Abdication Bills

Newsline anchor Minori Takao spoke with NHK World's Kurando Tago after the Diet enacted a bill allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate.

Takao: So Kurando, remind us why lawmakers were discussing this?

Kurando: Well, the main reason is the Emperor's age. Emperor Akihito has been devoting himself to his duties as the symbol of State for decades.

But now he's 83 and last year, he expressed concerns his age may someday make it difficult for him to continue to do so.

The government appointed a panel to look into the issue and in April, it released proposals on how to move forward.

The government followed some of the ideas to create legislation that would allow only Emperor Akihito to step down.

Takao: So that issue will be resolved soon. But attention is turning to the broader issue of the future of the family, whose numbers are declining.

Kurando: That's right. Imperial House Law stipulates the throne is succeeded only by male offspring in the male line. Let's bring up the family tree.

When Emperor Akihito passes the throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, his younger brother becomes first in line. That's because Crown Prince Naruhito has a daughter.

The second in line would then be Prince Fumihito's son.

The family's seven unwed princesses are not allowed to take the throne, but are expected to take part in some official duties.

If any of them marries a commoner, she's forced to leave the family. And that will be the case with the Emperor's granddaughter Princess Mako, who's getting engaged.

Along with the law allowing the Emperor to step down, lawmakers created a resolution to try to address the size of the family.

It urges the government to study allowing Princesses to remain after getting married to commoners.

But some conservative lawmakers are concerned that could eventually allow their sons to become Emperor, something they say goes against Japanese tradition.

So this probably won't be the last time we hear about this.

Takao: So what should we expect from here?

Kurando: Well the resolution calls on the government to start discussing as soon as the law takes effect, and report to the Diet.

The Emperor's abdication should happen within 3 years of the law being announced, before 2020 at the latest.

That will mark the start of a new imperial era, something that's pretty significant to people in Japan.