Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan turns 57 today, and he also spoke of his father’s abdication for the first time to reporters.
Crown Prince Naruhito told reporters that he was “profoundly moved” when his father suggested he would like to step down as Emperor. “I accept the Emperor’s thinking with sincerity and will bear it in mind all the time as I carry out my duties,” Crown Prince Naruhito said. He added, “Just as the Emperor and Empress are doing now, I wish to continue to stand close to the people, and share their pain and their joys.”
Crown Prince Naruhito is married to former diplomat, Masako Owada, and the couple has one daughter, 15-year-old Princess Aiko, who is not allowed to ascend the throne because Japan still forbids female inheritance. The pressure to produce an heir has had a profound effect on Crown Princess Masako, and she has even suffered a miscarriage.
The Crown Prince is followed in the succession by his brother, Prince Akishino, and Akishino’s 10-year-old son, Hisahito.
The Imperial Court released new photos of the family for the Crown Prince’s birthday. Princess Aiko was absent from school for six weeks last year, but the Imperial Household had refused to comment. Crown Prince Naruhito said of his daughter, “For a time she was unwell, which caused some worry, but thanks to support from her mother, she has now returned to her usual school life.”
A government panel is still discussing the best way to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate and the current plans have set the abdication date on 1 January 2019. Emperor Akihito is currently 83-years-old, and he has had health problems for several years.