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Road forward unclear a year after Japanese emperor’s abdication message

Tuesday marked one year since Japan’s Emperor Akihito indicated his desire to abdicate. Following the enactment of a special-measures law, the emperor will be referred to as “joko” – an official post-abdication title – within three years.

However, it remains to be seen what image the new emperor (the current crown prince, Naruhito) and the koshi (Naruhito’s younger brother Prince Akishino) will create for the imperial family. In light of the declining approval rating for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it is uncertain when the next era will be introduced and also how to proceed with preparations for naming it.
The special law to enable the emperor, now 83, to abdicate was enacted in June. With this in mind, the government plans to hold an Imperial House Council meeting and announce by the end of this year the dates of the emperor’s abdication and the start of the new era.
“We must make thorough preparations for the enforcement of the special-measures law,” chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said emphatically at a press conference on Monday. “We’re considering various issues appropriately, including establishing a support organisation, a new residence and the name of the era after the abdication.”
As it decides on the timing of the abdication and the era change, the prime minister’s office is attaching importance to reducing the impact on the daily lives of the people. 
The position of the PM’s office is that it is desirable for the emperor to abdicate in late December 2018 and the new era to start on New Year’s Day 2019.
On the other hand, the Imperial Household Agency intends to avoid the year-end and New Year period, when the emperor has many duties at the Imperial Palace and his schedule is very tight. The agency is looking into the possibility of enabling the emperor to abdicate at the end of March 2019 and the era to change on April 1, 2019. Both sides are making arrangements for the matter behind closed doors. 
The name of the new era will be selected from several options devised by scholars entrusted by the prime minister. The experts will express their opinions, and the selection process will follow the precedent set when the Showa era ended and the current Heisei era began. 
The name of the new era is required to meet six criteria, including “satisfying the ideals of the people” and consisting of two kanji characters.
The government initially planned to announce the name of the new era in the summer of 2018 at the earliest. Recently, however, some in the government have said the announcement should be made after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election in September 2018. “It could be after the new LDP president, and therefore the next prime minister, is decided,” said a source related to the cabinet secretariat. 
Abe’s aim for a third consecutive victory in the LDP presidential race has become less than a formality, with the LDP suffering a historic defeat in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and the cabinet’s approval rating dropping sharply.
The prime minister, who is trying to swiftly regain public support, has expressed his intention to place his top priority on economic revitalisation.
Some sources have said that, given its declining strength, the administration should start the new era after it has set a path for addressing economic challenges.

Published : August 09, 2017

By : The Japan News Asia News Network Tokyo