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Experts’ opinions on emperor abdication at gov’t panel hearings

TOKYO, Nov. 30, Kyodo — The following is a summary of opinions expressed by 16 experts of various fields in three hearings, concluded Wednesday, of a government advisory panel on Emperor Akihito’s possible abdication.


— OKs abdication and one-off legislation to enable it, only for the current emperor (5 experts).


Isao Tokoro, professor emeritus of Japanese legal history at Kyoto Sangyo University, supports one-off legislation to enable only the current emperor to abdicate, citing his advancing age.


Nobuo Ishihara, former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, says that abdication should be allowed if an emperor becomes too old and that setting up one-off legislation would be appropriate.


Akira Momochi, visiting professor on the Constitution at Kokushikan University’s graduate school, says the emperor’s abdication should be allowed as an “exception,” while touting the importance of the current system that expects the emperor to reign for life.


Kazuyuki Takahashi, professor emeritus on the Constitution at the University of Tokyo, says establishing such one-off legislation is possible in light of the Constitution.


Itsuo Sonobe, former Supreme Court justice, backs one-off legislation because he believes the issue should be resolved quickly.


— OKs abdication but against legislating it (4 experts).


Takahisa Furukawa, professor of modern Japanese history at Nihon University, says abdication is one possible option, if it is decided after adequate discussion, but it should be dealt with by a revision to the Imperial House Law, not by one-off legislation.


Masayasu Hosaka, nonfiction writer, says abdication by one-off legislation should not be approved without the condition that the Imperial House Law is revised.


Katsumi Iwai, journalist, calls for a revision of the Imperial House Law to enable every aged emperor to abdicate, saying the current system of reigning for life is “cruel.”


Makoto Oishi, professor on the Constitution at Kyoto University’s graduate school, supports abdication but says such one-off legislation may constitute an inconsistency with the spirit of the Constitution.


— Against abdication (7 experts).


Sukehiro Hirakawa, professor emeritus of comparative literature at the University of Tokyo, opposes the emperor’s abdication as he believes the emperor’s presence itself is meaningful for the public and that a regent can take over his duties as a way to ease his burden.


Yasuo Ohara, professor emeritus of the imperial household system at Kokugakuin University, opposes abdication and argues a regent should be in place when an emperor becomes elderly.


Shoichi Watanabe, professor emeritus on English at Sophia University, opposes abdication and says anointing a regent would address the issue.


Yoshiko Sakurai, journalist, says she cannot support abdication and a regent should be installed.


Hidehiko Kasahara, professor of politics at Keio University, is against abdication due to the possibility of a “two-tier authority” problem arising between an emperor and a retired emperor.


Akira Imatani, professor of history at Teikyo University, says enabling abdication is difficult due to the “two-tier authority” issue.


Hidetsugu Yagi, professor on the Constitution at Reitaku University, opposes abdication, saying it would be unconstitutional for the government to set up a new system to enable abdication in response to an emperor’s wish because the supreme law bans the emperor from having political powers.

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