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  #61  
Old 07-14-2016, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muhler View Post
Eh, the Shoguns were a kind military dictator or governor or lord protector - whatever you prefer.
There certainly were emperors around at the same time. In fact the power of the Shogun was based on the emperor - the first duty being to protect the emperors sacred person.
That the emperors and the court were basically confined to perpetual house arrest in Kyoto is another matter.

It was only when Japan was forced to open up for foreign trade in the 1860's (at gun-point) that the emperor got a more public role.
You are right.

According to Sansom, shogun is the title conferred upon a military dictator. Pre-Sengoku Jidai, the Imperial family was often guests in a country seat of different influential families. They were not confined to Kyoto all the time. Shoguns of those times failed to stop petty fighting between daimyos and unify the country. The situation was addressed by Lord Oda Nobunaga and his allies such as Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was for establishing a centralised government. This would allow Emperor to focus on the divine matters and Shogun to protect Emperor from harm and deal with earthly affairs. Shoguns were permitted to use all means available to allow Emperor not to worry about mundane things. Such tradition has been maintained by all Shoguns and Prime Ministers ever since.

On a different note ... Although Lord Oda did not live to see his ideas to come true and had no official title, he is said to be the first Shogun.
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  #62  
Old 07-14-2016, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROYAL NORWAY View Post
These articles are very interesting, so I recommend everyone here to read himself in full and not just the part in my quotes. And thanks to Tatiana Maria for all the articles.

Imperial Household Agency denies Emperor has expressed intention to abdicate - The Mainichi

People in disaster-hit areas react to news of Emperor's possible abdication - The Mainichi

Top Imperial Household Agency officials consider Emperor's desire to abdicate - The Mainichi

5 minute video from NHK World:
Emperor Considers Abdication - News - NHK WORLD - English

Read more: COMMENTARY: Akihito clearly devoted much thought to plan to abdicate?The Asahi Shimbun

As other here have said, I really miss ChiaraC and her brilliant posts.
I heartily agree; the English language coverage in Japan (only a small percentage of which has been posted here) and ChiaraC's old posts are well worth reading.

Thank you for posting the articles. I would like to draw attention to the third one:

Quote:
According to the sources, the four [Imperial Household Agency] officials -- two top bureaucrats including agency head Noriyuki Kazaoka and two top-ranking chamberlains -- and a retired official well versed in the Imperial Household system have considered important points in the Imperial Household system.

[…]

At these meetings, they have considered revising the Imperial House Law, the issue of an era name and the title of the Emperor after abdication. The agency coordinated their views with Kazuhiro Sugita, deputy chief Cabinet secretary at the prime minister's office. […] Kazaoka even visited the prime minister's office during the campaign for the July 10 House of Councillors election.
Careful consideration for constitutional position needed - The Japan News
Quote:
The Emperor has not publicly expressed his intention to abdicate in favor of the crown prince for the same reason the government has been preparing for abdication behind the scenes — because careful consideration of the Emperor’s status with regard to the Constitution is necessary.
Article 7 of the Constitution prescribes that the Emperor’s acts in matters of state require the Cabinet’s advice and approval. […] Furthermore, Article 4 of the Imperial House Law, which is the basic law for the Imperial family, specifies that a new emperor can ascend the throne only when the sitting emperor dies. […] If the Emperor revealed his intention to abdicate, it might be perceived as a political statement.
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  #63  
Old 07-14-2016, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tatiana Maria View Post
I heartily agree; the English language coverage in Japan (only a small percentage of which has been posted here) and ChiaraC's old posts are well worth reading.

Thank you for posting the articles. I would like to draw attention to the third one:

Careful consideration for constitutional position needed - The Japan News
You're very welcome!

And I found (again) errors in my previous post - I meant to write: read them in full - not read himself in full. It's very difficult for me to write since I'm dyslexic and although I enjoy writing here, I have wondered about quitting lately, because I have to correct what I write all the time.

Change at Imperial House must come through public debate- Nikkei Asian Review

Confusion over future of Japan's monarchy as palace denies Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate
Quote:
The future of Japan’s monarchy was thrown into confusion on Thursday when the national broadcaster reported that Emperor Akihito was planning to abdicate after 27 years on the throne.

No Japanese monarch has abdicated for almost two centuries and the revered Emperor symbolises national stability and continuity.

Yet both NHK, the national broadcaster, and Kyodo News, a major news agency, reported that Emperor Akihito, 82, was planning to step down in the near future to make way for his son.

The Imperial Household Agency took the unusual step of issuing a categorical denial. “It is absolutely not true,” said Shinichiro Yamamoto, the Vice Grand Steward. He added that the Emperor, who has been in poor health for several years, has “long refrained” from discussing any issues of this kind out of “consideration for His Majesty's constitutional position”.
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  #64  
Old 07-14-2016, 03:49 PM
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Please keep writing, Royal Norway.

Personally I've never had the remotest problem with your posts, in fact I enjoy them and find them informative.
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  #65  
Old 07-14-2016, 04:03 PM
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I'm echoing Muhler's sentiments here. I've always found your posts not only informative but also very well written. Its amazing what information you come up with and it is very much appreciated.

Although I do not know too much about the Japanese emperor and the IHA, over the next few days I am going to be reading through the archives here to familiarize myself with how it all fits together.
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  #66  
Old 07-14-2016, 05:37 PM
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Thanks to Muhler and Osipi for your kind words!

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko (which I have followed and been interested in since I saw them in Norway in May 2005 when I was only 16) are both warm and kind people who have done so much for Japan.

And although I understand that it is difficult to do the job (or role) when you've had some health problems and when you're 82, it does not mean that I agree with a 'possible' abdication. As they say in Japanese media, the Crown Prince could have become regent and the Emperor could have scaled back further.

But I can understand him and I respect his 'possible' wish.

Here are some videos of them over the years: (I chose to post them here since we now can look back at his reign)



Here they are visiting the victims of the earthquake in 2011 - they did the same thing during the 1990s and as late as this year. They have always emphasized closeness to the people:




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  #67  
Old 07-14-2016, 06:05 PM
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It may be an attempt to force a reform of the Imperial institution to take place.

The much missed Chiara mentioned many examples of the Emperor as far as he could bended the rules and went to very edge of the envelope.
Like acknowledging and to some extent apologizing for Japanese war-crimes - something that goes against the current ring-wing views in Japanese politics, not to mention the state of denial Japan is in in regards to the crimes during WWII.
But also mentioning controversial issues in speeches outside Japan. - Because these issues, even when addressed by the Emperor, is not mentioned by the Japanese media. - Here at least the foreign media will write about it.

The problem with the Imperial Family running out of heirs and especially spares must surely also be on the Emperor's mind.
Especially the right-wing traditionalists find the idea of a female empress totally unacceptable!

So if he has to abdicate, it may be an acceptable prize for reforms. - Especially sine the Emperor admittedly is getting old and his health really isn't that good anymore.
And the impression I have of the CP is that he is a progressive man, who seems to share his father's values.
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  #68  
Old 07-14-2016, 08:40 PM
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Why there have been no abdications since 1817, and why modern traditionalists are opposed to abdication:

Quote:
The Meiji Constitution that marked the birth of modern Japan, as well as the original Imperial House Law that came into effect at the same time, closed the possibility of abdication.

Factors behind that change centered on a desire to prevent an emperor being forced aside as well as avoiding the problems that might arise if an emperor did abdicate and remain at the helm of the state as Joko, as had happened in the distant past.

But above all else, there was a need to place the mystic authority of the emperor, based on what was described as an unbroken paternal line of succession unique in the world, at the psychological core of the state.
COMMENTARY: Akihito clearly devoted much thought to plan to abdicate?The Asahi Shimbun

Quote:
In prewar Japan, the emperor was absolute. Abdication was forbidden because it would create two absolute figures in the same era, each possibly taking away from the other's authority.

This issue arose again after the war in the debate on a new Imperial House Law. The Ministry of the Imperial Household -- since replaced by the Imperial Household Agency -- opposed allowing abdication in light of the question of Emperor Hirohito's responsibility for the war. Following deliberations in parliament, the law was written to allow succession of the throne only after a reigning emperor's death.
Japan's Imperial House may be on verge of biggest reform in decades- Nikkei Asian Review

Quote:
Before late 19th century, there were no written rules on Imperial succession and many emperors voluntarily abdicated or were forced to quit depending onthe political situation at the time. A retired emperor often took the title Joko, which means “grand emperor.”

As a result, the nation’s history contains many stories of power struggles that broke out between political forces supporting a sitting emperor and other camps seeking to capitalize on the authority of a grand emperor. To prevent such scrambles for power, the Meiji government drew up the old Imperial House Law, enacted in 1889, which obliged an emperor to stay in his position until death, Yokota pointed out.
Emperor's abdication plan poses challenges for Japan's Imperial system | The Japan Times

Quote:
Regarding abdication, the government has up until now taken the view that it is not permissible, citing the following reasons:

— There is a fear that abdication could lead to the retired Emperor taking a position such as the honorific title of joko, which could harm the existing system;

— It could make possible a forced step-down from the throne against the Emperor’s free will;

— It is not suitable to the Emperor’s position as “the symbol of the State” for the Emperor to abdicate as he likes.
Abdication challenges include Emperor's subsequent status - The Japan News
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  #69  
Old 07-15-2016, 01:39 AM
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Thanks for the videos and info, Royal Norway and please keep writing!

I agree with Muhler about the Emperor possibly nudging the monarchy to reform. He and the Empress have modernized and made the Imperial family more visible to the public. The reigning couple seem to be quite active even with reduced duties announced a few months ago.

The Emperor may have his uncle Prince Mikasa's longevity so I can see him wishing/thinking abdication if he reaches a point when he can no longer perform much of his duties. After a lifetime of public service, the Emperor may not be comfortable with many years of regency and a limited number of appearances. Prince Mikasa (when healthy) appears a handful of times a year?
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  #70  
Old 07-15-2016, 07:15 AM
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A rather well-written artilcle by the economist:

The long goodbye | The Economist

Which says:

Quote:
And so, this week, came news that the 82-year-old would like to retire. The reign of his father, Hirohito, coincided with Japan’s transformation from militarist empire to modern economic powerhouse. Akihito’s own reign since 1989 oversaw a period of gentle economic decline and diminished capacities. Kneeling to meet his subjects at eye level seemed to acknowledge that path. Now pneumonia, prostate cancer and heart surgery have weakened him. Having to scale back official duties has caused him “stress and frustration”, says NHK, the public broadcaster, in the timorous language reserved for the imperial family. A law must first be passed to allow Akihito to step down—nothing like this has happened in modern times.

As for his son and successor, Prince Naruhito (speciality: 18th-century navigation on English waterways), he may struggle in the role. The royals are virtual prisoners of the Imperial Household Agency, the gnomic bureaucracy that runs the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. It has treated Naruhito’s wife, Masako, a former diplomat, as an imperial birthing machine, and she has grappled with depression. Whether Naruhito would rather navigate the upper Thames than the forces that swirl around the monarchy remains unclear.


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  #71  
Old 07-15-2016, 12:25 PM
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I really don't see why Naruhito should struggle in the role of Emperor. He's lived under the IHA all his life. He's lived as Crown Prince for a very long time doing engagements etc. It was announced not long ago that his parents were going to scale back their engagements and so he would ramp up his. Yes, Masako did struggle mightily with her role, but she has been out and about on nearly all of Naruhito's engagements recently. Occasionally their daughter also accompanies them. So it's not like they'll be doing anything different than they have been. They'll just be doing more of it.
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  #72  
Old 07-15-2016, 12:57 PM
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Tokyo eyes revision of law to enable Emperor's abdication in next year's Diet session | The Japan Times

Quote:
The government had initially planned to discuss the issue of abdication this year without informing the public, and after analyzing public opinion, engage in procedures for a legal change next year or later. But the schedule was apparently advanced in deference to the feelings of the Emperor.

[…]

The Imperial Household Agency is also considering organizing an occasion for Emperor Akihito to publicly express his own thoughts soon about a possible abdication, agency sources said Friday.

The 82-year-old Emperor would be expected to express his thoughts on his role as the symbol of the state following reports that he wishes to hand over the throne to his 56-year-old son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

News of the unusual move comes as the agency apparently considered that the government can start discussing the matter only after Japanese people at large understand the Emperor’s thoughts.

The agency was originally planning to have the Emperor express his thoughts at a news conference to mark his birthday in December, but is now hastily considering what other kind of occasion would be appropriate for the Emperor to speak publicly about the issue.

[…]

Although the Imperial Household Agency was considering an additional cut in the workload for the aging Emperor and Empress this spring, the Emperor objected to any drastic reduction in his official duties, saying he would be unfit as a symbol of the state if he could not perform his duties, the source said.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muhler View Post
It may be an attempt to force a reform of the Imperial institution to take place.

The much missed Chiara mentioned many examples of the Emperor as far as he could bended the rules and went to very edge of the envelope.
Like acknowledging and to some extent apologizing for Japanese war-crimes - something that goes against the current ring-wing views in Japanese politics, not to mention the state of denial Japan is in in regards to the crimes during WWII.
But also mentioning controversial issues in speeches outside Japan. - Because these issues, even when addressed by the Emperor, is not mentioned by the Japanese media. - Here at least the foreign media will write about it.

The problem with the Imperial Family running out of heirs and especially spares must surely also be on the Emperor's mind.
Especially the right-wing traditionalists find the idea of a female empress totally unacceptable!

So if he has to abdicate, it may be an acceptable prize for reforms. - Especially sine the Emperor admittedly is getting old and his health really isn't that good anymore.
And the impression I have of the CP is that he is a progressive man, who seems to share his father's values.
People are speculating that the emperor's wish to abdicate and/or the leak to the media are linked in one way or another to the landslide victory of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition on Sunday and the ultranationalist constitutional revisions which Abe said he would initiate promptly. (E.g. to distract the Diet with the abdication issue, to protest, to avoid being exploited, or to let a younger emperor weather the storm.)

Furthermore, the emperor has spoken about the difficulty of carrying out official duties at his advanced age, and no doubt he knows, after seeing Abe win a supermajority, that princesses will not be allowed to remain in the imperial family after marriage in the near future, and his burden will only deepen.
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  #73  
Old 07-15-2016, 01:39 PM
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After following the IPF for over 10 years and talking to a friend who speaks Japanese, I personally don't think the IHA/government will allow the Emperor to abdicate.

Here is a Japanese documentary that was made to celebrate the Emperor's 80th birthday in 2013 - people can watch the version posted here witch is translated to english or the Japanese version.

The commentaries in this documentary amused me. It is only in Japan, Thailand or dictatorships like North Korea where you hear commentary like this:

I've decided to take a 2-week break from TRF, but don't let this interesting thread die down.
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  #74  
Old 07-15-2016, 02:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSH View Post
I really don't see why Naruhito should struggle in the role of Emperor. He's lived under the IHA all his life. He's lived as Crown Prince for a very long time doing engagements etc. It was announced not long ago that his parents were going to scale back their engagements and so he would ramp up his. Yes, Masako did struggle mightily with her role, but she has been out and about on nearly all of Naruhito's engagements recently. Occasionally their daughter also accompanies them. So it's not like they'll be doing anything different than they have been. They'll just be doing more of it.
In terms of duties, I think CP Naruhito will be fine and as for CP Masako…. well, the family and IHA have managed her illness thus far and it's wonderful to see she's been improving steadily in recent years. Besides an increase in public events, she’s also been attending audiences at the palace which aren’t regularly photographed. For me, it's rather telling that Masako's disorder surfaced after it was clear that Princess Aiko would be the only child. If a boy had been born, would she still have become ill? Who knows.

Concern about CP Naruhito's "struggles" probably points to his progressive stance which has clashed with the IHA before. Prince Akishino is typically seen as more traditional and since he has the son, the line is secured for another generation. Given the conservative/traditionalist nature of the IHA, government and Japanese society, I can see the IHA/government dragging their feet on abdication just like they have on succession. They only attempted to change succession when it appeared there would be no male successors. After Prince Hisahito's birth, I think it’s been "maintain the status quo and deal with it later."
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  #75  
Old 07-15-2016, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROYAL NORWAY View Post
I've decided to take a 2-week break from TRF, but don't let this interesting thread die down.
Enjoy your break.

I, and I'm sure other with me, will look forward to you returning and to read your posts. You are a most treasured member of the TRF.
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  #76  
Old 07-16-2016, 05:49 AM
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I’m not sure what to make of these claims, particularly as the Imperial Household Agency has now officially denied them. It could be a deliberate leak to test public opinion, but that doesn’t seem to be the Emperor’s style. When he and the Empress decided that they would like to be cremated, ending a tradition of burials going back over 350 years, the Emperor informed the Imperial Household Agency which in turn sought advice from the government. As a result, the Emperor and Empress will be cremated, like most Japanese, and their ashes will be entombed in a modest mausoleum at the Musashino Imperial Graveyard. Likewise, for the proposed amendments to the Imperial Household Law regarding the succession, a committee considered the options and made its recommendations to the government. Because of the birth of Prince Hisohito, the recommendations were shelved, but they did support the succession of a female Tennō, so it’s not as if there is a taboo on discussing the traditions governed by the Constitution and the Imperial Household Law. But there is more to the role of the Emperor than the narrow definitions of the Constitution of 1947.

Behind the walls of the Imperial Palace, the Emperor presides at an annual cycle of Shinto rituals. These receive very little publicity because, technically, they violate the constitutional separation of state and church. But by describing them as expressions of Japanese culture, a façade of constitutional propriety is maintained. Perhaps there is something in the religious traditions of the Imperial House that make abdication a difficult subject to discuss openly? There shouldn’t be, if we accept the most important paragraph of Emperor Showa’s 1947 Imperial Rescript on the Construction of a New Japan. Usually called the Renunciation of Divinity in English, and the Declaration of Humanity Ningen-sengen in Japanese, the Emperor stated that:
The ties between Us and Our people have always stood on mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths. They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.
But what exactly did Emperor Showa mean by divine? The word used in Japanese is akitsumikami, an archaic, and ambiguous, term to describe a deity from the spiritual world made manifest in this world, or a title of honour for the emperor as ruler of the present world. When written as 明神 akitsumikami is a spiritual deity. In the rescript, however, it is written as 現御神, an honorific for the temporal emperor. That the rescript did not use the more common term arahitogami, living god, suggests that it was meant to be ambiguous. Just a month before the rescript was issued, Emperor Showa told his Vice-Grand Chamberlain that:
It is permissible to say that the idea that the Japanese are descendants of the gods is a false conception; but it is absolutely impermissible to call chimerical the idea that the emperor is a descendant of the gods.
Even if Emperor Showa was being deliberately obtuse, the official English translation served its purpose as far as the Americans were concerned. But for the Japanese, or, more specifically, the notoriously conservative Imperial Household Agency, maybe there are Shinto beliefs that are best left undisturbed by the implications of an abdication. That would make sense if abdications were unheard of in Japanese history. But they are not.

Over 60 Emperors abdicated, the last time in 1817. There is even a specific title for an Emperor after his abdication: Daijō Tennō 太上天皇. This is usually translated into English as Abdicated Emperor or Retired Emperor. But the characters 太上 actually imply something more like higher or senior. Tài 太 is found in the titles of the Empress Dowager Kōtaigō and Grand Empress Dowager Tai-Kōtaigō and comes from the Chinese radical 大 - big, great (Dà Qīng – The Great Qing – was the name of the last dynasty to rule China). As in China, where a Dowager Empress or Grand Dowager Empress could exercise significant political power, a Daijō Tennō could still rule. In some cases, emperors abdicated so they could actually rule, free of the ritual responsibilities a reigning Tennō. Maybe the prospect of a Daijō Tennō raises issues that are best left dormant? But even that seems unlikely, as the Emperor’s duties are clearly defined by the Constitution, and the legislation to enable an abdication could easily state that the Daijō Tennō is no longer Symbol of the State.

So what’s really going on? Is the Emperor trying to break the power of the Imperial Household Agency by going behind its back? Is there a power struggle within the Imperial Family? Is it a bald faced lie made up by a reporter keen for a scoop? Is it part of a larger plot to revise the 1947 Constitution? I must admit I’m leaning towards believing the Imperial Household Agency’s official denial. But you never know.
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  #77  
Old 07-16-2016, 06:22 AM
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Thank you for a most informative post.

My bets are on the the court desperately trying sweep this under the carpet and pretend it never happened. But the lid is off and it now IMO depends on the reaction of the Japanese public and opposition.
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  #78  
Old 07-16-2016, 12:51 PM
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Good points, Chubb Fuddler. The difficulty of an abdicated emperor's role and title were much discussed in the media. However, since at least two news agencies independently reported the story, it seems improbable that a reporter was responsible if it was invented.

One more theory on the timing:

Quote:
When Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, said Wednesday that Emperor Akihito intended to hand over his position while he is still alive, it was repeating what one of the country’s top weekly magazines had reported three years ago. […]

NHK, which is funded with public money and is legally mandated to be fair and balanced in its reporting, was once lauded as the BBC of Japan. But it has recently come under attack for lacking objectivity.

In 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed his friend, Katsuto Momii, president of the broadcaster. Momii quickly stirred controversy by saying that programming should follow the Japanese government line, famously stating: “We can’t say it’s left, if the government says it’s right.”

A recently published book asserted that Abe’s Cabinet has a direct hand in deciding what NHK airs.

That belief has fueled speculation that there were political motives behind the report about the emperor.

The report came a day after the liberal newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that the new chairman of the board of governors of NHK, Susumu Ishihara, was also a special advisor to the extreme right-wing religious group Nippon Kaigi.
The prime minister advises the political arm of the group, which advocates for a repeal of Japan’s pacifist constitution and believes that the emperor is akin to a god and should be reinstated as the head of state.
Japan's public broadcaster reports that the emperor may abdicate, spurring denial and controversy - LA Times
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Old 07-16-2016, 02:34 PM
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Thanks to Chubb Fudder indeed. Very insightful post.
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Old 07-17-2016, 01:06 AM
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That’s an interesting theory on the timing Tatiana Maria. I’m beginning to suspect the proposed changes to the Constitution might be the key to all this after all. I read the draft changes last night, and, superficially, they all seem quite reasonable. But I expect some parts, particularly Article 9 on National Security, will be controversial on the world stage. Already there are comments about ultranationalist amendments, but I think that is misleading. As far as the Emperor is concerned, the most significant change is in Article 1:
Chapter I: The Emperor
[Current]
Article 1. The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.
[Draft]
(The Emperor)
Article 1. The Emperor is the head of the State and shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.
From symbol to head, just one word, and it is already being reported as if the Meiji Constitution is back in force (technically the current Constitution is still the Meiji Constitution as amended in 1947, but as virtually nothing of the original remained after the amendments, it was practically a brand new Constitution). Memories of Emperor Showa and the Pacific War are deliberately evoked in comments about a living god and a reinstated emperor. But the draft amendment doesn’t really change anything. In 1946 the Americans insisted that the Constitution clearly state that sovereignty is vested in the people, not the Emperor. In fact the Americans assumed the Emperor would be defined as Head of State Kokka Genshu. So they were a bit surprised when the Japanese instead came up with Symbol of State Kuni no Shōchō. But as the requirement on sovereignty was met, the Americans didn’t concern themselves over Japan’s choice of shōchō over genshu.

The change to genshu just eliminates the vagaries of not having a clearly defined Head of State, so there’s nothing to be feared from that. The new articles that confirm the national flag, the national anthem and the era name are just formalising what has already been done by legislation. Again, superficially, they are quite innocuous, but no doubt memories of the Showa era will influence international reactions.

Article 4 states that the Emperor “shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in this Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government.” This will become Article 5 and change to “The Emperor shall perform such acts in matters of state as are provided for in this Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government.” The word “only” in the current version has never been observed, and is the source of a controversy that began in 1947. Prior to 1947, ministers personally briefed the Emperor on matters relating to their portfolio. These ministerial briefings continued as normal after the 1947, and still occur today. Some argue that they are unconstitutional because they relate to matters of state and government that are not mentioned in the Constitution. There is also the possibility that the Emperor may informally influence a minister. Even if the Emperor just frowned during a briefing, it could be enough to change a minister’s mind. It is an extremely subtle and unlikely form of influence, but if that influence can be interpreted as power, it is by definition unconstitutional.

Another significant change is to Article 99 on the obligation to respect and uphold the supreme law of the Constitution. Currently it states that the “Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution.” It will become Article 102 and reference to the Emperor or the Regent will be omitted. The Emperor must, like all people respect the Constitution, but he will not be obliged to uphold it.

In the early years of the current reign, I remember reading that some traditional Japanese were disappointed that the Emperor was so clearly upholding and respecting the Constitution. Instead of attacking the Emperor directly, they got stuck into the Empress (who, apparently, had the temerity to order noodles late at night), the Catholic Church (because the Empress had gone to a Catholic university), and even the Quakers (the Emperor’s English tutor, Mrs Vining, was a Quaker). I don’t think there’s ever been any suggestion to depose the current Emperor, but it is possible he is perceived as too supportive of the Constitution in its current form.

I don’t think the Emperor would ever try to interfere with the passage of the proposed amendments through the Diet, nor do I think the Government fears that he will try. But maybe the Emperor, the Imperial Household Agency and the Government all recognise that it would be better to ratify the the amendments under an emperor born and raised post 1945. It is easy to cast the Imperial Household Agency as a Machiavellian manipulator of the Emperor, but perhaps they really are working together, with the Government, to carefully transition to a new reign as smoothly as possible? It looks like the Emperor’s press conference for his birthday in December might be very interesting this year.

Draft for the Amendment of the Constitution of Japan

Government sources clarify Emperor’s position on abdication

The People's Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy 1945-1995

This is probably the best book in English on the role of the Japanese monarchy under the current Constitional
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