Emperor Akihito’s Mark on Modern Japan

The Takeaway – August 9, 2016


On Monday, Japanese Emperor Akhito suggested in a televised address that, at age 82, he would like to vacate the throne.

“I am already 80 years old and fortunately, I am now in good health,” Akihito said. “However, when I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, 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.”

Unfortunately for Akihito, who has been treated for cancer and heart problems, current Japanese law does not allow for an emperor to abdicate his rule, meaning that he must serve until death.

Whether or not that law is rewritten, Akihito’s rule transformed the role of the Emperor in modern Japan – marking the shift away from an emperor with significant power, like that of Hirohito who was emperor in World War II, to a purely symbolic and apolitical one.

Carol Gluck, George Sansom professor of history at Columbia University, joins The Takeaway to discuss Akihito’s rule, and if the Japanese government will let him abdicate his position.

Access the full interview.