2020: The Quality of Emperorship in 21st Century Japan

Quelle: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 12 | Number 1 | Article ID 5404 | Jun 05, 2020
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The Quality of Emperorship in 21st Century Japan:
Reflections on the Reiwa Accession

John Breen


On 8 August 2016, Emperor Akihito 明仁天皇 (r. 1989-2019) appeared on national TV to address the Japanese people for only the second time in his twenty seven year reign.2 His first appearance was five years before in March 2011 in response to the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake.3 In 2016, it was the very different matter of abdication that animated him. In a performance that was all the more riveting for being understated, he informed the nation - in suitably oblique fashion - of his desire to abdicate. The problem he confronted was the law. The Imperial Household Law (Kōshitsu tenpan 皇室典範) has no provision for abdication; rather in Chapter 3 it provides for a regency in the event an emperor can no longer continue. Emperor Akihito was challenging the law, and seeking popular support for his challenge. This was a political move of the sort not permitted him under the constitution. So, it is little wonder that Emperor Akihito caused a stir. ...

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