Date of Emperor’s Abdication Set for April 30, 2019
post date : 2017.12.22
These articles present editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (Asahi, Sankei, Nikkei, Mainichi, Yomiuri) covering the same theme.
The Sankei Shimbun：Abdication date set, citizens all want to congratulate Emperor
The Nikkei：Prepare carefully for abdication and new era name
The Mainichi Shimbun：With Emperor's abdication date set, time to address related issues
：Gov't should follow Emperor's example and remember citizens' sovereignty
The Yomiuri Shimbun：Thorough preparations will enable smooth Imperial throne succession
In a meeting at the Imperial Household Agency of the Imperial Household Council on December 1, including members of the imperial family and the leaders of the three branches of government (the Prime Minister, the Speakers of the House of Representatives and House of Councillors, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), it was decided that Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, and be succeeded on the throne by Crown Prince Naruhito the next day, on May 1. This decision was approved by the Cabinet on December 8. This will be the first abdication by an emperor since 1817, as well as the first since the system of lifelong reign was introduced in the Meiji era (1868–). As of May 2019, Akihito’s title will become “joko,” a title used historically for an emperor who has abdicated, Empress Michiko’s title will become “jokogo,” which has never been used before in Japan’s history, and Prince Fumihito’s title will become “koshi,” used for the first in line for succession when they are not descended from the current emperor.
The four national dailies other than Asahi ran editorials about the abdication date decision, welcoming the fact that a special law was put into place to allow the emperor to abdicate according to his wishes, and calling for thorough preparations in order to ensure the abdication process goes smoothly. The papers also called for more in-depth debate on the state of the ceremony for abdication and the decision process for new era names, noting the necessity of actively looking into ways to ensure stable imperial succession as the imperial family continues to grow smaller.
■ Decision of Abdication Date Welcomed, Calls for Establishing Female Imperial Family Branches
The Yomiuri (December 2) welcomed the decision on the abdication date “prioritizing a ‘quiet setting,’” and declared, “All-out efforts are urged to prepare for a smooth succession.” However, as the era name will change with the abdication of the emperor, the paper noted, “With the abdication set to occur on April 30, the current Heisei era will end one month into its 31st fiscal year… It is necessary that the change in era cause the minimum amount of confusion in people’s lives,” calling for the new era name to be announced as soon as possible.
The Yomiuri also commented that since the abdication will be carried out based on a special measures law enabling the Emperor to abdicate, “Careful consideration also should be given as to whether ceremonies related to the abdication will be regarded as state affairs,” and urged the study panel headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to consider multiple angles when discussing these issues. The paper noted that “It would be undesirable for the joko to give the impression that he stands on an equal footing with the emperor, who is the ‘symbol of Japan,’” and called for the government to make clear what activities the joko can engage in.
The Yomiuri also supported the additional resolution included in the special measures law calling for considering the possibility of creating imperial family branches headed by females, in order to ensure the stability of imperial succession, but noted, “It is vital
to take steps to prevent an excessive burden” on Fumihito, who will be taking on the duties of the crown prince in addition to his current duties.
The Nikkei (December 2) also welcomed the decision of a date that “made the effort to choose as quiet of an environment as possible, to minimize the impact on citizens’ lives,” and argued that the ceremony for abdication should “consider the continued traditions of the Imperial Household, but must be done in a manner appropriate for a symbolic emperor.” The paper also called for serious efforts to be made to ensure a stable imperial succession, including considering the establishment of female branches of the imperial family.
The Sankei (December 2) stated, “The abdication of the Emperor, the constitutional monarch of Japan, is a major event for the country. We are glad that a decision has been made on the date.” The paper also argued, “It is important to carry out the succession in a manner fit for the Emperor being a symbol of Japanese citizens’ unity.” The paper also approved of the decision for the date of abdication, stating, “It could be said to have achieved a balance” considering the activities of the emperor and the political calendar.
■ Mainichi Calls for Abdication “Respecting Sovereignty of Japanese People”
The Mainichi covered this topic in two editorials, one after the council decision (December 2) and one after Cabinet approval (December 9). The first editorial declared that this abdication based on a special measures law is “an epochal moment in the long history of Japan's Imperial system.” However, the paper also noted that there appeared to be negotiations and a power struggle behind the scenes between the prime minister’s office and the Imperial Household Agency, and argued that “the process of passing on the throne must absolutely proceed under the principle of the sovereignty of the people.” The paper called for minutes of the Imperial House Council meeting to be released, and called for the process of determining the new era name to “eventually be made public.” Regarding the fact that the abdication will be at the end of April, one month into a new fiscal year, the paper noted, “We are sure that the date chosen for the abdication has bewildered many… We call on the government to minimize the effect of the abdication and succession on people's daily lives.”
In the second editorial, the paper commented that for the abdication ceremony, “It is desirable to have simple ceremonies to which people can have a feeling of closeness while respecting the tradition.” The Mainichi also stated, “The government should clarify the purpose of making the day a one-off holiday, such as providing the public an opportunity to reflect on the imperial system, instead of simply enlivening the mood of celebration,” and cautioning, “Steps should be taken to prevent the symbol of the unity of the people from being split into two.”
The paper also commented that considering the establishment of female branches of the imperial family was worthwhile as part of efforts to ensure stable imperial succession, but also reiterated its previous position: “However, such a measure alone would not ensure stable imperial succession. Debate should be held on a wider scope of the issue, including whether to allow female members and those in the female line to accede to the Imperial Throne.” Furthermore, the paper argued, “The decision to allow Emperor Akihito to step down has led to an atmosphere in which people can freely discuss the imperial system. Japan should launch national debate on the system from a long-term perspective…”
*English translations of The Yomiuri and The Mainichi are from The Japan News and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Nikkei and The Sankei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.