TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN)—Both houses of the Diet have compiled a proposal for creating a special law to allow the Emperor to abdicate. Yet the proposal leaves a mountain of issues unresolved, from what the Emperor’s title and role would be after abdication, to how to compensate Prince Akishino, who would become first in line for the throne.
A government expert panel studying how to ease the burden of the Emperor’s public duties is expected to meet Wednesday for the first time in about two months. The panel, chaired by Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Honorary Chairman Takashi Imai, is expected to take up the questions of the Emperor’s post-abdication title and role.
The Imperial House Law and Imperial House Economy Law do not envision the abdication of an emperor, so rules pertaining to the Emperor after his abdication and other matters need to be stipulated in a special law.
Regarding the Emperor’s post-abdication title, experts who appeared before the panel have suggested “daijo tenno,” “joko” and “zen-tenno,” all of which essentially mean “retired emperor” in some form. The government is reportedly considering joko (daijo tenno).
Another question is whether the honorific “heika,” which is similar in meaning to “your majesty,” would still be used after abdication. Where the Emperor would reside and the size and budget of the organization that would assist him must also be decided. Whether to conduct the “Taiso-no-Rei” imperial funeral ceremony should the Emperor pass away after abdication, and whether to enable the former Emperor to assume the post of regent, are further matters that need to be discussed.
There are concerns the Emperor’s activities after abdication would in some way “duplicate” the incumbent’s role as a national symbol.
In November, an official of the Imperial Household Agency said at a meeting of the expert panel that after abdication, the Emperor’s public duties “would basically all be handled by the new emperor.”
The accession of the crown prince brings up the question of compensation for Prince Akishino, who would become first in the line of imperial succession. Although Akishino will not be the new emperor’s “crown prince,” his public duties would likely increase, so some are saying that his compensation may need to be improved. The government is considering increasing his compensation to the level of a crown prince.
Accession, change of era
The government is planning to set dates for the Emperor’s abdication and the new emperor’s accession via government ordinance after the special law is passed.
The government initially considered having the new emperor ascend to the throne on New Year’s Day 2019, and changing the name of the era the same day. Aligning the change with the Western calendar would minimize the impact on people’s lives.
However, Imperial Household Agency Vice Grand Steward Yasuhiko Nishimura said at a Jan. 17 press conference that holding the accession ceremonies on that day would be difficult. “New Year’s Day is an extremely important day for the Imperial Family,” he said.
The government is now considering the option of holding the abdication and accession ceremonies in December 2018, then changing the name of the era on Jan. 1, 2019, a process known as “yunen kaigen” — to change the name of the era in the year following the one in which the new emperor ascended.