It’s been a whirlwind day in the Japanese media amidst rumors that Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate in the near future, but an Imperial official is now denying these claims.

News broke yesterday that the current Emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito, intends to step down from the throne and pass the title of Emperor, and all the responsibilities that come with it, to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, within the next few years.

While the news may seem shocking at first – and it certainly has Japanese media working overtime – it wouldn’t be the first time a reigning Japanese emperor has chosen to abdicate the throne. According to Japanese news agency and broadcaster NHK, around half of Japan’s emperors have stepped down rather than remain emperor until death.

Akihito allegedly cited advanced age and failing health as reasons for considering leaving the throne, with some Japanese news organizations, such as Mainichi Shimbun, claiming to have confirmed the rumor with a member of the Imperial Household Agency. Akihito has never publicly expressed a desire to step down, so news agencies seem to be simply taking the official at his/her word.


Now, however, Imperial Household Agency Deputy Chief Shinichiro Yamamoto has told news outlets that there is “absolutely no truth” to the rumors and that Emperor Akihito has “no desire” to leave the throne.

Further complicating matters is the apparent fact, according to an NHK reporter familiar with matters at the Imperial Household Agency, that, under current rules, the emperor is technically not allowed to abdicate. Such a move could, however, be possible with revisions to Imperial House Law or through some kind of temporary legislation.

Sources: NHK, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun
Images: William Ng/Wikimedia Commons