KYOTO – Officials in the former Imperial capitals of Kyoto and Nara are looking to invite Emperor Akihito to hold important ceremonies or stay for long periods in their prefectures after his expected abdication.
An association comprising officials from Kyoto prefectural and city governments, as well as representatives of businesses and local communities, began discussions on the feasibility of the 83-year-old Emperor visiting for an extended period or holding traditional ceremonies after the Diet enacted a law in early June to allow abdication.
According to the law, the Chrysanthemum Throne is set to be succeeded within three years by Crown Prince Naruhito, who will also take on role’s constitutional duties as the symbol of the state. It will be the first abdication in two centuries.
The Kyoto association, formed in 2010 to discuss visions of the city’s future, decided in a meeting on June 19 that it would study issues related to the abdication. The association plans to seek advice from intellectuals and submit a request to the central government.
In 2013, the Kyoto group proposed the “twin capitals” concept, aiming to serve as a cultural capital and have members of the Imperial family spend more time in and eventually move to the city, where emperors used to live.
Nara, the capital before Kyoto during the Nara Period in the 8th century, has sought to have an Imperial villa built in the prefecture. Referring to an ideal location for the residence of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko after his abdication, Nara Gov. Shogo Arai said at a news conference on June 14 that the prefecture hopes to build a villa but that a detailed plan has not been determined.
The Imperial Household Agency has said the location of the Imperial couple’s post-abdication residence has yet to be decided. The prime candidate right now is Togu Gosho at Tokyo’s Akasaka Estate, where Crown Prince Naruhito and his family currently live, sources said. It would be difficult for the Emperor and Empress to relocate to either of the western cities for various reasons, the sources said.
Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada has said it would be important to respect the Emperor’s thoughts, acknowledging that the Emperor has not indicated his ideas about his future residence.
Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chair Yoshio Tateishi admitted the difficulty of hosting Imperial ceremonies.
“There is a need to prepare necessary accommodation, and a place to hold ceremonies. Realistically speaking, I think holding them in Kyoto would be difficult,” said Tateishi, a member of the Kyoto association.
The Diet enacted the abdication law following the Emperor’s rare televised video message last summer, in which he signalized his wish to retire out of concern that his age and failing health would one day stop him from fulfilling his duties.
While the law leaves the government to determine the exact timing of the abdication within three years of its promulgation, government sources say December 2018 is a possible timeline under consideration.