Japan: First emperor abdication in over 200 years, enabling-law passed

Japan: First emperor abdication in over 200 years, enabling-law passed

This file photo taken on January 2, 2015 shows Japan's Emperor Akihito (R) waving to well-wishers beside Crown Prince Naruhito during their new year greetings in Tokyo. Japan is planning for Emperor Akihito to retire and be replaced by his eldest son on January 1, 2019, reports said on January 11, 2017, as the country works on a legal framework for its first abdication in 200 years. / AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA
This file photo taken on January 2, 2015 shows Japan's Emperor Akihito (R) waving to well-wishers beside Crown Prince Naruhito during their new year greetings in Tokyo. Japan is planning for Emperor Akihito to retire and be replaced by his eldest son on January 1, 2019, reports said on January 11, 2017, as the country works on a legal framework for its first abdication in 200 years. / AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA

Japan may have a new emperor by the end of 2018 as Crown Prince Naruhito's ascension to the throne cleared by once-off law.


Japan clears way for first emperor abdication in over 200 years

AFP News   
AFP News Agency

At 83, Emperor Akihito, has signalled his desire to take a back seat after nearly three decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his age and health problems

Japan's parliament passed a law Friday that clears the way for its ageing Emperor Akihito to step down, in what would be the first imperial abdication in more than two centuries.

The popular 83-year-old monarch shocked the country last summer when he signalled his desire to take a back seat after nearly three decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his age and health problems (see previous story here).

A handout photo released on February 22, 2017 by the Imperial Household Agency of Japan shows Crown Prince Naruhito (C) posing with Crown Princess Masako (L) and their daughter Princess Aiko at Togu Palace in Tokyo. Naruhito will celebrate his 57th birthday on February 23, 2017 (Source: AFP PHOTO / IMPERIAL HOUSEHOLD AGENCY)


The unexpected move presented a challenge since there was no law to deal with an emperor retiring from what is usually a job for life.

The one-off rule was passed in the last stage upper house on Friday in a unanimous decision after the lower chamber gave its stamp of approval last week.

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko wave to well-wishers during a public appearance for New Year celebrations at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Jan 2, 2017. (Reuters photo)


The abdication must take place within three years of the new law taking effect or it expires -- and it only applies to Akihito.

Japanese media have said the government is eyeing the end of 2018 as a likely timeline for his retirement.


The status of the emperor is a sensitive issue in Japan given its 20th century history of war waged in the name of Akihito's father Hirohito, who died in 1989.

Some scholars and politicians worried that changing the law to allow any emperor to abdicate could put Japan's future monarchs at risk of being subject to political manipulation.


Akihito, who has been treated for prostate cancer and had heart surgery, is expected to step aside in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

There have been abdications in Japan's long imperial history, but the last one was more than 200 years ago, so politicians had to craft new legislation to make it possible.

"The one-off law is a result of political compromises, but it will become a precedent for future abdications," said Setsu Kobayashi, a constitutional expert and professor emeritus at Japan's Keio University.


Akihito was born in 1933 just as Japan was embarking on its militaristic sweep across Asia, and was 11 when the war ended in defeat.

His father was allowed to remain on the throne after Japan's defeat, but his status was downgraded from semi- divine sovereign to a figurehead with no political power.

Akihito embraced the role and tried to use it to help heal the scars of the war while remoulding one of the world's oldest monarchies for a democratic age.

"The emperor prefers the more casual image of himself as a 'symbol' of the Japanese people," Kobayashi said.


Even before he assumed the throne, Akihito broke with tradition when he married the daughter of a wealthy flour magnate in 1959, becoming the first imperial heir to wed a commoner.

The emperor and his wife Empress Michiko are seen as being the more accessible face of a monarchy that largely remains in the shadows, unlike the British royals.

The couple has frequently attended public events and consoled victims of natural disasters, including Japan's 2011 quake -tsunami disaster.


Akihito is officially barred from commenting on politics, but he has over the years hinted at his own anti - nationalist views.

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.

Some saw this as a rebuke to nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed to change Japan's pacifist constitution and prevent Japanese from having to apologise again for the nation's warring past.


Akihito's pending abdication had reignited concerns about a potential succession crisis.

There are no more eligible male heirs after the 10-year-old son of Crown Prince Naruhito's younger brother Akishino.

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

In response, Japan's parliament has called for a debate on giving women a bigger role in the male-dominated monarchy.

The idea -- including the possibility of letting women ascend the throne -- is popular among ordinary Japanese, but it is vehemently opposed by traditionalists including the current prime minister and likeminded conservatives.

Female imperial family members lose their royal status upon marriage to a commoner, a point highlighted by recent news that one of Akihito's granddaughters, Princess Mako, plans to marry her college sweetheart.



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  • abdication: the process of giving up the position of being king or queen - การสละราชสมบัติ
  • accessible: easy to talk to and to get to know - ที่สนิทได้ง่าย
  • ageing: growing old - สูงวัยขึ้น
  • allow: to let somebody/something do something; to let something happen or be done - อนุญาต, ยอมรับ
  • anniversary: a date when you celebrate something that happened in a previous year that is important to you - วันครบรอบ
  • anti (adjective): against - ตรงกันข้าม, ต้าน
  • apologise: to say you are sorry for doing something wrong or for causing a problem - ขอโทษ
  • approval: agreement to do or accept something - ความเห็นชอบด้วย
  • assume: to officially start a new job or position - รับหน้าที่
  • at risk: in danger - ตกอยู่ในความเสี่ยง
  • attend: to go to an event, such as a meeting, a show, a sports competition, etc. - เข้าร่วม (ในการประชุม, งานต่าง)
  • bar: to officially not allow someone to do something or go somewhere - ห้าม
  • cancer: a serious disease in which growths of cells, also called cancers, form in the body and kill normal body cells. The disease often causes death - มะเร็ง
  • casual: relaxed and informal - ตามอารมณ์,ไม่เป็นทางการ,ธรรมดา
  • century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ
  • challenge: something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย
  • Chrysanthemum Throne: the formal name for the position of Japanese Emperor -
  • citing: mentioning as a reason - ให้ อ้างอิงเหตุผล
  • clears the way for: removes any barriers or obstacles to this happening -
  • comment (noun): expressing an opinion - การแสดงความคิดเห็น
  • commoner: an ordinary person who is not a member of a royal family - สามัญชน
  • compromise: a way of solving a problem or ending an argument in which both people or groups accept that they cannot have everything they want - ประนีประนอม
  • console: to try to make someone feel better when they are unhappy or disappointed - ปลอดประโลม
  • constitution: the set of laws and basic principles that a country in governed by - รัฐธรรมนูญ
  • constitutional: correct or allowed according to the constitution - ถูกต้องหรืออยู่ในขอบข่ายที่ระบุไว้ในรัฐธรรมนูญ
  • couple: two people who are married or are involved in a romantic relationship - คุ่รัก
  • craft: to make objects, especially in a skilled way - ทำด้วยมือ
  • Crown Prince: (in some countries) a prince who will become king when the present king or queen dies or leaves office - ทายาทของกษัตริย์ที่เป็นผู้ชาย
  • deal with: to take action to solve a problem - จัดการปัญหา
  • decades: periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี
  • defeat: a loss in a competition - ความพ่ายแพ้
  • desire: to have a strong wish to have or do something - อยาก, ประสงค์, ต้องการ
  • disaster: an unexpected event, such as a very bad accident, a flood or a fire, that kills a lot of people or causes a lot of damage - ภัยพิบัติ ความหายนะ
  • divine: like a god, or relating to a god - เกี่ยวกับเทพเจ้า ที่สูงส่ง
  • downgrade: to reduce someone or something to a lower rank or position - ลดความสำคัญ
  • eldest: oldest -
  • embark (verb): to begin an activity, especially a difficult one like a long journey - เริ่มดำเนินการ
  • embrace: to accept something such as a belief, idea, or way of life - ยอมรับ น้อมนำมา
  • emperor: the ruler of an empire, a group of countries or states that are controlled by one ruler or government - จักรพรรดิ์
  • empress (noun): a woman who is the ruler of an empire - จักรพรรดินี, พระราชินี
  • expect (verb): to think or believe that something will happen or that somebody will do something - คาด, คาดว่า, คาดการณ์
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • expire: to come to an end or stop being in use - หมดอายุ
  • express: to tell someone about a feeling, opinion, or aim by speaking or writing about it - แสดงออก (ทางความคิดหรือความรู้สึก) โดยใช้คำพูดหรือการเขียน, พูดออกมา
  • eye (verb): to consider carefully; to look at someone or something carefully - พิจารณา, มองดู
  • frequently: happening often - บ่อยๆ
  • heal (verb): to make somebody/something healthy again; to cause to get better after an emotional shock - หาย, รักษาให้หาย
  • heir: a person who will legally receive money, property or a title from another person, especially an older member of the same family, when that other person dies - ทายาท, ผู้สืบสกุล, ผู้รับมรดก
  • hint: to say or do something that shows, but not directly, what is meant - แย้ม
  • image: an opinion that people have about someone or something - ภาพลักษณ์
  • imperial: related to the emperor or empire -
  • in favour of: giving an advantage to someone - มีประโยชน์ต่อ
  • in the name of: the reason why something is done; why something happened or exists - เหตุผล
  • issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น
  • legislation: a law or set of laws suggested by a government and made official by a parliament - กฎหมาย, การออกกฎหมาย
  • magnate: a powerful and rich person in a industry or business; tycoon -
  • manipulation: the process of influencing or controlling something in a clever and dishonest way -
  • media: radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group - สื่อ
  • memorial (adj.): of something that will continue to remind people of somebody/something after they die - ให้ระลึกถึ
  • militaristic (adj.): operating and functioning in the same way as the military -
  • monarchs: kings and queens - กษัตริย์หรือผู้ครองประเทศ
  • monarchy: a type of government in which a country is ruled by a king or queen - การปกครองที่มีพระมหากษัตริย์เป็นประมุข
  • move (noun): action -
  • nation: a country considered as a group of people with the same language, culture and history, who live in a particular area under one government; all the people in a country - ประเทศ, คนในประเทศ
  • nationalist: a person who has a great love for and pride in their country; a person who has a feeling that their country is better than any other - ผู้รักชาติ, ผู้ที่มีแนวความคิดชาตินิยม
  • natural disaster: an unexpected natural event, such as a very bad storm or flood that kills a lot of people or causes a lot of damage - ความหายนะธรรมชาติทาง, ภัยพิบัติธรรมชาติทาง
  • officially: publicly and by somebody who is in a position of authority - อย่างเป็นทางการ
  • one-off: happening only once, i.e., not repeated - ครั้งเดียว โอกาสเดียวเท่านั้น
  • parliament: the group of people who are elected to make and change the laws of a country; the building where members of parliament meet. - รัฐสภา
  • pass a bill into law: to make a law proposed in a bill into a law -
  • pass a law (verb): when most of parliament votes for a proposed law (bill) and makes it into a law -
  • politician: a person whose job is concerned with politics, especially as an elected member of parliament, etc. - นักการเมือง
  • popular (adj): a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • possible: that can be done; that can exist -
  • precedent: an action, situation or decision which has already happened and which can be used as a reason why a similar action or decision should be performed or taken - มาตรฐานในการตัดสิน, ตัวอย่างหรือแบบอย่างที่มีมาก่อน
  • prefer: to like or want more than anyone or anything else - ชอบมากกว่า
  • present (verb): to cause something to happen or be experienced - นำเข้าพบ, แสดงให้เห็น
  • prevent (verb): to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, ป้องกัน, กัน, กีดขวาง
  • professor emeritus (noun): a retired university teacher who still has a connection with his/her university - ศาสตราจารย์กิตติคุณ
  • public: open to people in general - สาธารณะ
  • quake: earthquake, a sudden shaking movement of the ground - แผ่นดินไหว
  • remain (verb): to stay in the same place; to not leave - ยังอยู่, พักอยู่, รออยู่
  • remorse: the feeling of being extremely sorry for something wrong or bad that you have done - การสำนึกผิด, ความเสียใจ
  • result of: caused by -
  • retire: to leave a place, especially to go somewhere quieter or more private - ออกไป
  • retire: to stop working because you have reached the age where you are officially too old to work - เกษียณอายุ
  • role: the position or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship - บทบาท
  • royal: a member of the family of a king and queen - บุคคลในราชวงศ์
  • scar: a permanent effect on someone’s mind, caused by an unpleasant experience that they have had; a permanent mark on your skin where you have been injured - แผลเป็น, รอยแผลเป็น
  • scholar: someone who studies a particular subject and knows a lot about it, especially a subject that is not scientific - นักวิชาการ
  • semi-: partly; half - กึ่ง, ครึ่ง
  • sensitive: needed to be dealt with very carefully to not cause anger or offence - ที่ละเอียดอ่อน
  • shadow: the dark shape that somebody/something's form makes on a surface, for example on the ground, when they are between the light and the surface - เงา, ร่มเงา
  • shock: to surprise, or frighten someone - ทำให้ตกใจ, ทำให้สั่นสะเทือน
  • signal: to make a movement or sound to give somebody a message, an order, etc - ส่งสัญญาณ
  • sovereign: (of a country) ruling itself - เอกราช อำนาจอธิปไตย
  • stage: a particular point in time during a process or set of events - ระยะเวลา ช่วงเวลา
  • stamp: a mark put on something -
  • status: legal position - สถานะ
  • step aside: to stop serving in a position, so that another can serve in the position -
  • step down: resign or leave from a high position or job - ลาออก, ลาออกจากตำแหน่ง
  • subject to: affected by - ภายใต้บังคับ (กฎหมาย)
  • surrender: to officially give up something - คืน, ยอมมอบ, สละ
  • symbol: someone or something that represents a particular idea or quality - สัญลักษณ์
  • take a back seat: take a less important role in some job or function -
  • take place: to happen - เกิดขึ้น
  • throne: a special chair used by a king or queen to sit on at ceremonies - ราชบัลลังก์
  • timeline: a plan of when something should happen or how much time something should take -
  • tradition: a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม
  • treat: to provide medical care - รักษา
  • unanimous: agreed by everyone - เป็นเอกฉันท์
  • unexpected (adj): surprising way because you were not expecting it - ไม่คาดฝัน, น่าประหลาดใจ
  • Upper House (noun): The Senate in a system with two lawmaking bodies – a bicameral legislature, the other being the House of Representatives - วุฒิสภา
  • victim: someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as a disaster, illness or an accident - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • view: a personal opinion, belief, or attitude about a particular situation or subject - ความคิดเห็น
  • wage: to start or continue a war or fight - ประกาศสงคราม
  • wage war: to start or continue a war or fight - ต่อสู้กับ, เปิดศึก
  • wed (verb): get married to, take as husband or wife - สมรส, แต่งงาน
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