The traditional emperor system needs to adjust to fit in with our changing society. Therefore, the abdication of Emperor Akihito will become a good precedent for the future. Judging from his age and health, abdication is desirable for the Emperor, and also fit for our modern society.
In his August 2016 announcement that he wished to abdicate, the Emperor expressed his concerns about his health and ability to fulfil his duties as the symbol of the state and people. If he were an 85-year-old ordinary citizen with some health problems, it would be very natural to retire.
I believe that the Emperor has the right as a human being to retire from his public duties and spend the rest of his life quietly. In Europe, voluntary abdication is not unusual. In 2013, Dutch Queen Beatrix and Belgian King Albert II passed the throne to their successors for age- or health-related reasons.
The Emperor also expressed his concerns about the impact on society when a serving emperor’s health condition becomes serious. At the end of the Showa Era, the news of Emperor Showa’s hospitalization made it impossible for people to celebrate.
Now at the end of Heisei, businesses and individuals can continue their activities without self-restraint. They can be very active without any sad feelings. Thanks to the abdication, the end of one era and the beginning of another is a happy and positive occasion for society.
Lastly, I would like to quote the Emperor’s remarks that have impressed me most: “I’m relieved that Heisei is about to end without Japan engaged in war.” As a Japanese citizen, I would like to remember how significant these remarks are. We should work together with the new emperor to pass this legacy of Heisei on to the next era however much our society may change.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.