Emperor Akihito of Japan, 82, said he wants to step down in his second-ever televised address to the public. He said he fears his age will make it difficult to fulfil his duties, according to The New York Times. Following his announcement, BYU-Hawaii students from Japan shared their respect for his decision.
In his 10-minute pre-recorded message, the Emperor did not explicitly say he wanted to abdicate as he is barred from making political statements, reported The New York Times. He said he was getting too old to participate in public affairs and can no longer travel as he used to.
“The emperor is the symbol and living embodiment of the nation state of Japan,” said Rika Ni, a psychology sophomore from Japan. “The country and media will understand and respect his decision,” said Ni. She added that future generations in Japan are more open-minded.
Joshua Andrus, an undeclared sophomore from Japan, said he does not think the Emperor’s decision to abdicate his position is a sign of him giving up. “He might just be tired because he is getting old,” said Andrus. He emphasized the importance of tradition in Japan. “The emperor does not have as much power as the prime minister, but we continue to support and respect them because they are part of our history and tradition,” explained Andrus.
Akihito has been on the throne since 1989. He assumed the reign after the death of his father, Hirohito, as reported by The New York Times. He has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer. If he were to abdicate, it would be the first time a Japanese emperor has stepped down since Emperor Kokaku in 1817, according to The New York Times.
Megumi Suita, a junior studying graphic design from Japan, said the emperor does not have political power except for greeting foreign dignitaries. “I have never really thought about how important he was. I was just listening to some news about it, and he talked about what he thinks about Japan and how he can make it better,” said Suita. She said she thinks the government would be able to find the best way to help the emperor and the country.
According to BBC, a recent survey by Kyodo News found more than 85 percent of people said they think abdication should be legalized. The move is opposed by some more conservative sections of Japanese society who insist emperors must serve until they die. BBC suggests conservatives fear that the emperor stepping down will damage the standing of the imperial system. The Japanese royal line is considered the oldest unbroken line of rules, according to National Geographic.
Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, said to The New York Times, "The emperor has effectively said that he wants to resign and put the problems in the hands of the politicians," said Okumura. "And even though he has no power, he has taken that decision. And because he is widely respected by the public and they understand his personal situation, he has overwhelming support.”
Akihito's eldest son, Prince Naruhito, 56, is first in line to the Chrysanthemum throne, followed by his younger brother,Prince Akishino, according to The New York Times.