Japanese Cabinet approves bill to let Emperor Akihito give up throne

Japan's Emperor Akihito waving to well-wishers during his new year speech in Tokyo on January 2

Japan's Emperor Akihito waving to well-wishers during his new year speech in Tokyo on January 2

Emperor Akihito announced his desire to abdicate past year, now, the government of Japan has approved a special bill which will allow Emperor to do it.

After the envisioned abdication, the emperor and empress are expected to move to Togu Palace in the Akasaka Estate in Tokyo's Minato Ward, where the crown prince and his family now live, and the new emperor's family will move to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.

The move comes nearly a year after Emperor Akihito made a rare public television address to the nation wherein he spoke about his advancing age and health, perhaps suggesting that he wanted to step down from duties.

Akihito has sought to soothe the wounds at home and overseas of World War Two, which was fought in his father Hirohito's name, and to bring the imperial family closer to the Japanese people.

Local media reported that the government eyes allowing the emperor to abdicate in December 2018, with the emperor's 85th birthday in mind. He will be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito, 57.

Current Japanese law has no provision for abdication. The bill will next be sent to parliament, where lawmakers are expected to approve it before the end of the current session in June, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

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It stated the public's "understanding" and "sympathy" for Akihito's "deep concern" about his fears that he might be unable to fulfil his royal duties.

A majority of the Japanese public supports a permanent law on abdication and they have also expressed support for the current bill to help enable Akihito's smooth transition from the throne.

Akihito, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989 and is loved and revered by many Japanese.

Japan's imperial family claims the longest hereditary lineage in the world, going back more than 2600 years - but its membership is shrinking. Female members of the imperial family are not allowed to hold the throne, and are also required to give up their royal status if they marry a commoner.

If Hisahito only has daughters, the family is likely to face a succession crisis unless laws are changed.

Women are not allowed to accede to the throne.

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