National

Panel hears experts on emperor's post-abdication status

Kyodo

A government advisory panel on Wednesday resumed discussions on remaining issues of Emperor Akihito’s abdication, including his status after becoming the first living Emperor to relinquish the throne in around 200 years.

Four university professors were summoned to the panel’s 10th meeting, of which three proposed the 83-year-old Emperor after his abdication should assume the historical title of joko in line with past imperial practice.

The three also proposed Emperor Akihito’s future tomb be equivalent in status to those of past emperors.

The fourth expert, a doctor specializing in geriatric diseases, gave his medical opinion on the Emperor’s workload.

The panel, chaired by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), had not held its own discussion for the past two months, allowing lawmakers first to focus on the legislative approach in paving the way for the Emperor’s abdication.

Since ruling and opposition parties last week compiled a proposal calling on the government to prepare a one-off abdication law applicable only to Emperor Akihito, the panel is expected to compile its final report in late April.

The proposal, compiled as a Diet consensus, calls for an additional supplementary provision to the Imperial House Law to give a legal basis for the special case law so the legislation would serve as a precedent for future emperors.

The government is expected to submit a one-off abdication bill to the Diet within several weeks so it can be enacted during the current Diet session through mid-June.

During Wednesday’s panel meeting, the three experts who proposed joko as the Emperor’s post abdication title include Keiko Hongo, a professor of Japanese medieval history at the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, Naotaka Kimizuka, a professor of British political and diplomatic history at Kanto Gakuin University, and Hitoshi Nitta, a professor of Shinto religion at Kogakkan University.

Masahiro Akishita, a doctor and professor of the University of Tokyo’s graduate school, said an excessive workload could be a source of stress and cause ill health for a person of the Emperor’s age but that losing his workload or social role entirely could also prompt rapid aging.

In a video message televised last summer, the Emperor signaled his hope to relinquish the Chrysanthemum throne due to his advanced age.

How to legalize the Emperor’s unprecedented abdication has been debated as the Imperial House Law that sets out rules for imperial affairs lacks a provision regarding abdication.

While the timing of the abdication has not been formally decided, the government apparently has in mind the emperor’s 85th birthday on Dec. 23, 2018, given his remarks in the video message in which he said “in two years we will be welcoming the 30th year” of the country’s current Heisei Era, or 2018.

The panel is scheduled to hold its next meeting on April 4.

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