Japan enacts law for Emperor Akihito, 83, to abdicate

Law enacted to allow abdication by Emperor

On Friday, the Upper House held a plenary session that passed the bill with support from nearly all major parties in the chamber. Emperor Akihito's desire was interpreted as his wish to hand the crown to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

Akihito, 83, is expected to become the first country's emperor in two centuries to step down.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ultra-conservative government supports male-only succession, said that "Abdication will take place in 200 years, reminding me once again of how important an issue this is for the foundation of our nation, its long history, and its future".

The law passed this week is a one-off, allowing Akihito-and only Akihito-to resign, but it does include a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to figure out how to ensure the future stability of the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.

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Japan uses both the Western year and nengo for its calendar, and the current nengo year is Heisei 29, referring to the 29th year of the era of Emperor Akihito.

The legislation passed by Japan's parliament the Diet is limited to the present emperor.

Only women are forced to renounce their royal status when they marry a commoner, heating up debate for members of the royal family such as Princess Mako.

Kurando: That's right. Imperial House Law stipulates the throne is succeeded only by male offspring in the male line. If she loses her status, the number of imperial family members will fall to 18, of whom 13 are women and eight are below age 40. Crown Prince Naruhito will take the throne, when the abdication take place next year.

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Emperor Kokaku, who gave up the throne in 1817, was the last Japanese emperor to abdicate. Japanese media reports suggest with passage of this law, his abdication could occur before his birthday in December. The monarchy is also facing pressure from the public to allow women to rule, as the imperial household shrinks and male heirs are in short supply.

But some conservative lawmakers are concerned that could eventually allow their sons to become Emperor, something they say goes against Japanese tradition. The next in line to the throne, Naruhito, has only one daughter, Princess Aiko, bringing his younger brother, Crown Prince Akishino, second in line to the throne.

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.

The recent announcement of the impending engagement of Princess Mako, 25, the emperor's oldest granddaughter, focused attention on the flaws in the current law, which not only prohibits women from ruling, but also stipulates that succession pass only through the men of the royal family.

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