London, July 14 (IANS) Palace officials on Thursday dismissed media reports that Japanese Emperor Akihito, who apparently expressed his intention to pass the throne to his son, would abdicate.
The imperial household agency that oversees Japan’s 2,600-year-old monarchy, was forced to issue strong denials that the octogenarian Akihito, who has battled prostate cancer, would renounce his title to make way for his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, rather than cut back on his official duties, the Guardian reported.
“I know there are media reports about this, but it is absolutely not true,” the agency’s Vice Grand Steward, Shinichiro Yamamoto, told the media.
“Akihito has long refrained from discussing systematic issues out of consideration for his majesty’s constitutional position,” Yamamoto added.
Japan palace observers said the NHK and Kyodo News media outlets were unlikely to have run the story unless it had come from impeccable sources within the palace.
The claims were lent more weight after the Yomiuri Shimbun, a conservative broadsheet with close ties to official sources, said the government had been secretly reviewing a possible abdication in light of Akihito’s age and his state of his health.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declined to comment on the emperor’s future.
The last Japanese monarch to abdicate was Kokaku, who gave up the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1817, the Guardian reported.
For Akihito to do so would require a change to the imperial household law, which does not contain a provision for live succession.
Akihito, who has been on the throne for 28 years, is as close as Japan has come to a modernising emperor.
He is the first to marry a commoner, Michiko Shoda, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, whom he met on a tennis court.