Japan’s Emperor delivered a televised address to the nation, and made clear his desire to relinquish the throne.
Who is Japan’s Emperor?
Akihito is the emperor of Japan. He succeeded his father Hirohito, who served as emperor during World War 2. Akihito became emperor in 1989 when his father passed away.
This is only the second address given by Emperor Akihito
Akihito gave his first televised address in the aftermath of the massive earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent Fukishima meltdown of 2011. That gives a sense of how rare, and consequential the address could be.
Emperor Akihito probably won’t mention abdication outright
Akihito can’t outright say he will abdicate, but he has expressed the feeling that he can’t fulfill all his duties. While the Japanese greeted initial news of Akihito’s potential abdication as a shock, some are recognizing it as a chance for Akihito – age 82 – to rest.
Role of Japanese Emperor changed after World War 2
The Japanese Emperor was once revered as a living God and seen as officially divine. This was part of driving the massive war mobilization and refusal to surrender of the Japanese Military in the Second World War. It took two Nuclear bombs to push Japan to finally surrender, and for a time America considered removing the Emperor – Hirohito – from power.
America decided against it, believing the Emperor could be a stabilizing influence on a rebuilding Japan.
No longer seen as divine, position of Emperor is still respected by many Japanese
While Emperor Akihito is not seen as a living God, he is seen positively by many of the Japanese people, and his televised address will be closely watched.
Abdication would have to legalized, requiring a constitutional change
For Akihito to abdicate, Japan would need to change their constitution, as abdication is currently illegal. Polls show 85% of Japanese citizens favour legalizing abdication.