Japan’s Parliament on Friday passed a law that allows Emperor Akihito to become the first occupant of the chrysanthemum throne to abdicate since 1817. With Akihito stepping down, his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will likely take over. The imperial family has just 19 living members, and only three males who could rule in the future, which is one reason why parliament also passed a law that proposes the government consider allowing the royal bloodline to pass through women in the family as well.
Akihito, who is 83, said last year that he wished to give up his throne over health concerns. He’s had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, and since his announcement last August, the government has considered whether he could fulfill his duties or if it should allow him to step aside. Akihito is loved in the country, and his request to abdicate was warmly received by the public. The parliamentary vote was broadcast live on NHK, the public television channel, and the upper house overwhelming passed the measure.
The law is a one-time policy, meaning it applies only to Akihito. The government will now work out the details of abdication, including when Akihito will resign the throne, though media reports say this will likely happen next year, giving Akihito three decades on the Chrysanthemum throne.