TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito might receive the title joko should he step down, remaining a member of the Imperial family but without a claim to the throne, as the debate led by the Japanese government over his potential abdication continues.
Akihito would be the first to take the title since Emperor Kokaku, who relinquished the throne in 1817. No emperor has abdicated since Japan's current constitution came into effect, and a panel convened by the government is considering how best to allow an aging Akihito to step down as well as his status and role afterward. Japanese history contains cases in which a retired emperor continued to wield influence, leading to confusion.
Many experts brought in for a hearing with the panel in November said that joko or the more formal daijo tenno would be an appropriate title. A government official said that joko, a term more familiar to the public, is a likely candidate. Akihito's living expenses would be drawn from the Imperial budget.
Experts were divided on what role Akihito should have in retirement. Some wanted to leave it to his discretion. Others argued for some restrictions so that he does not undermine the new emperor as a symbol of the state. The panel intends further discussion regarding an abdication ceremony and where Akihito would live, while the ruling and opposition parties also conduct talks on the matter.
Crown Prince Naruhito has no sons who could inherit his title when he succeeds Akihito as emperor. His younger brother, Prince Akishino, could be granted a new title and assume the crown prince's duties.
The changes could alter the Imperial family's budget as well. Akihito, Empress Michiko, Naruhito and his family were allocated 324 million yen ($2.81 million) in fiscal 2016, compared with the 229 million yen given to the rest of the Imperial family. The total amount could grow if Akishino and his family are treated as the crown prince's household.