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Japan adopts law to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate

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Staff Writer |
Emperor Akihito
Ruler   A new “imperial era” will begin

Special case legislation allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate was agreed upon by the ruling and opposition parties after they ironed out their differences over the legality of such a law.

The legislation envisages a supplementary clause on abdication and its legal basis to the current Imperial House Law so that it could be applied if a future emperor after Akihito, 83, also wanted to step down.

The deal was struck at a meeting of representatives of political parties and parliamentary groups called by the leaders and vice leaders of the Lower House and Upper House.

The final agreed-upon proposal was submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the same day.

The opposition parties had previously maintained that the Imperial House Law should be amended to pave the way for a future emperor to step down, not just Akihito, although the government insisted on one-off legislation just for the current emperor.

The opposition parties also argued that new legislation concerning the abdication could violate the Constitution, which states the Chrysanthemum Throne must be succeeded in accordance with the Imperial House Law, which has no provisions for an abdication.

Once Emperor Akihito steps down, a new “imperial era” will begin, replacing the current “Heisei”, meaning “achieving peace”, which began on January 8, 1989, the day he took the throne.

Although Japan uses the Western-style Gregorian calendar, it has also kept its ancient imperial-era system – “nengo” or “gengo” – in which a new emperor ushers in a new era.

The government might break with precedent and announce the name of the new era months before Emperor Akihito retires, to allow time for the switch to be made in official forms, calendars and computer programs.

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