Jan 9, 2018
TOKYO - The government said Tuesday it will compile by mid-March its basic plan on the staging of ceremonies related to Emperor Akihito's abdication on April 30, 2019, and accession to the throne the following day by Crown Prince Naruhito.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who heads a new group tasked with preparing the imperial succession ceremonies, told the first meeting of the entity Tuesday morning that the government will "do its best to smoothly hold" the rites. The abdication ceremony will be the first to be organized under the 1947 Japanese Constitution.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved on Dec. 8 the date for the abdication of the 84-year-old emperor, who will be the first Japanese monarch to step down in more than 200 years.
"We will swiftly compile our basic policy to prepare for the (succession) events, including the enthronement ceremony, in a comprehensive and well-planned manner," Suga said.
The government is considering holding an enthronement ceremony for the 57-year-old crown prince in the fall of 2019, drawing on the ritual that took place for the current emperor's accession in 1990. The specific date will be decided in light of other ceremonies involving the imperial family that year, according to government sources.
After the gathering of the panel, Suga said the committee is expected to meet once a month and will also study how to organize a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the current emperor's enthronement on Jan. 7, 2019.
One of the main topics to be discussed by the body will be how to avoid a conflict with the Constitution in arranging the first abdication ceremony in modern Japan.
As Article 4 bans the emperor from having political power, government officials are concerned that if the emperor's reasons for abdicating are read out by an agent following old ceremonial tradition, this would imply that he is relinquishing the throne based on his own will, thus violating the supreme law.
One member of the committee said the basic idea and content of the 1990 accession ceremony should be followed as the event was conducted so as not to infringe on the Constitution, according to Suga.
The seven-member committee is comprised of governmental officials, including Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita and the Imperial Household Agency's Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto. Suga said it plans to hear opinions of experts on imperial matters and history.
Emperor Akihito wishes to retire in a ceremony that is "as simple as possible," without inviting foreign dignitaries or holding a parade. He does not plan to appear before the general public at the Imperial Palace on the occasion, Yamamoto said earlier.
The emperor, who has had heart surgery and underwent treatment for prostate cancer, signaled his desire to step down in a rare video message aired in August 2016, expressing concern about his advanced age and weakening health. He will be 85 when he abdicates.
Japan's parliament enacted a one-off law last June allowing him to pass the throne onto the crown prince. The special legislation was needed as the Imperial House Law lacks a provision on abdication.
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