote himself to what he wants to do, such as research of gobioid fish, which is his lifework, and music.

Last month Prince Mikasa, uncle of the Emperor, died at the age of 100, leaving only four heirs to the throne: Prince Hitachi, 81, the Emperor’s only surviving brother, Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, Prince Akishino, and his 10-year-old son, Prince Hisahito.

Prince Akishino expressed concern over the aging and shrinking Imperial family, saying “it seems difficult” for the Imperial family to continue to do the same amount of duties in the future.

“Imperial members who are available will do their duties within their own capacity,” the prince said.

Prince Akishino would be the first in line to the throne after his elder brother, Crown Prince Naruhito, becomes emperor. The prince refrained from commenting on what his life would be like then, saying simply “I have no idea yet.”

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