Japan's Cabinet OKs bill to let Emperor Akihito abdicate

FROM THE FILES- EMPEROR AKIHITO

FROM THE FILES- EMPEROR AKIHITO

The cabinet's draft bill for the Emperor's abdication will now be submitted for both the upper and lower houses of parliament to debate before becoming law. Japan's Cabinet has approved for.

Naruhito will also be the first Japanese emperor in modern times who has not fathered an heir.

(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara). FILE - In this August 8, 2016 file photo, a screen displays Japanese Emperor Akihito delivering a speech in Tokyo.

Japan's cabinet approved a bill on Friday that would allow Emperor Akihito to step down, paving the way for the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in almost two centuries.

Akihito's desire to abdicate due to his age and health concerns has revived debate in Japan over the issue of imperial succession.

Emperor Akihito's funeral ceremony and tomb will be equivalent in status to those of past emperors, the bill said, adding The Emperor's Birthday holiday on December 23 will be changed to February 23, the birthday of Crown Prince Naruhito, 57.

While no definite plan for an abdication has been confirmed, media have said it will likely take place in late 2018, which would mark almost 30 full years on the throne for the emperor.

Following are some facts about the 83-year-old who became emperor on the death of his father, Hirohito, in January 1989. He and Masako have a teenage daughter, Aiko, who can not succeed him since women are not permitted to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.

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The only child of Naruhito is a girl.

The main opposition Democratic Party has been seeking the abdication bill to have an attached special resolution calling for deeper debate on enabling princesses to establish their own branches within the imperial family after they marry commoners.

There are only four heirs in the line of succession - Akihito's two middle-aged sons, Akihito's octogenarian brother, and Hisahito, the 10-year-old son of Akihito's younger son.

Japan's shrinking royal family is set to lose another member with the coming marriage of Princess Mako, one of Akishino's daughters. Media reports have said officials are considering his abdication at the end of 2018, when Akihito turns 85 and marks 30 years on the throne.

"The government hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation", Suga said.

Now, Japan's government needs to approve the one-off bill which, if passed, will allow Emperor to abdicate.

While other monarchs - including Dutch Queen Beatrix - have abdicated, Japan's postwar constitution does not now allow an aging emperor to step down.

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