NHK has learned that Japanese Emperor Akihito has expressed his intention to abdicate and hand over his position to Crown Prince Naruhito within several years.
Informed sources say the 82-year-old Emperor conveyed the intention to Imperial Household Agency officials. He is still conducting a number of duties, including his constitutional functions.
Sources within the Imperial Household Agency say that officials are arranging an occasion for the Emperor to address the public.
They say the Emperor told Agency officials that someone who can fully carry out the required duties of the national symbol as stipulated in the Constitution, should be in that position.
The informed sources say the Emperor does not want to remain in his position by significantly reducing his duties or asking other people to stand in for him.
They say the Emperor's wishes were accepted by Empress Michiko, his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito and younger son Prince Akishino.
The sources say the Emperor would like to see the abdication take place within the next several years. They say arrangements are underway for the Emperor to announce his wishes to the public.
One of the sources says that in the event of his announcement, as a national symbol the Emperor may avoid direct expressions. But the source says the announcement will be one that conveys his feelings well.
Three years ago, the Queen of the Netherlands and the Pope announced their intention to abdicate while they are alive.
In Japan, nearly half of the 124 Emperors before the current Emperor's father, Emperor Showa, abdicated in such a manner.
But after the Meiji era, which was 3 periods before the current Heisei era, the system of abdication ended. An abdication has not taken place for about 200 years.
The Imperial Household Law has no provisions regarding abdication. The will of Emperor Akihito is likely to lead to a national debate including a possible revision to the law.