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Key questions and answers about Japan emperor’s abdication

Japan’s 85-year-old Emperor Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday and his son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday. Some key questions and answers about the abdication and ascension-

Q. Why is Akihito abdicating, and how is it different from usual successions?

A. Akihito in August 2016 expressed his wish to abdicate while he is still well and capable. As a constitutionally defined symbol with no political power, Akihito sought understanding in a message to his people, and immediately won overwhelming public support, paving the way for the government’s approval.

In this May 12, 2016, file photo, Japan's Prince Akishino poses with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican. Japanese Emperor Akihito is ending his three-decade reign Tuesday, April 30, 2019, and Akishino will become crown prince May 1.

In this May 12, 2016, file photo, Japan’s Prince Akishino poses with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican. Japanese Emperor Akihito is ending his three-decade reign Tuesday, April 30, 2019, and Akishino will become crown prince May 1.  
| Photo Credit:
AP


 

With Japan’s Imperial House Law lacking a provision on abdication by a reigning emperor and virtually allowing only posthumous succession, the government enacted a one-time law to allow Akihito’s abdication. Palace watchers say Akihito wanted to keep the emperor’s presence always visible so it won’t be veiled and politically used like his father’s wartime role, while others say he tried to smooth the transition for his son. Winning his abdication was part of changes Akihito has brought to the palace- He was the first emperor to marry a commoner, Empress Michiko, and has decided to be cremated upon his death, which would break a centuries-old burial custom.

Q. Who is next in line, and who’s left?

A. Naruhito, who ascends the throne on Wednesday, is the elder of Akihito’s two sons. A musician and avid hiker, the 59-year-old Naruhito spent two years at Oxford and wrote a paper on the 18th century Thames River transport systems after studying history at Gakushuin University, a school formerly for aristocrats. His wife, Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, is recovering from stress-induced conditions she developed after giving birth to their daughter Aiko amid pressure to produce a boy.

In this March 22, 2017, file photo, Japan's Princess Aiko poses for photos as she attend her graduation ceremony at the Gakushuin Girls' Junior High School in Tokyo. Japanese Emperor Akihito is ending his three-decade reign Tuesday, April 30, 2019, and Crown Prince Naruhito is ascending the throne May 1. Aiko is out of the picture under Japan’s male-only succession law, and instead the line goes to Naruhito’s younger brother Fumihito, better known as his childhood title Prince Akishino, who will become crown prince May 1.

In this March 22, 2017, file photo, Japan’s Princess Aiko poses for photos as she attend her graduation ceremony at the Gakushuin Girls’ Junior High School in Tokyo. Japanese Emperor Akihito is ending his three-decade reign Tuesday, April 30, 2019, and Crown Prince Naruhito is ascending the throne May 1. Aiko is out of the picture under Japan’s male-only succession law, and instead the line goes to Naruhito’s younger brother Fumihito, better known as his childhood title Prince Akishino, who will become crown prince May 1.  
| Photo Credit:
AP

Aiko, 17, is barred from inheriting under Japan’s male-only succession law, and the line goes to Naruhito’s brother, Fumihito, better known by his childhood title, Akishino. Fumihito’s 12-year-old son, Hisahito, would be next. Discussions on changing the law to allow female succession quickly ended with Hisahito’s birth, but they are expected to resume, with Akihito’s abdication raising concerns about the royal family’s future. Most Japanese support female succession despite opposition by conservatives in the government and its ultra-right-wing supporters, who want the family to be a model for a paternalistic society.

Q. What are the procedure

In this Dec. 23, 2018, file photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito, right, accompanied by Crown Prince Naruhito, walks away after greeting well-wishers when they appeared on the balcony of the Imperial Palace to mark the emperor's 85th birthday in Tokyo. Akihito is ending his three-decade reign on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 as he abdicates to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, becoming the first to do so in 200 years, in a step nobody today has witnessed.

In this Dec. 23, 2018, file photo, Japan’s Emperor Akihito, right, accompanied by Crown Prince Naruhito, walks away after greeting well-wishers when they appeared on the balcony of the Imperial Palace to mark the emperor’s 85th birthday in Tokyo. Akihito is ending his three-decade reign on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 as he abdicates to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, becoming the first to do so in 200 years, in a step nobody today has witnessed.  
| Photo Credit:
AP


s to abdicate?

A. Akihito will announce his abdication in a palace ritual on Tuesday evening, but technically he remains the emperor until midnight, when his era of Heisei, or “achieving peace,” ends and Naruhito takes over, his Reiwa era of “beautiful harmony” beginning. On Wednesday morning, Naruhito, in his first ritual as emperor, receives the Imperial regalia, including the sword and the jewel, as proof of his ascension to the throne. Aside from government officials, only adult male royals are allowed to attend, a tradition the government stuck with despite criticisms raised by the public.

In this Aug. 7, 2016, file photo, provided by the Imperial Household Agency of Japan, Japan's Emperor Akihito reads a message for recording at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

In this Aug. 7, 2016, file photo, provided by the Imperial Household Agency of Japan, Japan’s Emperor Akihito reads a message for recording at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.  
| Photo Credit:
AP


 

The succession not by death has spread festivity across Japan, though the rituals are off-limits to the public and traffic will be tightly controlled outside the palace. A more elaborate enthronement ceremony for Naruhito will be held in October, when he will proclaim his ascension before officials and guests from inside and outside the country.

Q. What will Akihito do after abdication?

A. Akihito will hold a new title, emperor emeritus, but he will be fully retired from official duties and will no longer sign documents, receive foreign dignitaries, attend government events or perform palace rituals. He won’t even attend his son’s succession rituals and will largely recede from public appearances.

Q. What about abdications in other countries?

A. Japan’s last abdication was about 200 years ago during the feudal Edo period, when Emperor Kokaku abdicated to his son Ninko while he ascended to a superior title. Spain’s former King Juan Carlos abdicated at age 76 to King Felipe in 2014 amid scandals, and the succession laws to allow it were changed in just two weeks.

In this April 30, 2013, file photo, Dutch Queen Beatrix is handed the Act of Abdication which when signed will end her reign as Monarch in the Mozeszaal or Mozes hall of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix in 2013 at age 75, citing old age, abdicated to her son Alexander, who became the country’s first male successor in more than a century.

In this April 30, 2013, file photo, Dutch Queen Beatrix is handed the Act of Abdication which when signed will end her reign as Monarch in the Mozeszaal or Mozes hall of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix in 2013 at age 75, citing old age, abdicated to her son Alexander, who became the country’s first male successor in more than a century.  
| Photo Credit:
AP

In the Netherlands in 2013, Queen Beatrix, citing old age at age 75, abdicated to her son Alexander, who became the country’s first male successor in more than a century.

In Belgium, the former King Albert II, then 79, abdicated to his son Philippe in 2013 due to health reasons. This year, Malaysia’s King Sultan Muhammad V abruptly stepped down after just two years on the throne, the first abdication in the country’s history.

Source: thehindu.com

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