Japanese emperor declares abdication

Japanese emperor declares abdication

Japanese Emperor Akihito declared today that he is abdicating and expressed gratitude to the citizens, who have supported and considered him as the country’s symbol for more than 30 years.

The monarch announced this in his address to the nation during a ceremony broadcast live on national television on occasion of his abdication. The  Matsu no Ma (Hall of Pine) at the imperial palace hosted the event.

Some 300 people attended the ceremony, including Empress Michiko and the imperial family members, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cabinet ministers, heads of both houses of parliament, the chief justice, representatives of local authorities and the public.

"I’m thankful with all my heart to our people for recognizing me and supporting me as the country’s symbol. I was happy because I could fulfill my duties as the emperor, feeling deep trust and love to our people," NHK cited Akihito as saying.

The Japanese prime minister, who spoke at the ceremony on behalf of the citizens, expressed gratitude to the emperor for having been always together with the people and working to the benefit of the nation.

The abdication ceremony featured the emperor’s stamp and also the so-called imperial treasures or regalia - a sword, a gem and a mirror, which symbolizes the sun goddess Amaterasu, the mythic founder of the imperial dynasty.

Emperor Akihito, 85, announced his wish to step down back in 2016 due to his old age. Under Japan’s law, the monarch rules for life, but the parliament passed a law making a one-off exception for Akihito. Starting from May 1, his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will become a new emperor. With the ascension of a new emperor, Japan is entering an era called Reiwa (beautiful harmony). 

Chairman of the Russian Association of Japanologists Alexander Meshcheryakov, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Akihito’s abdication will not affect the country's foreign policy, since the emperor is not a political figure in Japan. "The emperor is above politics. That is why people express such a warm attitude towards him," the expert said.

According to him, the ceremony of the emperor’s abdication is perceived by Japanese society as a ritual of renewal. "There was one emperor, but now there is another emperor. This is perceived by the public as a ritual of renewal, something new begins," the expert said.

Director of the Center for Studies of Eastern Asia and the SCO of the Institute for International Studies of MGIMO Alexander Lukin, also noted that the emperor's abdication is of very important symbolic meaning for the Japanese society , but it will not affect the government's policy. "The Japanese emperor has not been engaged in foreign policy since the country lost the Second World War. You can talk about its influence inside the country, which is also small, but it will not affect foreign policy in any way, it is determined by the Prime Minister," the expert recalled.

"The emperor is practically a god there with his 1,500-year-old dynasty. Now there is a line for a large nationally-oriented policy in Japan, such ceremonies will lead to a surge of national pride, they will be widely publicized in the media, etc. But still the emperor has no particular influence on even the internal policy," the expert continued.

He also noted that there are supporters of extreme right-wing monarchical views in Japanese society, who support the emperor’s participation in the political life of the country. "But their influence on real politics is insignificant," Lukin concluded.