Conservative Japan allows smooth transition

The Japanese Parliament has opened the door to modernising the Chrysanthemum Throne, unanimously passing a special law allowing the ailing Emperor Akihito to retire, and proposing that the government consider letting the royal bloodline pass through the women of the imperial family.

The special-case legislation is to be applied only to Akihito and enable his son Crown Prince Naruhito to succeed the Chrysanthemum Throne. The lower house passed the legislation last week. His Imperial Majesty will be the first monarch in Japan to abdicate for almost 200 years. Akihito has another son, Prince Akishino, and a grandson, Hisahito, aged just 10.

The idea of women on the throne particularly inflames Abe's most conservative supporters, who believe only men should reign.

Akihito is the 125th emperor since Emperor Jimmu, said to be a descendant of the legendary sun goddess Amaterasu.

Japan's centuries-old succession would be broken if that son, Hisahito, does not have a male child.

The law, which applies only to Akihito and not to future emperors, included a resolution to debate letting female royals stay in the imperial family after marriage but did not touch on the controversial topic of allowing women to inherit.

According to the 1947 Imperial House Law that regulates the line of imperial succession, the emperor can not step down.

Current Japanese law only allows for Imperial succession after the emperor dies.

That could include allowing them to keep their titles so that they can make up for the declining royal membership and continue to perform some royal family public duties.

Emperor Akihito is beloved in Japan, and polls at the time showed a large majority of Japanese citizens supported his desire to step aside.

The government will have to hammer out the details of the abdication, including timing, but local media reports have said it is likely to take place at the end of 2018, which would mark three decades on the throne for the emperor. Once on throne, Crown Prince Naruhito need not look at roads as he once rued but walk along them or drive his way to reach the other world and mix with people more comfortably.

Speaking at a memorial marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender, Akihito expressed "deep remorse" for the country's actions in World War II.

The family operates under hereditary, male-only succession rules, although there have been eight empresses in past centuries.

The panel also pointed out that those families are very distant relatives of the Imperial family, who shared ancestors date back to about 600 years ago.

  • Zachary Reyes