IN a rare public address, the Japanese emperor has hinted that he may relinquish the throne as concerns mount over his ability to carry out his duties fully as he ages.
Emperor Akihito made the remarks in a rare video message delivered to the public on national television.
The video message followed recent media reports that he may want to abdicate in the coming years.
The 82-year-old monarch did not explicitly refer to abdication in his address. He did suggest a need to consider how to make the succession process smoother.
Akihito has reportedly told palace officials and his family that he doesn’t wish to cling to his title with severely reduced responsibilities, and his two sons have accepted the idea.
“My age has already exceeded 80, and I’m happy to be still healthy. But when I think of my declining physical strength, I’m worried it will be difficult to perform my duties as a symbol of the state,” he said in the message, which was broadcast on national television networks, as quoted by the Japan Times.
The Emperor said his advanced age would pose an increasing challenge for him to perform his duties and visit various places throughout the country.
“In coping with the issues of an aging emperor, I think it is inappropriate to reduce the public duties and activities of a symbolic emperor,” he said.
In July, local media quoted sources saying that the Emperor had expressed his intention to step down.
The monarch has reportedly encountered health problems in recent years, and suffered from a bout of influenza earlier this year.
However, the Japanese imperial household later denied news of the plans, insisting that the Emperor did not want to abdicate.
Akihito, who has ruled for 27 years, succeeded his father Hirohito in 1989 and was the first of the country’s emperors to hold the position in a merely symbolic capacity. He was also the first Japanese ruler to marry a commoner.
He is expected be succeeded by his eldest son, 56-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito.
Additional reporting by Associated Press