November 30, 2011

JAPAN: Do we need an age limit for emperors who now serve for life?

TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / News / November 30, 2011

Honoring the fallen: Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko offer flowers Tuesday at a memorial service in Tokyo for firefighters who died on duty in the past year. KYODO

Prince cites age limit for emperors


Prince Akishino, who turns 46 on Wednesday, has said it will become necessary to hold a public debate on whether an age limit is needed for emperors, who currently serve for life.

The youngest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko made the remark at a news conference he held together with his wife, Princess Kiko, 45, ahead of his birthday.

The 77-year-old Emperor resumed his official duties Tuesday after being hospitalized for 19 days this month for bronchial pneumonia.

Introducing a retirement age for emperors is "one idea" and "discussions should be held including at what age to draw the line," he said, noting that the aging speed differs depending on the individual.

Under the 1947 Imperial House Law, the next male in line ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne upon an emperor's death. Emperor Akihito's eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, currently ranks first in line to the throne, followed by Prince Akishino.

Looking back on events in the last year, including the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, Prince Akishino said his father, who turns 78 on Dec. 23, was particularly busy with official duties.

The prince noted the need for the Imperial Household Agency and doctors to cooperate and be flexible to reduce the heavy burden on his father, who was discharged from the University of Tokyo Hospital last Thursday.

On recent reports that the government is looking into the possibility of allowing women to retain their Imperial status and set up a new royal family after marriage, the prince said it is up to the Diet to discuss systemic reform, but reiterated his call for listening to him and his elder brother in the course of the discussions.

The idea has emerged as there are currently only a few males who are eligible to ascend the throne. Prince Akishino's 5-year-old son, Prince Hisahito, is now the sole heir eligible to succeed to the throne in his generation.

(C) The Japan Times
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