Japan's Emperor Akihito will be allowed to abdicate the throne after the country's Diet, or National Assembly, enacted a special single-use law Friday, clearing the way for Crown Prince Naruhito to take the throne.
The abdication of Emperor Akihito, 83, would be the first in about 200 years when it takes place at the end of 2018, according to the Japan Times. Current Japanese law only allows for Imperial succession after the emperor dies.
Crown Prince Naruhito is currently 57 years old, reported the Japan Times. The special abdication law was considered when Emperor Akihito hinted at that he wanted to step down in a rare televised video message last August, citing concerns about how his age was interfering with his public duties, stated the Times.
"Humble and soft-spoken, Akihito has received praise for efforts to heal the wounds of Japan's wartime and colonial era," noted USA Today writer Jessica Durando. "He appears to have taken pains to keep his distance from emperor-worshiping conservatives and historical revisionists who have contributed to difficult relations with neighboring China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan's wartime and colonial policies."
CNN reported that Emperor Kokaku was the last to abdicate the Japanese throne in 1817 in the later part of the Edo Period. The broadcaster said that the royal male line has been unbroken for at least 14 centuries, according to Japanese records.
With the emperor stepping down, debate has emerged about the role of women in the world's oldest hereditary monarchy, CNN ntoed. Currently, women who marry a commoners have to rescind their royal rights – unlike in Europe.
"The number of Imperial family members is decreasing because of the marriage of female members and other reasons," Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told a special Upper House session on the legislation Wednesday, according to the Japan Times.
"Considering the ages of the Imperial family members, this is an important problem that we cannot shelve," he continued.
USA Today said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ultra-conservative government, though, still supports male-only succession to the throne.
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