The Emperor is to abdicate on April 30, 2019, the Imperial House Council decided at a meeting on Friday morning.
The meeting was held at a special conference room of the Imperial Household Agency’s building, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heard opinions about the date of abdication for the Emperor from the chiefs of both chambers of the Diet, Imperial family members and others. At the meeting, they decided the Emperor will abdicate on April 30, 2019 (the 31st year of the Heisei era).
Based on the opinion, the government will formally decide a government ordinance providing the date of abdication at a Cabinet meeting on Dec. 8.
The schedules of the “abdication on April 30, 2019, and the succession by the crown prince to the throne and the change of era on May 1, 2019,” were decided.
Japan is facing a great turning point with the abdication, the first such event in about 200 years since the abdication of Emperor Kokaku in 1817.
The meeting was held behind closed doors and lasted about an hour and 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m. to around 11 a.m. The inside of the conference room was shown to media outlets only just before the meeting began.
After the meeting, Abe reported the summary of the meeting’s results to the Emperor at the Imperial Palace. Subsequently, Abe told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office, “The opinion of the Imperial House Council was decided smoothly, and I am quite impressed by the great progress made toward an Imperial succession.”
Abe also emphasized: “Based on the opinion of the Imperial House Council, we will swiftly establish a government ordinance providing the implementation date [of the special measures law on abdication]. At the same time, we will make all-out efforts to realize the smooth succession by the crown prince with the blessing of the people.” Abe also issued similar comments in a statement.
At the council, Abe asked each participant to express their opinions. Then, Abe proposed a plan favoring the “abdication on April 30, 2019, and succession by the crown prince on May 1, 2019,” which was decided based on political schedules, such as the unified local elections to be conducted in the spring of 2019.
While the government had considered a plan of the “abdication on March 31, 2019, and the change of era on April 1, 2019,” the government did not adopt the plan because many people will be relocating during that period due to corporate transfers and starting higher education.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will report the opinion of the Imperial House Council to a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The government plans to decide a government ordinance providing the implementation date of the special measures law, or abdication date, at a Cabinet meeting Friday. After the abdication date is formally set, the government will start full discussions on the details of abdication and succession ceremonies. To this end, the government plans to establish a study panel headed by Suga as early as the beginning of next year. The new era name will be announced within next year before the abdication takes place.
Ten participants attended the meeting, including Abe, who chaired the meeting, House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima and Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors President Chuichi Date and Vice President Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada and Supreme Court Justice Kiyoko Okabe. From the government, Suga also participated as a nonofficial member only to provide explanations.
From the Imperial family, Prince and Princess Hitachi attended the meeting. Prince Akishino, the original Imperial family member who was to attend the meeting, did not attend as the special measures law concerning the abdication involved his own status. Therefore, Prince Hitachi participated in the meeting.
A meeting of the Imperial House Council has not been held in 24 years, or since January 1993, when the marriage of Crown Prince Naruhito was decided. The special measures law to allow abdication only for the current Emperor makes it mandatory to hear the opinion of the Imperial House Council before deciding on the abdication date.
Under the Imperial House Law, the Imperial House Council is a state decision-making body to discuss important issues involving the Imperial family such as marriages of male Imperial family members and the appointment of a regent. Since the end of World War II, the council has held seven meetings – six for discussing marriages of male Imperial family members and one for the renouncement of Imperial status by Imperial branches. This was the first time for the council to discuss the Imperial succession. An outline of the meeting’s minutes will be disclosed later on.
(c) 2017, The Japan News/Yomiur