Emperor Akihito’s intention to abdicate the throne sent shock waves through the political arena.
“I was surprised,” said House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima before reporters. “I’m not sure whether this is true. It is not an appropriate time to comment and I’m not in the position to do so.”
“It happened out of the blue,” said a person close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “We do not have information on it. Abe was surprised, too.”
A senior government official commented that “I have no idea about this” and stressed that “I heard the Vice-Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency has denied the report. That is all. [The report] is not true.” Another official also noted that “We are not informed by the Imperial Household Agency.” A cabinet minister mentioned that “The report came out before the Emperor has had the chance to speak about it. It’s odd.”
Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said: “We have to hear the overall situation first.” Another party executive said: “We have to confirm the Emperor’s intention first and calmly work out what will follow. Nothing should be started without first understanding [the Emperor’s intention]. This is not an issue in which the ruling and opposition parties should oppose one another.” Jin Matsubara of the Democratic Party, former minister in charge of abduction cases, commented that “The Imperial House Law must be amended. We acknowledge that this will involve important discussion.”
A government official pointed out that “amendments to the Imperial House Law should be discussed at an experts’ panel and a preparation office for revisions to the imperial code within the Cabinet Secretariat may become the office in charge.” The official also noted that “there will be many things to discuss, including the possibility of imperial households headed by female members and regulations concerning regency,” and further indicated that discussion of these matters will take some time.