Japan’s parliament has passed into law a historic bill that enables Emperor Akihito to become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years.
Centuries-old imperial law decrees that sitting emperors cannot resign from their posts, but the one-off bill permits the 83-year-old to pass the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, the eldest of his three children.
The last emperor to abdicate was Emperor Kokaku in 1817 in the later part of the Edo Period, and the royal male line is unbroken, records show, for at least 14 centuries.
However, the conversation around the Emperor’s hope to step down (who cited concerns his advanced age might be affecting his ability to serve) has been dominated by the debate on the role women play in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy.
Added to the abdication bill is a draft resolution that potentially questions whether women who marry outside the family have to rescind their royal rights.
Stepping down for love
Currently, imperial law also decrees that — unlike in Europe or Great Britain — any princess who marries a commoner must leave the family.
The latest case of Princess Mako, who last month revealed plans are underway for her to become engaged to law firm worker Kei Komuro, once again drew the topic into the limelight.
Mako is one of 14 women in a royal family of only 19 people.