The video message, addressed to the public, aired at 3 p.m. The emperor expressed his thoughts about what he called “a desirable role of the emperor in a time when the emperor, too, becomes advanced in age.”
The emperor said he has been thinking about how he should conduct himself in the future because he started feeling decreasing physical strength several years ago. Pointing out some problems in the current Imperial system, whose premise is a “lifetime emperor,” the 82-year-old emperor implied he needs to cede the throne.
In the 10-minute message, the emperor said that in view of his position he “must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system.” Therefore, he expressed personal opinions about his duties as the symbol of the state.
The emperor recalled the 28 years that have passed since he acceded to the throne. “I have spent my days together with the people of Japan, sharing much of the joys as well as the sorrows that have happened in our country,” he said.
The emperor underwent prostate cancer surgery in 2003 and heart bypass surgery in 2012. Now aged over 80, he said, “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.”
The emperor’s official duties have been reduced, but the emperor said in the video message, “I think it is not possible to continue reducing perpetually the emperor’s acts in matters of state and his duties as the symbol of the State.”
Referring to a possible establishment of a regent, who performs acts in matters of state on behalf of the emperor, he said, “Even in such cases, however, it does not change the fact that the emperor continues to be the emperor till the end of his life, even though he is unable to fully carry out his duties as the emperor.”
The emperor said if the emperor has ill health under the current system, in which the Chrysanthemum Throne is acceded to only when the emperor dies, “people’s lives are impacted in various ways.”
He said, under the current system, events related to the emperor’s funeral and the new emperor’s ascension are held simultaneously and this places “a very heavy strain on those involved in the events, in particular, the family left behind.” “It occurs to me from time to time to wonder whether it is possible to prevent such a situation,” he said.
As the reason for releasing a message to the public this time, the emperor said it is his hope “that the duties of the emperor as the symbol of the State can continue steadily without a break. With this earnest wish, I have decided to make my thoughts known.”
The emperor wrapped up the message by saying, “I sincerely hope for your understanding.”