Japanese Emperor Abdication Set For 30 April 2019

Japanese Emperor Abdication Set For 30 April 2019.

Japanese Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, ending his three-decade reign and passing the throne to his son, a government council on imperial-family matters decided Friday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the head of the council, relayed the decision in a statement to reporters and said the government would soon issue a formal order setting that date. Parliament in June passed a law clearing the way for the 83-year-old monarch to step down, in what would be the first abdication by an emperor since 1817. That followed a televised speech by the emperor in August 2016 in which he signalled his desire to abdicate, citing his advanced age and health problems. Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, is set to become emperor after his father’s abdication.

The emperor has no political power under Japan’s constitution, which says his role is to serve as “symbol of the state.” Emperor Akihito took the throne in January 1989 following the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa. In his nearly 30 years, he has won respect for his visits with Empress Michiko to disaster zones and World War II battlefields. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said, the April 30, 2019 date was chosen because it was desirable for Emperor Akihito to mark the 30th year since his father’s death while still on the throne. He said the council decided to avoid March 31, 2019—the last day of Japan’s fiscal year and another date that had been discussed—because many companies and government agencies are busy around that time.

The accession of the new emperor to the throne on May 1, 2019, is likely to draw dignitaries from around the world. Then-President George H.W. Bush and dozens of world leaders attended Emperor Hirohito’s funeral in February 1989. The pomp and ceremony got underway at Friday’s meeting of the Imperial Household Council, a body that hadn’t met since 1993 when it approved the wedding of Crown Prince Naruhito to former diplomat Masako Owada. While the outcome of the meeting was in little doubt after leaks in Japanese media reporting the April 30 date, the council marked the symbolic assent of all branches of government because it includes Mr Abe as well as the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the speakers of both houses of Parliament and members of the imperial family.

Credit: Peter Landers for The Wall Street Journal, 1 December 2017.