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Japan’s Emperor Akihito should be allowed to retire, says expert panel

Emperor Akihito of Japan should be allowed to abdicate, according to a government panel. The panel of six experts was set up after Emperor Akihito made a rare televised speech in which he alluded to a desire to abdicate.

“I am concerned it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole body and soul as I have done so far,” he said.

The panel said it would support legislation allowing Emperor Akihito to step down as his son, the Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the 126th occupant of the Chrysanthemum throne. Crown Prince Naruhito has a daughter, who under the current law can not succeed as Empress. If nothing changes, Naruhito will be succeeded by his brother, Fumihito, Prince Akishino, followed by his 10-year-old son, Hisahito.

“It is desirable to think of [an emperor’s abdication] in the context of the times, given that political and economic conditions, as well as public awareness, could change in the future,” one of the six-panel members was quoted as saying by fellow panellist Takashi Mikuriya. The panel will release a full report next month, and the debate in parliament is expecting to begin soon after.

The current Imperial Household law does not have a provision for a living succession and would thus require altering. The last time a monarch abdicate in Japan was in 1817.

Emperor Akihito came down with a cold and a fever late last week and cancelled his appointments on Friday. In the past, he has had surgery for prostate cancer, and he had a heart bypass. His wife, Empress Michiko, has also been ill this month with bronchitis but she has since made a full recovery.

Emperor Akihito turns 83 on 23 December and he admitted to making mistakes during ceremonies and that he felt his age “more often”.