Emperor Akihito of Japan plans to step down and pass the throne to his 56-year-old son, Crown Prince Naruhito, Japanese media reports. Akihito, 82, has been emperor since 1989, when his father, Hirohito, died. No Japanese emperor has abdicated the throne since Emperor Kokaku in 1817, The New York Times notes, and while wartime Emperor Hirohito and his successors were stripped of all temporal powers by the American occupiers after World War II, Akihito will not be able to step down before his death unless Japan's parliament modifies the imperial law.
The deputy director of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shinichiro Yamamoto, denied that Emperor Akihito has any intention to abdicate, and even if he did, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — whose Liberal Democratic Party just won a supermajority in Japan's upper house — has little incentive to allow him to pass the throne to the crown prince. Abe has long wanted to strip Japan's U.S.-authored constitution of its strict pacifism, while Naruhito has praised the 1947 constitution and its renunciation of war.