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Politics

Panel stresses clean break once emperor steps down

Post-succession heir to be treated as crown prince

TOKYO -- A report submitted Friday by a Japanese government panel on abdication emphasized the need to transfer all the emperor's duties to his successor to ensure that only the sitting monarch serves as symbol of the state.

The panel advised using the historical title joko for the retired emperor, rather than alternatives such as daijo tenno -- the expanded form of joko, which includes the Japanese word for emperor -- or "previous emperor." These "should be avoided as they give the impression that multiple emperors coexist," the report said.

In this case, joko will be considered a new title unto itself, not an abbreviation of daijo tenno, a government insider said.

Japanese history has seen instances of political conflict between retired emperors and their successors. Some on the panel argued that concern is unnecessary on this front as Emperor Akihito is widely understood to have no interest in holding onto power after stepping down. Even so, the report made clear that the retired emperor should retain no power, even suggesting that he withdraw from all official activities, to avoid any overlap with the new emperor's symbolic status.

The report did, however, state that after retirement the emperor should receive the same living allowance as members of the Imperial household's inner circle, as well as the same funeral rites and mausoleum as a reigning monarch upon death. The panel called for the creation of new positions to assist the emperor and empress after abdication as well.

Also addressed was how to treat Prince Akishino, who will be first in the line of succession when his brother, Crown Prince Naruhito, accedes to the throne. Japanese law allows for the title of crown prince to be granted to only a son or grandson of the emperor. The panel proposed giving Akishino the title of koshi -- denoting the first in line for the throne -- and recommended that he receive the same treatment as a crown prince, in keeping with the importance of his position and his expanded duties.

Some experts invited by the panel suggested making Akishino's position clear by using the existing titles of kotaishi or kotaison, which are given to a direct heir who is the emperor's son or grandson, respectively. But the report concluded that the prince should remain the head of his Imperial house given the family's nearly 30 years in the public eye.

Using kotaishi or kotaison for Akishino would also require revising or reinterpreting the Imperial House Law, which could rile conservatives.

(Nikkei)

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