Japanese Emperor Abdicating in 2019

by Ying Ying Yang

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Japanese Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, becoming the first emperor to abdicate in more than 200 years.

The 83-year-old emperor has been reigning for the past thirty years, and has expressed his wish to retire citing his declining health conditions as early as 2016. Traditionally, the Imperial House Law does not allow abdication. Indeed, it wasn’t until the June of 2016 did the parliament amended the law and permitted abdication. The successor to the throne is Akihito’s eldest son Naruhito, who only has a sixteen-year-old daughter Aiko. The birth of Aiko had stirred up much controversy around Japan’s law which prohibited a female member to serve as emperor. In fact, the law might have been amended if not for the birth of Aiko’s cousin prince in 2006.

The abdication of Akihito can be viewed as an opposition to the right-winged politicians in Japan, headed by prime minister Shinzo Abe. Abe had revised the “fundamental law of education” to include “a love for the country” along with other right-winged legislations. Given that Naruhito only has a daughter, if he chooses to push for further reforms of the Imperial House Law, princess Aiko might be the first female to succeed the throne in modern Japan.