Japan’s National Diet, the country’s bicameral legislature, has passed a law to allow 83-year-old Emperor Akihito to abdicate. Japan’s Cabinet approved the bill at the end of May. His Imperial Majesty will be the first monarch in Japan to abdicate for nearly 200 years.
The Imperial Household Act did not allow for abdication; this led to the Japanese government to create a new law to allow it for the Emperor.
The new law states that the abdication must take place within three years, and it only applies to Emperor Akihito. However, the National Diet put off the debate about allowing for females to ascend the 2,000-year-old Chrysanthemum Throne. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his conservative government are in support of the male-only succession.
The current law only allows for men to inherit the throne. Women in the Japanese Imperial Family are forced to renounce their royal status upon marrying a commoner, as well.
Emperor Akihito announced his intent to abdicate in a rare televised address to the nation in August 2016. He cited his old age and health as his reason for stepping down.
According to the Associated Press, “Media reports have said officials are considering Akihito’s abdication at the end of 2018 when Akihito turns 85 and marks 30 years on the throne.”
He will be succeeded by his son, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito. However, the exact date of the Emperor’s abdication is unknown.
His Imperial Majesty’s announcement of his desire to abdicate has led to a resurgence of the concern for the lack of heirs to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Crown Prince only has one child – a daughter named Princess Aiko. The Crown Prince’s younger brother has two adult daughters and a son – ten-year-old Prince Hisahito. Crown Prince Naruhito’s heir will be his younger brother, Prince Fumihito followed by Prince Hisahito.
The Prime Minister’s party did agree to “adopt a non-binding attachment to the law calling for the government to study ways to improve the status of princesses, including allowing them to keep their titles so that they can make up for the declining royal membership and perform part of public duties,” reports the Associated Press.