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Japan Explores Ways For Emperor To Abdicate The Throne

Emperor Akihito, seen here with Empress Michiko during a state visit to the Philippines last year, could be allowed to abdicate if Japan's legislature changes the law governing the throne.

Months after Japan's Emperor Akihito hinted that he would like to step down from the throne, a government panel has come up with ways for the monarch to abdicate his powers — something that's not provided for in Japanese law.

Drawing on research and interviews about Japan's constitution and monarchy, the panel said in its interim report that it has identified several ways Japan's legislature could change the law to allow Akihito, 83, to step down.

A central question in the report, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK, is whether abdication provisions should apply to all future emperors. The panel reportedly found that a temporary solution, pertaining only to Akihito, would likely be the easiest to implement.

Akihito heads the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world; he obliquely referred to retiring from that position last August, when he used the occasion of a rare televised address to mention that his declining health was making it tough to fulfill his official duties.

"When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being as I have done until now," Akihito said in that 10-minute video.

If he does leave his post, Akihito would be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Previous reports have suggested that the transfer of the Chrysanthemum Throne might take place at the end of 2018, but details such as the timing — and what to call Akihito after he steps down — are still being discussed.

"Officials are looking at ancient precedents, since the last time an emperor abdicated was in 1817," The Asahi Shimbun reports.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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