Japan's emperor hints at intention to abdicate

Helen Cahill
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Akihito may be waving goodbye to his official duties soon (Source: Getty)

Japan's Emperor Akihito has dropped further hints that he may abdicate due to the deterioration of his health.

In a televised speech to the public - the second he has ever undertaken - the 82-year-old emperor indicated he wants to pass over his duties, although he did not explicitly say he wishes to abdicate.

Emperor Akihito said: "I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now."

During the 10-minute message, Akihito said that if an emperor could not carry out his work due to old age or sickness, a regency could be set up.

However, he went on: "I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the emperor's acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the state."

The statement comes after Akihito reportedly told the Imperial Household Agency that he wanted to abdicate in the "next few years", according to Japan's public broadcaster IHA.

An abdication has not happened in Japan for two centuries, and legislation would need to be created to make it possible. The emperor's son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, would succeed to the throne.

PM Shinzo Abe said the government would "seriously" talk about the legal changes required for such a change.

Emperor Akihito has been a stabilising force during his time as Japan's head of state, guiding his country after the end of the Second World War and reconciling Japan with other Asian countries.

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