Photo/IllutrationRepresentatives from the Diet, the Supreme Court and the imperial household gather on Dec. 1 for a meeting of the Imperial Household Council. (Kazuyoshi Sako)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Dec. 1 that Crown Prince Naruhito would become emperor on May 1, 2019, based on recommendations made in a meeting of the Imperial Household Council.

The council recommended that Emperor Akihito abdicate on April 30, 2019, in order to allow his oldest son to become emperor on the following day.

Abe reported on the decision of the council to Akihito and told reporters about the dates for the abdication and ascension.

"We will make every effort to ensure that the abdication of the emperor and the ascension of the crown prince are conducted flawlessly amid a celebration from the public," Abe said.

In a later news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who sat in on the meeting, explained why the dates for the two momentous events were chosen.

He said that consideration had been given to having Naruhito ascend the throne on April 1, 2019, which would also mark the start of the new Japanese fiscal year.

Suga said that the first half of April every year is a period when many people move around Japan in line with job transfers. He also pointed to the fact that unified local elections would be held in April 2019.

"By having the abdication and ascension after Showa Day on April 29, we will once again be able to reflect on the activities of Japan as a nation in order to renew our will," Suga said.

No vote was taken during the Imperial Household Council meeting on the two dates. Rather, after opinions were heard from council members, Abe expressed his thoughts about the abdication date and a decision was made. The closed-door session lasted an hour and 14 minutes.

The Abe Cabinet is expected to grant formal approval to the abdication date at a meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.

Chaired by Abe, the council comprises representatives from the Diet, the Supreme Court and the imperial household. It marked only the eighth time since the end of World War II that a council meeting has been held.

The last time an Imperial Household Council meeting was convened was in January 1993 when approval was given to the marriage of Naruhito to Masako Owada. Council meetings are normally held to approve marriages of imperial household members or the departure of members from the imperial household.

The special law on imperial abdication required that an Imperial Household Council be held to hear the opinions of council members.

The nine other members of the council are Tadamori Oshima, Lower House speaker; Chuichi Date, Upper House president; Hirotaka Akamatsu, Lower House vice speaker; Akira Gunji, Upper House vice president; Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada; Justice Kiyoko Okabe; Shinichiro Yamamoto, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency; Prince Hitachi, younger brother of Akihito; and Princess Hanako.

Hitachi attended the meeting in place of Prince Fumihito, younger brother of Naruhito, because the meeting was to offer views on a decision that would affect Fumihito's position once his older brother ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne.