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Japan's Emperor Akihito hints at wish to abdicate in rare TV address

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Japan's Emperor Akihito has made a rare television address to the nation expressing his concerns for his health and his ability to rule, which many have seen as a hint that the 82-year-old wants to stand down. The revered ruler did not use the word abdicate in his 10-minute pre-recorded speech, but did strongly indicate that he wants to hand over his duties.  

"When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being, as I have done until now," he said. "There are times when I feel various constraints, such as in my physical fitness."


Emperor Akihito has hinted at his desire to abdicate in a television address

Emperor Akihito, who has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989. If he were to abdicate, it would be the first time a Japanese emperor has stepped down since Emperor Kokaku in 1817.


Following the broadcast, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would take the remarks "seriously" and see what could be done. Currently, abdication is not mentioned under existing laws and parliament would need to approve changes for the emperor to stand down.  

Next in line to the Japanese throne is Akihito's son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 56. According to Japan's Imperial House law, the emperor must be succeeded by the nearest male relative.


Akihito's son Naruhito is next in line to the Japanese throne

Naruhito shares one daughter Princess Aiko, 14, with his wife Crown Princess Masako. When the crown prince ascends, his wife Masako will become empress consort.

However their daughter Aiko is not in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne because laws of succession in Japan forbid inheritance by or through females. Instead, Naruhito's younger brother Prince Fumihito, 50, is second in line.